Even if you aren’t someone that works in a technology role, you’ve probably heard the term “agile” used to describe software development and project management. It’s sometimes characterized as a methodology or framework, but that’s not quite right. Agile is often presented this way by consultants or companies that are trying to sell their products and services.
If you’re unsure about what agile really means (and why you should care about it), you’ve come to the right place.
In 2001, a group of seventeen frustrated software developers gathered at a ski resort in the snowy Wasatch Mountains. They saw a problem with software development; companies were more focused on planning and documentation than the satisfaction of their customers. They were there to discuss how lightweight software development methods could offer a solution to the problem. These conversations resulted in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the 12 Principles of Agile Software.
We won’t include the full manifesto or list of principles here - you’re welcome to read them at the links we provided - but the values they listed are as follows:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
These developers weren’t saying that they didn’t value process, or documentation, or thoughtful planning. They were simply saying that they valued the items on the left more.
You’ll also notice that the words “methodology” and “framework” are absent from those titles. That’s because agile isn’t a set of rules or steps. Instead, agile is a philosophy, setting the foundation for good decision-making that produces great software.
Agile was originally written to help software developers satisfy and delight their customers, early and often. However, you’ll find that many of the principles can be applied to any company or team that provides goods and services to customers.
If you’re in hospitality, that means that thinking in the “agile way” can help you adapt quickly to unexpected challenges, build high-performing teams, and consistently improve your offerings. Let’s examine a few of the agile principles and how they can be applied to the work of hoteliers.
This principle is about adaptability. The agile mindset requires a shift to seeing unexpected changes as opportunities, rather than setbacks.
The pandemic is an obvious situation that illustrates this principle. Some hotel brands took the challenges that arose from COVID-19 restrictions and used them to make changes that benefit their customers.
For example; consider The Roxbury, a hotel near Stratton Falls in New York State. Rather than completely shut down their spa to minimize risk, they began offering individual and family reservations of the hot tub, sauna, steam room, and relaxation room. This meant that guests got to experience the luxury of privacy while allowing the hotel to still generate income.
At the heart of agile is an emphasis on people, rather than process. Leaders of agile teams ensure that their people have the information and resources necessary to make good decisions, rather than offering them checklists and constant guidance. The goal here is to build teams with enough competency and confidence that they’re able to function as autonomously as possible.
The Fairmont at Copley Plaza in Boston, Massachusetts takes this principle to heart (even if they don’t know it). They’ve invested a lot of time and money into developing a variety of training programs for their employees. These programs include opportunities for cross-training, which help their employees understand the big picture and make better-informed decisions.
A common practice on agile software teams is the retrospective (or “retro”). Generally, retros are meetings held at the end of a sprint or project. During this meeting, the team discusses what worked well, what could be more efficient, and areas of concern.
There are many different ways to conduct a retro, and the cadence can be adjusted to fit your specific context. What’s most important is that your team reflects consistently on the quality of their efforts.
To adapt quickly, empower your team, and reflect on performance, you need access to accurate, real-time information about your hotel. That data must be collected from various sources, stored, and organized in a way that makes sense to you and your team. Generally, hospitality organizations utilize a Customer Relationship Management system (or CRM) to store this data.
Consider employee training programs, like the one that the Fairmont at Copley Plaza uses with their teams. Leaders within the organization likely want to understand how effective these programs are at improving performance. A CRM could be used to keep track of guest satisfaction, associating reviews and complaints with particular employees or teams.
At the same time, the CRM could store training completion rates. During a year-end review, if hotel leadership notices that teams that completed a specific training had a lower number of guest complaints, they could prioritize the delivery of that training to lower-performing teams.
Insights like this are critical to building an agile organization, and they aren’t possible without the power of technology.
Thynk is a platform designed to help hoteliers make sense of the data stored in their CRM. With drag-and-drop dashboards and reports, teams can consistently evaluate their performance, identify areas for improvement, and make changes that delight their guests.