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What I Learned About Streamlining Processes and Empowering Others

with David Kong, founder and principal of DEI Advisors (and former CEO of BWH Hotel Group)

Good morning. I love operations because I believe it’s the key to unlocking everything we love in hospitality. But too often “operations” is seen as process - specifically, overly complex processes. That’s something our guest today discovered early in his career, and today shares what he learned about overcoming this.

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What I Learned About Streamlining Processes and Empowering Others

with David Kong, founder and principal of DEI Advisors

David Kong

Operations unlocks everything we love in hospitality. Guest experience and employee satisfaction are rooted in the way we approach procedures and processes.

But David Kong has found people often stick to established ways of doing things without questioning whether there is a more efficient method.

"A lot of people don't even think about why they do what they do. They think, ‘That's the way that's always been done.’”

David Kong

The 26-Step Teaspoon Order

To illustrate the point, David shared an eye-opening example from earlier in his career, where he studied the process of ordering a teaspoon for a hotel coffee shop and discovered a staggering 26 steps involved—from the assistant manager informing the manager to finally receiving the teaspoon.

David found this process to be absurdly inefficient. "How ridiculous is that when you can go to the restaurant supply and just buy the teaspoons in one step?"

The Need for a New Approach

David believes that many processes are often unnecessary and counterproductive.

There are so many administrative things that we do in the name of control that are so stupid and inefficient.

David Kong

Balancing Empowerment and Control

According to David, the key to efficient process design lies in a balanced approach to control and empowerment. While it's important for managers to set boundaries, they should also empower their employees to make decisions within those boundaries.

“How do we feel when we have to go and ask someone for permission to do some little thing? You don't feel good about your job,” David observed.

When you empower people to make choices, they feel good about their job.

David Kong

The Challenges of Change Management

Implementing changes, however, is easier said than done. David admitted that even with great ideas for streamlining processes, executing them on the ground can be challenging.

I came up with all kinds of great ideas, I thought, about how could streamline processes and make things work more efficiently. But it was almost impossible to implement that in the field because the job manager felt like this was his kingdom. ‘How dare you come in and tell me how to do my job?’ So you have to overcome that and make them feel like they are driving the changes and they are benefiting from the results of the changes. And it's a real art.

Leadership and Change Management

David advised that change has to come from the top. If the executive team and the board are role models for change, it becomes easier to implement new processes.

David’s insights serve as a crucial reminder that reevaluating and streamlining processes can be a game-changer in hospitality. By focusing on empowering people, we can create more efficient operations that benefit everyone involved—from employees to guests. While change management may pose challenges, with the right leadership and a willingness to adapt, breakthroughs are possible.

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From our community

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  • Mychal Milian flips flapjacks to reward his housekeeping teams as part of housekeeping week:

Credit: Mychal Milian

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