Hospitality and Food Service Mission Statements: On the Same String

June 25th 2010

From Chase’s Hotel F and B Blog

I recently watched an all-star NBA player answer a question posed by a reporter after a stellar playoff game win. The reporter wanted to know why the star’s team played so well and how they won this particular game so easily against such a tough opponent. The hoops star replied, “We were all on the same string.” More commonly phrased as, working off the same script/ page, but the concept is the same no matter what you call it. When a group comes together (or is thrown together) to accomplish a set of goals, it is “ideal” if everyone knows their roles/jobs, performs well in these roles/jobs, and work together as a (high performing) team.

Managers and leaders of hospitality organizations face this dilemma every single day, much like a game of tug’o war, where forces, events, and circumstances try to pull your team/tribe in the wrong direction. Of course, this is why there are hiring guidelines, training departments, and soft openings (among other devices) to get the right kind of folks producing the right kind of effort at crunch time.

Most organizations utilize a mission statement as their starting point when attempting to draft individuals into producing a collective effort. There is usually a great deal of thought and work that goes into developing an effective mission statement. Some are simple, some complex, but all attempt to become a touchstone for the company, a guiding light, if you will for making decisions and incenting actions. Often the mission is celebrated or held aloft much like a civic monument, and therein lies the problem.

Have you ever been to Mt. Rushmore? Visitors shuffle and jockey for the best possible viewing position. From the rear it seems as if everyone is looking at the monument. Now let’s use modern technology to freeze that picture and sweep around to the front so that we are viewing the faces of those facing the Presidents. What do we find? Of all those people who, from the back, could be assumed to be looking at the monument, only a handful are actually doing so. The rest are caught up in their own minutia. A few have their eyes closed, some are texting, others are fiddling with buttons, looking for a bathroom, cooing at a baby, jackin’ with their camera and so on.

Similarly, what you might assume to be happening with a mission statement can, in fact, be far from the truth when viewed from the rear (or at HQ). I’m not suggesting that mission statements aren’t useful, but they are just words and words are hollow without actions. In order to bring a mission to life, the actions of the group must embrace and energize the mission. Otherwise it becomes a disjointed or a half-hearted effort, also commonly known as paying lip-service to the mission.

Many leaders are tied to the words of a mission (because they wrote them) or linked to the ideals by tradition, not necessarily an unworthy interest, but often reality gets the short shrift.

I know you hope to have your enterprise known far and wide for its signature items, extraordinary service, or other positioning/branding/space domination skill-sets, but imagine the reaction of your guests if they were to arrive at your establishment and were greeted with “We aren’t serving any of those items tonight” or “Yeah, we’re gonna get back to that service- thing someday.” That greeting/message is no different for your in-house folks; if your heartfelt mission statement is out of whack with whatever actions are really being supported/ rewarded/glorified. Times are rapidly changing; I implore you to check the pulse of your mission statement. If it no longer is in alignment with the actions you seek, or worse, it is in direct conflict with the actions of your leadership and culture, revise it to reflect your current reality. You might even consider taking the really tough, but high road of ensuring that you have the correct people in leadership and management positions that actually walk the walk of the current mission. It is not always the actions of the crew that prevent a mission from being realized or from everyone being on the same string. Much like a design redo, a new marketing direction, or a menu freshening, even the greatest monuments, movie stars, or mission statements have a little “work” done now and again to restore their luster.

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