Analysis of organization’s culture

Module 4 – CaseTHE CULTURE AND MORAL COMPASSESAssignment OverviewIn the Module 4 Case, we will complete an in-depth analysis of an organization’s culture, and determine the extent to which the organization’s culture fits with the organization’s strategic choices. Begin by reading the following article:Ford, R. C., Wilderom, C., & Caparella, J. (2008). Strategically crafting a customer-focused culture: An inductive case study. Journal of Strategy and Management, 1(2), 143-167. Retrieved from ProQuest.Case AssignmentUsing the article above, write a 6- to 7-page paper in which you address the following:Complete an in-depth, comprehensive analysis of the Gaylord Palms’ organizational culture and values, analyzing the ways in which the specific components of organizational culture and values assist – or impede – the success of the organization’s strategic choices.Keys to the AssignmentThe key aspects of this assignment that are to be covered in your 6- to 7- page paper include the following:Using the Module 4 Background readings related to organizational culture, and after performing additional research in the library, explain how organizational culture at the Gaylord Palms Hotel:Creates meaning for its members;Establishes informal organizational controls; andEnsures (or alternatively, hinders) the success of Gaylord Palms’ strategic choices.Which of Gaylord Palms’ values are most salient, and how do these same values relate to the organization’s culture?What is required for an organization’s culture to be “effective”? Is Gaylord Palms’ organizational culture an “effective” culture? Why or why not? Be specific.What specific characteristics/elements of Gaylord Palms’ organizational culture do you believe are most significant relative to ensuring the success of Gaylord Palms’ strategic direction (e.g., symbols, artifacts, roles, etc.)? Why?Be sure to use a minimum of three (3) library sources in support of your answers! The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at crafting a customer-focused culture: an inductive case study Robert C. Ford College of Business, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA Celeste P.M. Wilderom School of Management and Governance, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands, and John Caparella Gaylord Hotels, Orlando, Florida, USA Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show how the content of a firm’s culture, carefully developed by top managers, can create effective employee experiences and how this exemplary case of strategic culture shaping relate to various academic insights on intangible social or collaborative capital. Design/methodology/approach – Inductive case study (of a large American convention hotel), highlighting the strategic crafting of a service-firm culture, both descriptively (in terms of what took place) and analytically (in terms of various OB-literatures). Findings – Describes how organizational culture can be part of strategizing in terms of aligning cultural expressions regarding various employees’ practices, including continuous organizational improvement. Analyzes and integrates various extant culture insights on service cultures and culture strength. Research limitations/implications – Insights are applicable to a wide variety of work settings beyond the hospitality and service sectors; it expands the view of organizational culture to the broader and more complex, strategic issue of how organizations can craft or amend cultures that fit their missions. Practical implications – One may learn from this case (including the authors’ reflections), how to put a well-articulated service mission into operational practice: through taking a particular, desired culture quite seriously when creating employee experiences, so that they are effectively focused on that mission. Originality/value – The paper illustrates specific tactics for implementing culture plus the value of developing a strategic approach to creating a particular culture. It offers a template of crafting a culture, based on the strategic pairing of managerial mission with action (or employee and client experiences). Strategizing with culture, also referred to as firm-cultural content shaping, is meant for researchers and practitioners seeking to help develop a mission-focused organizational culture. Keywords Customer orientation, Organizational culture, Hotels, Service levels Paper type Case study 1. Introduction This paper depicts a strategic approach to developing an emerging firm’s cultural content. In order to focus in-depth on the various cultural elements that may need to be considered in a firm’s formation effort, we first describe a remarkable case using a Customer focused culture 143 Journal of Strategy and Management Vol. 1 No. 2, 2008 pp. 143-167 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1755-425X DOI 10.1108/17554250810926348JSMA 1,2 144hotel as a lens to focus our inductively derived arguments about how to strategize with organizational culture. While this hotel receives top rating scores with both its customers and employees, it is also profitable. It repeatedly wins the “Best Place to Work” awards in its community. The case is important as it suggests a link between the hotel’s financial success and a strategically created culture[1]. Our inductive pairing of this case with recent academic insights on service cultures is framed in the literatures of both strategy and organizational (service) culture. Through this (inductively analyzed) case we attempt to move both fields forward (Locke, 2007, p. 887). The hotel in this case is the 1406 room four diamond Gaylord Palms convention hotel, opened in February 2002, in Orlando, Florida. The owners gave the opening manager full reign to implement his previously developed approach to use a service culture to deliver profitable top quality service. The opening manager believed that it was critical to strategically shape a coherent and inspiring culture. Based on his prior experience and belief in the essential ideas of total quality management, he was convinced of its business value. Our ensuing case depiction of the Gaylord Palms’ culture is based on numerous interviews with the founding manager and his associates: spanning a period of seven years. Even though our case is not a systematically pre-designed longitudinal case study, the content of the open-ended interviews held throughout the years is based on the first author’s close relationship with the manager and the manager’s active participation in this paper; the belief and insight that the opening manager is able and well-situated to create an unusual firm culture; and our own in-depth knowledge of service cultures, especially in the hospitality industry, witnessed by earlier work published by the two main authors of this paper (Ashkanasy et al., 2000; van den Berg and Wilderom, 2004; Crotts et al., 2005; Bowen and Ford, 2002; Ford and Heaton, 2000; Klidas et al., 2007). The opening manager had studied culture in his formal education and learned of its value as a practicing manager. His previous experience at the Sheraton Manhattan taught him that culture could elicit the best efforts of a staff to deliver a service experience. There he had relied on changing the culture as part of his strategy for turning around an underperforming hotel property. The dramatic results he had achieved convinced him that a hotel’s culture can be crafted to make a difference in organizational performance. Thinking of culture as the “software” of an organization producing an intangible service, he felt that it needed to be strategically designed to align the organizational need (i.e. mission) with the software’s capability (i.e. culture’s specific content). He was also impressed with the total quality management concepts and its associated literature (Crosby’s Quality is Free, 1979) and a believer of the idea that what gets measured gets managed. These beliefs are reflected in his strategic approach to creating the Gaylord Palms’ culture. In this paper, we first describe the strategic elements of the Gaylord Palms’ culture and the larger environmental context in which it was crafted. Next, with the help of insights from academic literature relevant to service-culture cueing, we analyze this strategy. In this paper, we not only report the emergence of a remarkable service-firm culture, we also offer a compelling example of the value of strategically shaping a firm’s cultural content. We believe that a strategic approach to culture creation, illustrated by the Gaylord Palms, has applicability to a wide variety of organizational settings beyond the hospitality and service sectors. Hence, we conclude the paper with new insights on culture creation: to expand the current literature’s preoccupation with culture strength to the broader and more complex, strategic issue of how organizations can craft cultures that fit their missions. 