Brainstorming Your Way to Excellence

Brainstorming:  a conference technique of solving problems, amassing information, stimulating creative thinking, developing new ideas, etc., by unrestrained spontaneous participation in discussion. (dictionary.com)

It is commonly accepted that two minds are usually better than one and that in the search for solutions, the free interchange of ideas among a group of people can often produce better results than one person alone.  Recognizing this phenomenon, hospitality managers should embrace the idea of periodic brainstorming sessions with all department heads to improve the organization, operation, and performance, department by department, and in toto.

The first and foremost time to do this is during the annual planning cycle prior to establishing annual enterprise and departmental goals and the coming period budgets.  Such a session can usually yield results in as little time a two days when properly conceived, prepared for, and kept on task by a clear agenda and the general manager to guide and channel discussions.  While two days sounds like a lot of time for busy department heads, in the larger scheme a well-conceived annual plan and budget is a bedrock requirement for successful operations.  Those department heads who say they can’t spare the time should take a hard look at how they’ve organized their departments, trained subordinate managers, and delegated duties.  If they can’t make time for a planning session, it begs the question what will happen to their operation should they get sick or suffer an accident.

Beyond the planning cycle, brainstorming is a healthy aid to reviewing each departmental operation – one at a time.  This can usually be accomplished in a morning or afternoon session with the subject department head briefing other department heads on the organization, operation, and challenges of the department.  After this general presentation, the department head can ask his or her peers to offer suggestions and ideas to improve the operation.  This will open the door to wider discussions involving standards, policies, and procedures; inter-departmental support and cooperation; quality of guidance or direction from above; a better understanding of individual roles and duties; and improved integration of support systems for operating departments.

While sometimes these discussions can become tense, everyone must understand that the purpose and benefit of the session is to uncover issues and find a better way to operate.  Given the potential for conflict and discord, the following rules must be spelled out and enforced by the general manager:

1.   Everyone leaves their egos at the door.

2.   Everyone will be treated with dignity and respect.

3.   Each person’s ideas will be heard and valued for their unique perspective.

4.   The general manager must be present, engaged, and fully support the process, often making executive decisions to overcome obstacles and bottlenecks.

When properly managed by the general manager, brainstorming can:

  • Illuminate problems and issues,
  • Foster understanding through discussion,
  • Point to solutions,
  • Generate new ideas and initiatives, and
  • Create a sense of shared challenge and teamwork.

But all the above is simply time spent talking unless the brainstorming session generates decisions and a plan of action with assigned responsibilities and timelines to bring the ideas to execution.  To ensure this is done, the general manager should require a summary of decisions made and an action plan for each subject department head.

When this is done and followed through, much begins to happen.  With each successfully implemented improvement or initiative, a culture of success and excellence naturally develops and strengthens, carrying the operations and all its managers to greater challenges and even greater success.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

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