There are many disciplines related to excellence in club operations, but there is none so basic as learning from one’s mistakes. This shouldn’t be news to anyone. Jim Collins, in his bestselling book on wildly successful companies, distilled the formula for success to the following, “Much of the answer to the question of ‘good to great’ lies in the discipline to do whatever it takes to become the best within carefully selected arenas and then seek continual improvement (emphasis added) in these. It’s really just that simple.”
We have written extensively on the necessity of discipline in building a successful club operation, as well as the importance of Continual Process Improvement. The willingness to routinely and repeatedly review all aspects of operations to ensure an improved level of performance will bring any club to a state of excellence.
A simple and highly effective tool for such review is the use of post mortems. Originally a medical term for an autopsy to determine the cause of death, in common practice post mortem has come to take on the broader meaning of examining any action or event after the fact to determine cause(s) and/or means of improvement. The military has a similar purpose in the use of “after action” reports to review plans, execution of orders, and battles.
Any club embracing a vision of excellence would do well to establish organization-wide post mortems as an essential discipline of learning from mistakes and improving future performance. But what sort of things demand such review and how best to do them?
Most important is any action or event designed to entertain or delight members such as entertainment, food service, golf, and sports/fitness activities. Each of these directly impact perceptions of the club’s quality, service, and member satisfaction and are expected to be well-conceived, organized, and executed. Ongoing reviews to improve such activities will avoid past weaknesses or missteps, while continually striving for better and more enjoyable events. Use of the Event Review, HRI Form 807, or some similar means of recording post-event ideas and suggestions is a simple way to institute consistent and continual improvement.
Beyond these are the ongoing reviews of systems, processes, standards, policies, procedures, training materials and methods, and any other significant function of club operations. Each department head should have both the mindset and focus to continually think and say, “What can we do better, faster, more efficiently, at less cost, and with higher levels of member service?” Employees must be made to understand that their ideas and suggestions are always welcomed and, when appropriate, acted upon to improve the organization.
Tips for maximizing the effectiveness of reviews:
- Conduct the post mortem as soon after the event or activity as possible, while everything is fresh in everyone’s mind.
- Make sure all parties know in advance that a review will be done so they may be alert for ideas and suggested improvements.
- Include all major players involved in planning and executing the event.
- Make ongoing review of activities and events part of each department head’s job description and performance review.
- Ensure that each department head has established an appropriate filing system so that post mortem documentation for any and all events can be quickly found and used in future planning.
- Ensure that the post mortem files of departing managers are retained by the club and available to replacements.
- Seek the input of the line employees involved in servicing the event – activity, food service, and golf staffs – as they know better than anyone what worked and didn’t work. Given their crucial input and the fact that they might not be available for a more formal review meeting in the days following the event, get their feedback prior to leaving the club at the end of the event shift.
- Consider establishing a recognition and rewards system for line staff when their ideas are accepted and implemented. Managers are expected as part of their jobs to improve operations, but line employees may need incentives.
Undoubtedly, many clubs and managers informally review their operations for improvement, but greater and more consistent results will be achieved if every employee, managers and line, buys into a formal, effort to review and improve the club. Post mortems may be performed on cadavers, but a robust, club-wide process of continual improvement, encouraged and supported by the club’s leadership, will breathe new life into any operation.
Thanks and have a great day!
This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality 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 hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.
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