2. Context of the Gaylord Palms The Gaylord Palms is one of four somewhat similar convention hotels in the USA owned by Gaylord Entertainment. Gaylord Entertainment is a publically held company listed on the NYSE (symbol GET) with a market capitalization of over $1.2 billion. The four hotels, in their order of opening, are: (1) Opryland in Nashville; (2) the Gaylord Palms in Orlando; (3) the Texan in Dallas; and (4) the National in Washington, DC. They are all built to serve the convention and meetings market for clients needing meeting space and sleeping rooms in the approximate range they offer. Their strategic niche is larger sized convention hotels in the four diamond price and customer amenity range. They hope to capture repeat business concentrating on meetings that prefer to rotate geographically across the USA: to balance out travel expenses for geographically dispersed attendees. Gaylord Palms’ strategy was to produce the kind of guest and customer experience that would be noticeable and memorable so that the attendees would be attracted to one of their hotels for their next meeting because of their high quality experiences. Due to space constraints, our largely internal, cultural analysis leaves out external market conditions. By commonly used industry measures the culture strategy used at Gaylord Palms is successful. Expressed in total REVPAR (revenue per available room), Gaylord Palms is ranked by Smith Travel (a widely used company) as first in its competitive group. Using a measure of customer satisfaction that counts only the percentage of Gaylord Palms’ customers giving “top box” scores, it currently scores at 60 percent and has a goal of 70 percent for 2010. This means they are evaluated as “excellent” which is the top box on their evaluation scale by over half of their customers. They are not content to rest on their laurals and have a goal of getting even better. In terms of awards, they have every major award that can be earned in the hotel and convention industry business including; Gold Key Award, Pinnacle Award, Florida Monthly’s Best Florida Resort, Wine Spectator magazine’s Award of Excellence and many more. Furthermore, they win them consistently on an annual basis. In terms of its employee satisfaction metrics, the Gaylord Palms is also the most successful in its market. Current employee turnover for the Palms is below 28 percent while that of all Gaylord Hotels is currently 33 percent. These turnover numbers are far better than its peer competitors in the hotel industry, notorious for its high labor turnover. The Gaylord Palms scores three times the overall industry averages on three key measures it uses to assess its employee satisfaction. These are job satisfaction (37 percent very satisfied vs 14 percent for other US hotels); likelihood of remaining (40 percent vs 13 percent); and likelihood of buying stock from their employer (43 percent vs 12 percent). The three other Gaylord Entertainment hotels, whose cultural strategy was eventually copied from the Gaylord Palms, are doing Customer focused culture 145JSMA 1,2 146similarly well. In the next section we describe the cultural components of Gaylord Palms’ firm-formation efforts. 3. Creating Gaylord Palms’ service culture A strategic approach to creating a culture is to begin by identifying the key elements in that strategy and then aligning these elements with the operational practices of the firm. Thus, the first step is to articulate a mission towards which all other actions and activities can be directed. Next is to identify the tactical elements of the strategy, human resource policies and procedures, and operational systems that need to be created and aligned with the mission selected (Crotts et al., 2005; Ford and Heaton, 2000). Gaylord followed this process. It began with the articulation of a customer focused mission and then it systematically translated that mission into the specific tactics, human resources policies, and operational systems that fit or aligned with that mission. 3.1 Mission, goals, and firm values of Gaylord Palms The general manager believed that the mission of the Gaylord Palms should be to create, sustain and model a high level of customer service orientation every day, by all of its employees. He started with this mission to craft the culture. He believed culture would have two important outcomes for his new hotel: (1) A customer-driven culture can be a competitive advantage over other hotels as it competes for both customers and employees (echoed in the literature, e.g. by Ogbonna and Harris, 2002; Simpson and Cacioppe, 2001; Derry and Shaw, 1999). (2) He felt that organizations with a positive culture are more attractive places to work and are more desirable places to visit than places that are unpleasant, unfocused, and uncaring. He also believed culture could substitute for direct supervision. This is important in service organizations particularly as employees serving guests must rely on their interpretation of how their values fit the service mission to drive behavior and guide decision making. A manager may not be available for guidance when an employee is trying to meet a customer’s expectations while co-producing an intangible service experience (Hallowell et al., 2002; Klidas et al., 2007). He believed that the more a customer-culture can guide employees, the less need there is to rely on traditional management controls such as policies, procedures, and direct managerial oversight. It was his experience that employees who know the right thing to do and are motivated to do it consistently, achieve better performance. The culture of Palms was crafted to guide employee behavior especially when encountering situations that are unique. No matter how much an organization trains its employees, customers seeking experiences that exist only in their memories are as varied as their expectations (Schein, 1992). Exceeding expectations is not only important to satisfying customers but it is also the key driver of repeat business and positive word of mouth. In sum, before the Gaylord Palms opened, the opening manager’s “industry experience” (Song et al., 2008) gave him a belief in the value of a firm’s service culture. He designed the Palms’ culture software systematically, starting with its mission and values. After considerable discussion by Gaylord Palms’ founding team (Schein, 1991), the formal mission was defined as: “At Gaylord Palms, it is our goal to become a legend in guest service.” They felt that the way to become known for legendary service would be through consistently providing “flawless service” to each and every guest. They further believed that the only way to achieve this is to make a strong commitment to those who had to deliver it: the employees. This commitment was felt so important that it was formally stated as an organizational goal; “Our goal is to develop a rewarding FUN culture that makes our STARS excited to come to work with a passion to serve every single day.” It was decided that everything Palms’ management did, said, and wrote must be supportive of mission accomplishment and its aligned corporate values (Crotts et al., 2005). Mission, goals and the articulated work values that the mission and goals represent were created to drive everything in the Gaylord Palms. For example, seven corporate values were created (see Figure 1: note their operationalizations) to focus the employees on the mission, defined as: (1) service; (2) citizenship; (3) integrity; (4) respect; (5) excellence; (6) creativity; and (7) passion. The acronym STARS stands for smiles, teamwork, attitude, reliability and service with a passion. It created to do two things: (1) It defines what employees are supposed to be focused on while doing their jobs. (2) It is a term that became part of the language of the hotel’s culture used by all to refer to any member of the organization: leader, non-supervisory staff or hourly. In other words, the term STARS created not only a unified sense among employees about their organizational role. It also reminded the employees that each individual is valued by the company. 