Proximity Management

I just read an excellent article on “The real secret of thouroughly terrific companies”, by Peter Bregman. Bregman recounts and explains his terrific experiences in staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Chain. He sees what he calls “Proximity Management” being practiced. The managers know about their employees. There is a lot of trust within the different properties. There is open communication. There are monthly meetings, without any agenda, and the GM (Michael Newcombe) just engages in conversation. There are such meetings with all employee groups. 

Here is one anecdote, of how open communication solved a huge problem:

During his meeting with the front desk staff, he learned they were slower than usual in checking in guests because rooms weren’t available. Then, in his meeting with housekeeping staff, someone asked if the hotel was running low on king size sheets. Most CEOs wouldn’t be interested in that question, but Michael asked why. Well, the maid answered, it’s taking us longer to turn over rooms because we have to wait for the sheets. So he kept asking questions to different employee groups until he discovered that one of the dryers was broken and waiting for a custom part. That reduced the number of available sheets. Which slowed down housekeeping. Which reduced room availability. Which delayed guests from checking in.

Read the full article at The Harvard Business Blog here.