In the hospitality business, it is important for us to be strategic. We speak frequently about strategy; strategic planning, strategic thinking, strategic pricing, strategic selling; the list goes on and on. It is crucial, however, that we all truly understand what it means to be strategic. Being strategic, by its very nature requires looking forward to make behavioral decisions based on that forward look. Reacting, on the other hand, is really just the opposite. So, if we are all so aware of the need to be strategic, why do we spend so much time reacting to what is happening around us?
It’s October, so those of us in the hospitality world have been busy for weeks (even months) in preparing our Strategic Plans for the coming year. It’s what we do; from August through November, we commit an inordinate amount of time to writing budgets, business plans and strategic plans as is required by our management and our ownership. The ultimate question, however, is ‘how strategic are we when we are not planning for the new year?’ If we agree that strategic planning is a vital part of our preparation for an upcoming business cycle or period, it seems only logical that strategic planning would be a vital part of our preparation on an ongoing basis. We can’t simply turn strategy “on and off” when we have time or when we see fit to do so.
Hospitality leaders of all shapes and sizes (CEO’s, Regional Teams, Property GM’s, Department Heads) and line managers and supervisors as well must work together to create and embrace an ongoing culture of strategic thought in their businesses. At all supervisory and managerial levels, leaders must be challenged with the responsibility to literally plan for the future, whether that future is months away, hours away, or anywhere in between. Today, the question “how often do you plan strategically for your area of responsibility?” may honestly be answered with “when the new year’s budget is being developed” or “when I have some spare time.” Both answers make clear the absence of a true culture of strategic thought. .
Leadership and strategic planning must happen from the front. No matter how large or small the leader’s specific area of responsibility, their first responsibility is to provide a direction and a plan for their subordinates to follow. These same subordinates must provide a direction and a plan for their own associates, and so on down the line. This is how a culture of being strategic becomes reality. Completing the business plan once a year, whether that plan is ultimately achieved or not, does not of itself mean that we are sufficiently strategic to maximize performance. It is imperative that hospitality leaders take a step back from their day-to-day function and perform an objective self-evaluation not only on their performance as strategic thinkers but on their contribution to an ongoing culture of strategic thinking.