3.2 Staffing to build Gaylord Palms’ culture Once the mission, goals, positions and values had been established (messaging why the organization exists and how it would help employees to excel in customer service), the next step was to hire, train, and motivate the people that would be the STARS. This was part of the founding strategy. This process was carefully thought through. The basic notion was to hire only “10’s” or the 1 out of 10 that truly possessed a “passion to serve.” The hiring process was begun by identifying the “right” managers who in turn would hire the “right” employees. Each job finalist was given a formal talent assessment and results were carefully reviewed by the hiring team managers. The talent assessment tool would ensure that all those hired were aligned with the Palms’ mission and comprehensively included the necessary talents. No leader was hired without everyone on the hiring team agreeing that the candidate was the right fit for the Palms. This included the Vice President and general manager who interviewed Customer focused culture 147JSMA 1,2 148Figure 1. Gaylord’s values all candidates for all leadership positions. The Palms founding team believed that making this commitment to the process of identifying leaders sent a signal that it placed great importance on getting the right people hired. When the opening leadership team was in place, a structured interview process was created for identifying the other STARS. A video was made for all potential STARS to view prior to a screening interview that emphasized the Palms’ culture. This was to provide applicants with the information they would need to decide for themselves if the Palms’ culture would be a good fit for them. If applicants felt that this culture was a fit after viewing the video, they would be individually interviewed by a hiring team member who asked a set of structured screening questions designed to identify the job specific talents necessary and to inform the candidate of the non-negotiable cultural values for success in the Gaylord Palms’ culture. In that hiring process the Palms’ management invented several ways to signal the intended culture and its potential fit to those it sought to hire. The Palms’ new staff members were, for example, offered their positions in an “offer experience:” This was an individually tailored, fun way of showing each of the selected STARS how enthusiastic the Palms was about them joining the hotel. It offered, for example, the Horticulture Manager her job by burying the official letter in the dirt of the unfinished atrium and invited her to dig it up. The Front Desk Manager was given a Wizard of Oz themed offer experience (since she loved that movie), complete with ruby red shoes and an offer letter with the words, “There’s no place like home. Come home to Gaylord Palms and become our new Front Desk Manager.” The point was to discover what was important to prospective team members and create an individualized experience that would delight them. This not only showed the value that the organization placed on the person being hired by making the effort to personalize the offer but also provided a model of the behavior expected of the new employee in that culture. The process continues today at the Gaylord Palms and has been adopted by all other Gaylord Hotels. The Palms’ commitment to hiring only “10’s” led to four important outcomes: (1) It made everyone involved in hiring understand that they should only hire those that were truly committed to giving flawless or legendary service. They knew that the company wanted them to “hold out for talent.” (2) It allowed all those that got hired to feel like they were part of a special group of highly committed employees – the top 10 percent. (3) It showed all that were interviewed, whether they were hired or not, the Palms’ commitment to employees and company values. (4) It provided a standard for the human resource people to use in guiding their employment efforts. This plan helped create a company brand image in the labor market that it then used in advertising and word of mouth to build a strong labor pool. Even those who were not hired were impressed with the values of the hotel and its commitment to employees. Thus, the entire initial hiring process was organized around the goal of finding and hiring people who would become STARS and be willing to commit to the hotel’s work values. Not only did the job advertisements stress this, the interview process did as well. All employees entered the organization knowing they had been chosen because of their commitment to the organization’s values and their capability of delivering the flawless service mission. Orientation was also considered an essential component of the Gaylord Palms’ staffing strategy for creating a culture. It was designed to begin with two days of training that everybody joining the company attends; 60 percent of this time is dedicated to teaching culture. This much time allocated to culture was felt critical to Customer focused culture 149JSMA 1,2 150ensure employees has a clear understanding of the company and its values. Orientation is followed by 1-4 weeks in the individual departments where new employees not only get training in specific job skills but additional training in the Gaylord culture. STARS learn that there is no difference between serving a guest and serving each other. This initial orientation is followed by a 90 day “orientation reunion” to ensure the STARS know their benefits, are comfortable in their job roles, and can see how to apply the flawless service philosophy in their specific departments. A dishwasher, for example, might be grouped with some banquet servers to talk about the ways in which the work of the dishwasher is linked to the servers. These groupings are designed to eliminate the dysfunctions of functional silos often found in hotels (and other organizations) and to show everyone how their work is connected with each other. The general manager had learned that one of the key impediments to achieving flawless service is the tendency of employees to get locked into their functional loyalties and forget the overarching service mission. Both in their orientation reunions and in their regular pre-shift meetings all STARS are reminded of the interdependencies of all functions. Not only is entry training and orientation designed to teach the culture; the company also demonstrates its commitment to its STARS by offering extensive further learning opportunities. Since the Palms sets as a goal to get 60 percent of its leadership from internal promotions, these programs are important in communicating the value of helping all employees achieve their aspirations. The Palms attempts to empower its employees to respond to the variation in guest/customer expectations by avoiding the creation of rules as much as possible. Instead, it created “guidelines” to assist STARS in their decision making. Its leadership believes that guidelines would provide a framework for managers and other STARS to perform their jobs well while still allowing for the individual flexibility needed to respond to customer variation. Employees could base their work performance to respond to the specific circumstances of a service experience rather than following specific rules that do not allow such variability. 