Autonomy at Scale

Autonomous teams are a long-established management concept, although the term is usually applied to small work units, such as self-managed teams in factories. What Chinese companies have done is to scale team autonomy up to groups of as many as several dozen people, notably at the customer-facing end. The freedom of such teams resonates in China, where autonomy confers status; as the Chinese saying goes, “It’s better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of a phoenix.”

Autonomy is not complete, nor is it given to everyone. Rather, it is directed exactly where it is needed, and what employees do with their autonomy is carefully tracked. For many years I have asked HOD’s to treat their department as their own mini business complete with all associated responsibilities including sales, forecasting budgets, manning and training. It’s a strong empowerment model but it does require light supervision to remain on the rails. HOD’s complete online reports that link into their Hotel Academy and business objectives to ensure momentum and 360 degree growth.

Digital Platforms in the Middle

The DEDA model in hotels uses a three-system organisational structure to increase both responsiveness and efficiency whilst empowering the career journeys of individuals. The front end (Hotel Academy and other systems), encompasses the complete play book of the operation including all SOP’s, training, the monitoring of systems and the performance of the team shift by shift, department by department. The back end consists of long-term assets such as critical databases, HACCP, H&S and historic performance data. And the middle system sits between the two, linking the front end to back-end resources and supplying, as needed, the capabilities for using those resources.

Traditionally in hotels, middle managers and day to day functions assume that connective role. However, DEDA companies replace the bureaucracy with a digital platform that allows front-end employees to directly access the resources and capabilities they need, as and when they need them. Having the entire hotels playbook in the palm of your hand is transformative, and yet intuitive to Gen Z workers. In essence, that platform centralises shared services, data, and capabilities to enable decentralised decision-making. As a GM this is a totally refreshing approach the majority of my managers have thrived under.

DEDA is also a concept being driven by millennials very much in the mind set of how Gen Z operate. If you have a team of Gen Z employees raised on PlayStations and iPads, the thought of paper box files, pen and paper and information in paper form is a real turn off. In an inter-generational industry such as hospitality, the gap between Millennials and Gen Z is the widest of any subsequent generational gap in modern history. If you’re a hard core millennial doing back stroke in yesterdays ideas, you probably gave up on this post a few paragraphs ago.

Hotels who embrace a DEDA approach aren’t saddled with archaic legacy IT infrastructures. Instead, they continually swap out systems that may every well constrict growth without them knowing. Knowing when to do this is actually driven by the empowered manager taking full responsibility. If any system in your hotel is more than 3 years old, it’s already yesterdays tech delivering yesterdays solutions. 

Hotels  have to go through a sophisticated process of digital transformation before they can introduce the kind of platform benefits of say the Hotel Academy. Moreover, they may struggle with a winner’s curse: In large hotels that have been successful for decades, we often hear hesitation in the boardroom when it comes to making changes in core processes and management reporting structures and in leveraging digital tools.  Decisions from older Execs may also hide the fact that unless the system is fully communicated, along with benefits, they may defend an out-of-touch position. Millennials (or Gen X) can also take the view that if they didn’t see it first, it might not be right.

When you have digital systems sitting the middle employees begin to micro report. The bigger analogue picture is replaced by a responsive digital mosaic weaved into their daily shifts. If you asked your team every day whether they planned for this and that, completed tasks, moved projects along, plus a multitude of other questions, you’d more than likely lose your team. Having a reporting and information system that gathers everything breaks the hour by hour supervisory link to the employee, replaced instead by employees reporting to a system rather than you, although you have total reporting oversight. And because the information is so widely distributed the emphasis on trust and transparency is naturally delivered. 

A Focus on Clearly Defined Projects

One major advantage DEDA driven hotel companies have over none DEDA is execution. In part, that’s driven by DEDA Hotels larger and more compliant workforce and the cultural emphasis on empowerment, responsibility and growth. Digital adoption is also intuitive. Our live appraisal systems address and support project management in the cloud. 

DEDA influenced management also benefits from a feature that encourages faster execution and decision-making: “single-threaded leadership,” a concept first applied at Amazon, Easy Jet, Ryan Air, and Apple but largely remains illusive as an operating standard in hospitality. The idea is to severely limit managerial distraction by giving a leader a clearly defined task, budget, and timeline—typically to find a solution to a specific problem. If you have the right people, this is highly motivational and leads to an aspirational team spirit and one of progressive, genuine achievement.

Meet Gen Z. They were raised in the digital revolution. They work for you. How do you inspire them?

DEDA Training

Gordon Cartwright is a strong advocate for DEDA management systems, with his first Hotel Academy built and used in 2010. 42 Hotels have since adopted the system. In fact Gordon Cartwright’s heritage in digital innovation dates back to 1996 when he designed, built and implemented an online booking system for accommodation (Caterer Article). He also became a certified Microsoft Engineer, and in addition to his day job as GM, Gordon codes in JSON and C++ to maintain the momentum around DEDA driven management success. 

The full day DEDA training course sets out the three principals of DEDA to your HOD’s and how they can immediately take control of their Hotel Academy.