3.3 Systems to communicate the Palms’ culture Beyond systematic efforts in strategy and staffing, the Palms’ opening manager realized that everything leaders said, did and wrote would cue culture for all other employees. Even though he and his opening team had exerted considerable effort on the front end of the hotel’s opening to define a mission, core work values, and a hiring process to bring the right people into the organization, he appreciated the critical nature of communicating the culture in a clear and consistent way: both at the point of entry and on an ongoing basis. He established multiple communication channels for employees with special emphasis on two-way communication. The Palms also made extensive use of cultural communication tools such as telling stories about service heroes, having celebrations and creating rituals (Trice and Beyer, 1993). Communicating values. During orientation a considerable amount of time is spent on explaining the multiple ways to communicate with “leaders.” New STARS are informed of the open door policy, given the phone numbers of the general manager, given access to an intranet web site, and taught the metrics of the business. STARS are told they do not have to follow the chain of command if they see an issue that needs management attention and their own leader does not share their concern. If a STAR brings an issue to his or her boss’ attention, it is that manager’s issue to resolve. Each issue gets documented so that everyone can get to know what issues require action or resolution. Although this seems to be an invitation to chaos as every subordinate knows that he or she can access any manager freely, the reality is that it is not used much as this approach makes the employee’s immediate supervisor less inclined to ignore employee issues, suggestions, and concerns. This anti-hierarchical norm serves to keep leaders engaged in soliciting employee feedback and input. As part of its strategy to communicate its cultural values, an internal guarantee was made and communicated to employees; the Gaylord Palms explicitly recognized each employee as an internal customer (Hart, 1995). This unique guarantee states; “STARS first, always” and goes on to spell out what this means at this hotel and company. “At Gaylord Entertainment we are committed to providing our STARS with the support and resources necessary to offer flawless service in an environment that fosters fun, encourages open communication and development and upholds our values.” This guarantee is published and painted on a common area wall that each employee sees every day as a reminder of both what the STARS’ values are and the commitment the company has made to its employees. The employee guarantee was created to emulate the value and power of guarantees offered to customers. The reasoning was simple. If it could offer a guarantee of service excellence for our guests, why not do the same for its employees? By exercising the guarantee, employees could have a direct path to voice their concerns, reducing internal “service failure.” This guarantee concept also signals that top management takes its commitment to employees seriously and any manager without that commitment is unlikely to be successful. Since managers know that the guarantee was available to all employees, the guarantee also serves as a reminder of the importance of taking into account STARS’ needs, wants, and expectations in all their decisions. It forces managers to test what they do as supervisors against the guarantee by asking, “Will this decision support what we guarantee our STARS?” The general manager decided to add three unique positions to the hotel staff. The first resulted in a person responsible for new employee orientation. Although most organizations have people responsible for new employee training, Gaylord would have a person whose only role was to communicate its work values upon entry and again 90 days later. This job was created to teach the culture. The second position was the manager of STARS Communications and Events: responsible for creating and executing employee communications and celebrations. The third position created was the manager of STARS relations who would be responsible for ensuring that all employees had a voice in managing the organization. While each of these roles can be found dispersed in other organizations, Gaylord’s assignment of those roles to a specific person – whose only function was to perform these roles well – was designed to ensure that the culture of Gaylord, the “software” of its operations, was focused, consistent and thoroughly communicated. The message that is sent to employees at orientation (and reinforced continuously) is that Gaylord wants to have issues put openly on the table and get every employee involved in solving them. It establishes a norm of self disclosure of mistakes as a valued behavior while hiding them is not. The general manager developed an intranet based tool called “hits and misses” to create and disseminate a record of their good and bad performances in delivering the customer experience. This intranet site allows all employees to see customer comments generated by Gaylord’s convention services staff Customer focused culture 151JSMA 1,2 152asking customers about the good and bad aspects of the Gaylord experience. This system allows the collection of service failure data and also examples of service successes so that the appropriate people can be informed of things that are going well and things that need correction. Gaylord repeatedly reminds all STARS that they have a responsibility to identify and solve (potential) problems. Since in the service industry the customer contact person is frequently the one that created this service problem for a customer, it is important to ensure that the very people who create these problems feel committed to fixing them without fear of punishment. The cultural norm of everyone being responsible for continuous improvement promotes employee discussion of what needs to be improved to continually get better. It fosters an environment where no one fears telling about problems (even those they created). In teaching its culture Gaylord encourages the use of stories. One of the ways in which it communicates its mission to flawless guest service to (new) employees is by sharing a letter (Appendix). This fictitious letter was written by management. It tells the story of a guest that came and was so satisfied that she wrote a letter telling how great the experience was. This letter is given to everyone in the new employee orientation to show what the intangible mission of flawless service means. The challenge is for every employee or department to deliver such great service that they will get letters like this. At the same time, the letter gives guidance as to what kinds of things impress customers. Since one of the goals is to obtain only “top box” scores on its customer evaluations, it felt the need to define and teach what customers/guests would find inspiring enough to give such high evaluations. Gaylord’s management built on the fictitious letter in two ways: (1) It asks each new department head to develop a department-specific letter to reinforce what flawless service means in the context of their department. (2) It asks them to discuss flawless service, like that complimented in the letter, in at least three of the daily departmental meetings per week. Thus, each department will have regular discussions about how to serve well at least three times each week. The discussions on what prompts people to send such letters promotes the telling of stories in which team members will relate a real life example about creating a successful service experience. Leaders are asked to record these in an intranet file. This file serves as a resource for other leaders to use when they need stories or illustrations of service exemplars. Another way the company communicates what it values is by printing up pocket or wallet cards for employees to carry with them detailing the Gaylord values for easy reference. The tangible existence of these cards and the expectation that everyone will carry them reinforces to each employee the importance that management places on those values. The seven values, including their operationalizations (Figure 1), reinforce the particular Gaylord culture, the employee guarantee, and the ways that the organization and its employees interact with each other and with the guests. Every team member is, expected to participate at least once a month in a discussion of the core service values. Gaylord believes that the way to make the mission real is to tell stories about what it means to deliver flawless service. Its emphasis on this story telling not only allows each employee to see the mission in terms that are specifically relevant to his or her own department but also makes the leaders take this seriously. Indeed, even those that are quieter or seem reluctant to talk, are encouraged to participate. 3.3.1 Rituals and celebrations. Early in its culture creation, Gaylord Palms’ managers developed a set of rituals and celebrations designed to reinforce the mission and its values (Deal and Key, 1998). One ritual, for example, is designed for celebrating promotions. When a Gaylord Palms’ STARS gets promoted, the person is peddled around the hotel in a wheeled rickshaw by his or her new supervisor. The bike is followed by a camera toting paparazzi waving a celebratory sign and making noise. The unusual nature of this event can be observed by other employees and even draws the participation of guests. If the idea was to make the newly promoted person feel special and recognized, this simple act certainly does that. As the person is peddled around the hotel’s 10 acres both front of the house and back, everyone can see and celebrate the event. Another Gaylord Palm’s ritual is the All STARS rallies, held quarterly. In these rallies successes of individual STARS are celebrated. These STARS are selected by a committee comprised of former winners to best represent each of the seven key corporate values. A three minute video is prepared on each person and shown at the rally along with the awarding of a plaque. These are emotionally charged events that make the STARS feel valued, recognized, and appreciated while teaching all who attend what the company values, recognizes and appreciates. Value award winners are included in a value wall of fame which details the history of their recipients over the years. Ever since the Gaylord Palms’ culture had been built into other new hotels, a corporate wide process selects each year the best representative of each value. All local hotel winners of the year are flown to Nashville with his/her family for a corporate level celebration, complete with a dinner on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. They all get $1,500 to give to the charity of their choice. Winning is seen as an important event in their lives, and the celebration reinforces the culture, including its work values. Traveling to “Nashville” is an extra special event for a Gaylord Palms’ employee as Gaylord’s corporate foundation is built on its entertainment roots. Tracing its history to the famous country music institution of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville[2], Gaylord Entertainment takes seriously its reputation for knowing how to entertain people. It attracts and recognizes employees with entertainment talent and seeks to display their skills as part of its employee recognition celebrations. As a result, there is strong competition amongst STARS to be selected to perform in Gaylord’s All STARS Rally programs; each rally uses the talents of at least three STARS performers. Gaylord clearly believes in the value of creating a fun work environment (Ford et al., 2004) and it is confident in its ability to provide fun for guests through its entertainment mindset. The Gaylord Palms also hosts family nights that are designed to be entertaining. Regularly, it will invite all STARS to bring their families when there is something special to see at the hotel (e.g. Ice Sculpture) or just for a movie. The entertainment background of the company helps engage and hold the interest of its employees as these events are done with considerable planning and detail. At the movies night, for example, clowns are employed to entertain the children as well as face painters and balloon artists. At all events food is served. The goal is to provide a fun work environment that will spill over onto guests. The Palms created a fun way for its managers to celebrate as well. There are quarterly leader’s outings for the hotel’s leaders. These begin with a stand up meeting Customer focused culture 153JSMA 1,2 154where the senior leaders report on the state of the hotel. This is followed by a few motivational points and a quick review of the key performance metrics. Then the senior leaders say “Let’s go” and everyone gets on a bus to go somewhere to have fun. The goal is to have fun communicating what the hotel is accomplishing and reinforcing the idea of a fun work environment. Other things that are done as part of their staffing strategy are celebrating life events like birthdays and supporting philanthropic activities. One of Gaylord’s values is Citizenship and it has created philanthropic committees in support of that value. Gaylord Palms, for example, commits over $250,000 annually for philanthropic activities and countless employee hours volunteering to support its local community. STARS participate together in determining the GET Involved activities annually. 3.3.2 Performance metrics. While it is obvious that Gaylord Palms spends considerable money and time on ensuring that its lodging product is well designed and supported with quality resources, they have given equal attention to the systems that support the culture. One guiding assumption is that people pay attention to what is measured. This idea comes from the quality management movement where the idea of training people to recognize and fix their own errors is central. The Gaylord Palms has taken the time to measure everything that it values and it makes sure it tells people how they are doing against standards and then awards bonuses when the goals are achieved. STARS at all levels can earn bonus money that reflects their production of outstanding customer service scores and financial results. These bonuses range from $50 to $150 per quarter. The goal is to show and share the direct linkage between providing flawless service and financial outcomes to every staff member. This program differentiates Gaylord from most other hotel or service companies, as few firms extend bonus programs to every employee. In evaluating managers, Gaylord uses a balanced scorecard to signal its managers that it gives equal importance to customers, employees and financial success. Their managers are bonused on performance metrics for all these three major areas. Furthermore, they evaluate leadership competencies. Merit increases are based upon an equal weighting of both goal achievement and leadership competency performance. This evaluation reflects an intentional decision to create a system that keeps leaders from thinking that financial returns alone are sufficient for success or that leadership performance is only a matter of achieving set goals. Measurement metrics are published whenever possible. Gaylord report guest satisfaction scores of both their competition and each of their own hotels quarterly. These internal scores generate great competition between units and across different hotels. Scores are also used in departmental meetings to prompt continuous improvement discussions. As Gaylord Entertainment has added new hotels into its portfolio (Dallas-Fort Worth area and Washington, DC), it has found that the same basic culture crafted in the Gaylord Palms, Orlando, works there as well; It even successfully “imported” the Gaylord Palms’ cultural content to its previously existing Nashville Opryland Hotel as well. 4. Analyzing the Gaylord Palms: assure cultural content over culture strength In the foregoing account of creating a new hotel culture, we saw that already the emerging organizational culture directed employees in relating to each other. The founder’s beliefs, organizational mission and goals, core work values (Figure 1) and most of its translations into practices or typical employee experiences (Table I) are intangible. Yet they appear not ephemeral and proved enactable in other, similar hotels in Gaylord’s emerging chain of convention hotels. In what follows, we analyze this constitutive episode in Gaylord’s life through various academic lenses relevant to service-culture cueing. In doing so, we will integrate insights and derive the generic proposition that infusing and assuring appropriate and consistent cultural content into an emerging organization is more advantageous for any firm than efforts to reach merely culture strength. The culture of the Gaylord Palms was envisioned and defined by the general manager or founder (Aitken, 2007, Ormrod et al., 2007). He used culture as a sensemaking device (Gioia, 1986) where the “device” part is both practical (“practices”) and intangible: in its effects on employees. Hence, the Palms’ culture became a practical yet intangible projection of his ideas about the style with which he wanted his employees to behave at work. The founder, while having worked in different positions within the same industry, had not only developed those ideas, he had also acquired a culture-orchestrating type competence. We learned from the case that deliberately shaping a consistent organizational culture benefits staff, customers and the firm itself. Many different cultural-based work values were spelled out and they are regularly discussed by employees. Matching or well-aligned employee practices or experiences were staged by Gaylord Palms’ founder and his close associates. These staff experiences sought to reinforce employees’ value driven decisions and behaviors in pursuit of the firm’s goal of ensuring very positive customer experiences. The success of this organization in using a culture-creation strategy offers a promising new thesis to explore: if founding managers are unable to shape an intended organization-cultural fabric, they risk having their culture become incoherent, unproductive and unsatisfying to its members. The Gaylord Palms’ case shows how a culture can be strategically crafted to implement a personal commitment to and tacit knowledge of high levels of customer service. Furthermore, the Palms’ case illustrates Aitken’s (2007, p. 30) insight that “unless leaders are fully aware of their own leadership culture they are unlikely to be able to control the impact of their role as the modeling archetypes of organizational culture.” Gaylord’s careful avoidance of “cultural ambiguities” (McLoughlin et al., 2005, p. 86) is indeed “manifested in the conditions and lived experiences of those attempting to introduce new forms of normative control.” The Palms’ many and carefully thought out cultural elements were carefully aligned. In particular, the Gaylord Palms’ case illustrates “walking the talk” alignment: The more aligned the personal values of leaders are with their actual behavior, the more likely the staff will regard the culture in a more positive manner (Aitken, 2007; Ford et al., 2006; Dickson et al., 2006). Seen from the area of service management, the many avenues of communication Gaylord Palms’ used to communicate to its employees’ showed them its commitment to “perceived organizational support.” Gaylord’s “messages” sent to employees “enable workers to accomplish work objectives” (Vandenberghe et al., 2007, p. 1178). Gaylord’s enabling type managerial control efforts (Adler and Borys, 1996) is endorsed in the academic literature where it has been shown that the more employees feel supported by the employing organization, the higher is the customer perception of service quality (Eisenberger et al., 1997; Susskind et al., 2003). Significant links between Customer focused culture 155JSMA 1,2 156Table I. A summary of shared employee experiences at the Gaylord Palms Strategy 1 Mission focused on excellence and translated into a goal of flawless service 2 STARS acronym created to focus everyone on employees’ value to the mission 3 STARS term used to remind everyone of cultural values represented by words Staffing 4 Only hire 1 out of 10 applicants: the one with the highest passion to serve 5 Talent assessment tool to ensure new employees will fit the culture 6 Consensus required to hire new employees 7 Video produced to systematically teach Gaylord’s firm values to potential employees 8 Job offers given in the form of an “offer experience” to reinforce the culture 9 Recruitment ads stress the importance of the culture and company’s commitment to it 10 Initial orientation: 60 per cent of the time devoted to culture 11 Within-department orientation: 1-4 weeks job-skills training plus culture training 12 Ninety days past hire: “orientation reunion” that also teaches interdependencies of all STARS’ positions 13 Extensive, structured learning opportunities to improve employee skills and prepare future leaders 14 Guidelines instead of strict rules Systems Communicating Values 15 Open door policy so employees can contact anyone in a higher position 16 Leaders actively solicit employee feedback and input 17 Created and published employee guarantee: “STARS first, always” 18 Specific jobs created to promote Gaylord’s fun culture 19 Endorsing the norm of employee self-disclosure of mistakes as a valued behavior: hiding mistakes is not encouraged; mistakes are made to learn from 20 “Hits and misses” intranet tool to publish customer comments on service successes and failures 21 Fictitious letter produced to show what impresses customers and similar departmental letters requested 22 Distributing pocket cards to all employees with the values of the company 23 Regular employee discussion of Gaylord’s core work values (at least once per month at departmental meetings) Rites and Celebrations 24 Celebrating promotions in a way to make the one getting promoted feel special and recognized 25 Quarterly employee rallies where those that best represent each work value are recognized 26 Value Wall of Fame 27 Annual “value winners” are flown with their families to Nashville to be honored 28 Family nights 29 Leaders’ outings 30 Supporting philanthropic activities Performance Metrics 31 STARS at all levels can receive a bonus based on customer service scores and financial results 32 Using balanced scorecards as a continuous-improvement tool 33 Evaluating leadership competencies 34 Regularly disseminating performance scores 35 Satisfaction scores are measured, discussed, and compared across units and different hotels employee-level perceived organizational support and customer-level service quality can be explained, in part, by a high level of operational clarity, oft over- under- or ill-specified in (service) firms. Extensively developed cultural content (such as that summed up in Figure 1, Table I and the Appendix) does guide and support Gaylord’s employees’ behavior in their daily work, especially in situations that they have not been trained for or are untrainable (Schein, 1991; Sørensen, 2002). Thus, cultural content guides Gaylord’s employees in how to behave appropriately at work. Goal-path theoreticians would applaud the highly ambitious or challenging vision and the high specificity of unconflicting, experiential and value-based resources offered by Gaylord to their employees, through which it would explain Gaylord’s high performance (Locke et al., 2006, Locke, 2007). Baum et al. (1998, p. 51) also showed that the content of a vision affects firm performance directly. They confirmed that visionary content “is more likely to affect performance if employees know about it and understand it.” The positive role of perceived organizational support in the Gaylord Palms can also be explained through emotional contagion processes (Grandey et al., 2005; Locke, 1996; Vandenberghe et al., 2007). After being carefully selected, Gaylord employees are made more fully acquainted with its positive values, jobs and culture-crystallizing practices and events (Table I). Staff experiences are geared toward employee feeling good about themselves in hopes that they will treat each other, guests/customers and owners in a similar manner. Thus, positive emotions dominate at Gaylord: positive emotional content is infused and mirrored in the behaviors of employees to themselves, to each other and to guests, customers and owners. In this sense the Gaylord Palms culture exemplifies the solid empirical evidence that “employee job satisfaction affects customer satisfaction even for employee groups that are not in direct interaction with customers” (Wangenheim et al. 2007, p. 690). Also “positive organizational scholarship” is amassing evidence for the performance effects of “positive social interactions,” “compassion at work” as well as “empowerment” (Heapy and Dutton, 2008; Lilius et al., 2008; Spreitzer, 2008), as illustrated by the Gaylord Palms’ culture. The Gaylord Palms case also illustrates that a culture built on a particularly high positive commitment to employees leads to a concomitantly high commitment to customer service, as predicted by the “service profit chain” (Heskett et al., 1997). Affective events theoreticians (Weiss, 2002) may see in the events that Gaylord is staging with its employees anecdotal substantiation of its “proposed behavioral consequences” that “are only rudimentary investigated” (Niklas and Dormann, 2005, p. 368). In other words, Gaylord’s culture does not merely address “the single question of what’s better for the customer” (Bezos et al., 2007, p. 74). Gaylord has a very strong employee centricity, but not in an atomistic way; its values and practices link employee- and customer-centricity. Gaylord even exemplifies Gummesson’s plea for “balanced centricity” (Gummesson, 2008, p. 15). According to Shah et al. (2006, p. 113), “many firms are still struggling to fully align themselves to the customer-centric paradigm” (Kumar et al., 2006). Gaylord questions whether the mere customer-centricity of other service firms is overly restrictive as it excludes the employee stakeholder through which the customers are treated. And according to Gummesson (2008, p. 17) “all stakeholders have the right to satisfaction of needs and wants.” In the service sector, balanced centricity might become even a Customer focused culture 157JSMA 1,2 158service-business imperative (Shah et al., 2006). This means that not only all customers but, at the same time, all employees must be treated as core strategic business targets. Within the academic Strategy area, there is hardly any published work on how and why managers develop a culture focused on high customer service/value[3]. In other words, from the Strategy literature one cannot derive well-founded insights on how to go about infusing a particular corporate culture or identity (He, 2008). The Gaylord Palms exemplifies how it uses culture strategically. This example may stimulate efforts of Strategy researchers: to enter the culture arena. Seen from a strategy-as-practice approach the Gaylord illustrates “the micro-foundations of strategy dynamics and their inherently social and cultural embeddedness” (Regne´r, 2008, p. 566). The 38 value-driven “activity configurations” of Table I sums up Gaylord’s “social fabric of cognitive frames, language and artifacts” and they seem to have helped Gaylord “in the build-up of organizational assets” (Regne´r, 2008, p. 581). The Gaylord Palms certainly showcases the emergence of a strategic advantage: through careful development of a particular, sector- and context-specific firm-culture constellation (Barney, 1986). The Gaylord Palms therefore exemplifies how one can strategize with cultural content when starting a service firm. By implication, cultural engineering or strategizing the culture is a top-managerial task, in alignment with the largely external, macro-strategic context that tends to dominate strategic conversations. It is failed implementation, i.e. failed cultural strategizing, that typifies many failed strategic moves. Cultural strategizing is thus much more than having HRM hanging a set of values on the wall. Unlike a recent popular piece entitled “cashing in on corporate culture” (Gordon, 2008, p. 50) it is not true that “when management spends time defining, discussing and acknowledging the corporate values, the behaviors and expectations of staff become clear and consistent;” A mere values statement, no matter how many values are endorsed, does not suffice. It does not work on its own. The Gaylord case points to the need for more management and research attention to the particularly configured cultural content of firms. This idea is reflected in Walsh et al.’s study (2008, p. 301) in the hotel industry. They showed that the relatively complex human skills and expertise of a firm’s professional and other service personnel are indeed strategic assets in executing a firm’s strategy. They argue, just like the Gaylord illustrates, that “investing in human capital” is a strategic choice for each service firm and “can enhance a firm’s profitability.” They conclude that we still “understand little about the ways”… “capital investments synergistically work together.” Creating the Gaylord culture was taken by the founding manager as a strategic design-and-implementation type task and very few firms go to that strategic length: “Managers often overlook or ignore organizational culture as a tool in their strategic armory” (Kemp and Dwyer, 2001, p. 77). The specific cultural content woven into employees’ life at the Gaylord Palms aims to instill learning, continuous improvement and organizational trust among its personnel. Gaylord emphasizes, for instance, staff learning in the forms of: learning one’s job; getting to know the entire organization and its culture; learning from the job and from various colleagues and customers as well as from the performance results obtained. All employees are thus asked to spend time to learn-from-doing. Also Gaylord’s intranet tool (“hits and misses”) contribute to evolving and learning collectively as a system of collective meaning. This focus on learning and improving is in order to safeguard that the (obviously strong) culture is not stagnating (Sørensen, 2002). Indeed, given the greatly varying and potentially changing guests, customers’ and employees’ needs, all this learning enables the high level of professionalism with which employees are expected to do their daily jobs. Gaylord’s work values and concomitant work experiences safeguard an open and so-called learning culture (Garvin et al., 2008). Note, furthermore, that learning and organizing “are mutually constitutive” (Clegg et al., 2005, p. 147; Sørensen, 2002). If organizing managers are actually making use of employees’ new insights, a culture is likely to engage, in turn, in so-called second-order learning which has been shown to benefit firms (Garvin et al., 2008; Skerlavaj et al., 2007). Gaylord’s leaders are hired, trained and rewarded for being open to the comments from their staff members who are encouraged to learn. According to Wilderom (1991, p. 12): “the optimal functioning of a service organization depends heavily on client information, gathered at the base of the organization and sent upwards.” And one key condition for effective upward communication within firms is an organizational culture of high trust (Leifer and Mills, 1996; Nugent and Abolafia, 2006), something Gaylord approaches. Gaylord grants their employees a high level of discretion in how they do their jobs, and that presumes leaders’ listening for subordinate improvement ideas. Gaylord’s culture aims therefore to be what Rosenthal (2004, p. 618) calls an “interactive control” system rather than a mere normative control culture. In an interactive control system workers “control and influence those parties with whom they directly interact.” It would be interesting to examine more explicitly how Gaylord’s employees see the (elsewhere oft) delicate “balance of power between workers and management and customers.” We propose that the less delicate this balance is at Gaylord, the more virtuous and viable its culture will remain. Within the academic organizational-culture area cultural content has not had much attention. Not only is there a split in culture with authors taking either a qualitative or quantitative focus, but most published organizational-culture papers are not very applicable for managers seeking to create or improve a culture. Among the quantitatively oriented culture scholars, the range of specific cultural elements studied is limited. Seen qualitatively, from Gaylord’s angle, it is the deliberately created and strategically motivated content of its various organizational-culture expressions that matters more than any other firm-culture variable such as the widely popular yet unclear notion of “culture strength.” Even though the culture of Gaylord may be considered by some as “strong,” we argue that it is not mere strength that adds practical value. The Gaylord Palms’ culture is authentic or well-aligned to its explicit mission and work values; it is felt as coherent and effective by most of its employees; it is strategically motivated, adjustable and exportable as well. Those insights are much less opaque than the concept of culture strength, even though still used widely (Lyons et al., 2007); The concept of culture strength lacks unambiguous meaning; valid operational metrics for the variable hardly exist. Moreover, Sorensen (2002, p. 89), using an external, opinion-based culture measure, has shown that “strong-culture firms encounter difficulties during periods of fundamental change.” Schneider et al. (2002) noted that “in the culture literature, culture strength has not been found to be a main effect against organizational performance (Wilderom et al., 2000).” That set against the Customer focused culture 159JSMA 1,2 160Gaylord Palms case, of careful and successful investing in firm-cultural content, made clear how other managers may need to focus their energies on designing, enacting and developing organizationally specific cultural content. Cultural strength (by some measure) could become a resulting feature of their efforts but we propose that the “devil is in the details” of their cultural-content strategy. We would advise managers and consultants therefore to strive for particular context-aligned firm-culture content rather than pursuing organizational-culture strength. Welch and Welch (2006, p. 14) concluded recently that a strong corporate culture may “not be in the best interest of MNC management.” Not the strength but the particular content of a culture can safeguard the firm’s continuation in the face of harsh external realities: for a telling example of a similar cultural system solving the SARS-crisis in Shanghai’s Portman Ritz-Carlton (Yeung, 2006, p. 272). All in all, this paper showcases how a new organizational service culture was shaped; Just like JetBlue Airlines and the Portman Ritz Carlton Hotel in Shanghai (Yeung, 2006), the Gaylord Palms is profitable while achieving high levels of staff and customer satisfaction. The Gaylord’s organizational culture came into existence through a careful design and enactment of value-driven practices. Buried or nested within the endorsed values and crafted employee experience is the value of serving the guest/customer extremely well. While there is much written on the importance of a customer-driven firm culture in managing hospitality and service organizations, there is little published guidance on how to actually create and sustain one. Gaylord’s culture-creation case provides a model for others who seek to create a “collaborative culture” (Gratton and Erickson, 2007). Gaylord’s emergence as detailed and analyzed in this paper also hopes to show how much further some hotels are in terms of Wood’s seminal paper (1994, p. 76) in which he concluded that the relations in and around hotels are “less well-studied at the micro-social level.” Oberoi and Hales’ work (1990, p. 717) on the quality of British conference hotels concluded a need for better understanding of how “service providers will be in a better position to anticipate consumer requirements.” Gaylord’s current position to that effect may not last forever. Gaylord’s employees’ efforts in refining its cultural content might be the key to that better future. Notes 1. To us this firm’s culture seems successful. A comparative, quantitative assessment would need to be made to establish this assumed culture-performance link beyond any doubt (Wilderom et al., 2000). But given that this firm created many various situation-specific cultural elements, one wonders if any extant firm-culture questionnaire could capture them and would show improvement over time. The “service orientation” scale (Lytle and Timmerman, 2006, p. 136) made by service marketing researchers is intriguing in this context. In various service industries, but not yet in the hotel industry, a “significant influence” was shown of “an organization-wide embracement of a basic set of relatively enduring organizational” characteristics “on organizational performance.” 2. Started as a radio program to sell insurance policies in 1925, the WSB Barn Dance grew into its legendary name by broadcasting the leading country and western musicians across the years. Today, it still produces live shows in Nashville at a location next to Gaylord Entertainment’s first hotel. It is recognized as the home of country music and serves as a magnet for anyone aspiring to become a professional musician. After Gaylord Palms had created its service culture in Orlando, Gaylord Entertainment took that specific service culture back to Nashville. 3. Similarly, in nearly all Strategy textbooks a serious treatment of (service-) firm culture is absent. References Adler, P.S. and Borys, B. (1996), “Two types of bureaucracy: enabling and coercive”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 61-89. Aitken, P. 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(2007), “An examination of the role of perceived support and employee commitment in employee-customer encounters”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 92 No. 4, pp. 1177-87. von Wangenheim, F., Evanschitzky, H. and Wunderlich, M. (2007), “Does the employee-customer satisfaction link hold for all employee groups?”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 60, pp. 690-7. Walsh, K., Enz, C.A. and Canina, L. (2008), “The impact of strategic orientation on intellectual capital investments in customer service firms”, Journal of Service Research, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 300-17. Weiss, H.M. (2002), “Deconstructing job satisfaction: separating evaluations, beliefs, and affective experiences”, Human Resource Management Review, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 173-94. Welch, D.E. and Welch, L.S. (2006), “Commitment for hire? The viability of corporate culture as a MNC control mechanism”, International Business Review, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 14-28. Wilderom, C.P.M. (1991), “Service management/leadership: different from management/leadership in industrial organisations?”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 6-14. Wilderom, C.P.M., Glunk, U. and Maslowski, R. (2000), “Organizational culture as a predictor of organizational performance”, in Ashkanasy, N.M., Wilderom, C.P.M. and Peterson, M.F. (Eds), Organizational Culture & Climate, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 193-209. Wood, R.C. (1994), “Hotel culture and social control”, Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 65-80. Yeung, A. (2006), “Setting people up for success: how the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel gets the best from its people”, Human Resource Management, Vol. 45 No. 2, pp. 267-75. Further reading O’Reilly, Ch. (2008), “Corporations, culture, and commitment: Motivation and social control in organizations”, California Management Review, Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. 85-100, (Reprint of the 1989 paper). Appendix. Fictitious vision letter Mr Kemp Gallineau Hotel Manager Opryland Hotel Florida 6000 Osceola Parkway Kissimmee, Florida 34746, USA May 25, 2007 Dear Mr Gallineau: As a professional meeting planner, I’m not inspired to send a letter of praise very often, but the staff at Opryland Hotel Florida well deserves the effort. I know you realize that you have the most incredible hotel in Central Florida – the facility is beyond beautiful. What you may not realize is that your staff makes it even more incredible. Don’t take these words lightly – please pass my note on to every single one of them as they collectively made our company’s Annual General Meeting incredible. I could single out a few names for having provided such great service – but that would be impossible! The level of personal service we received from every one of your staff members – from bell services to housekeeping to convention services – mixed to make a perfect experience. When I suggested holding our meeting in Orlando, my company president laughed. “Orlando’s for tourists,” he said. “This is a very important meeting and we need the very best service. I’m not sure an Orlando hotel can offer the level of service we require.” Having held meetings in the past at Opryland Hotel Nashville, I knew that the resort’s reputation for knock-your-socks-off customer service would surely continue in Orlando. You should be proud to know that it has. I just received a note from our president saying he’s ready to “eat his words.” He admitted that he was wrong. Let me tell you one thing: he never admits to being wrong. As I mentioned, I have seen it all. As a meeting planner for 15 years, I know that a great hotel experience is dependent on the little details. The best hotels allow their staff members to go out of their way to make a difference for each and every guest. Both of these are evident at Opryland. I could write all day, but let me give you some examples: . It all started with your Door Greeter. Her combination of playfulness and professionalism was balanced perfectly. You just knew she enjoyed her job. But it wasn’t just her. Every employee I encountered offered a warm smile and a friendly greeting. And they were all so willing to help. For instance, I was searching for a bathroom, and a member of your maintenance staff must have noticed that I was lost, and he cheerfully offered directions. . When we first arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to hear the Door Greeter call us by name, and welcome me back to Orlando. We had not introduced ourselves, our names were hidden within our luggage tags, and yet, somehow both she and the Bellman knew our names. Either they must be psychic, or somehow they knew that we were coming and what we looked liked! It made us feel like we were special, important, just like the rich and famous. . Check-in went flawlessly. John, the gentleman at the front desk, was extremely friendly – he even greeted my children! (I take special note to busy adults who take a second to say a few words to my two boys. He made them feel like VILPs – Very Important Little People.) It was an extremely hot day and my son was telling me that he was hot and thirsty. Without missing a beat, John brought the kids a bottle of ice-cold water. Now that is service I will never forget! . Department specific example Customer focused culture 165JSMA 1,2 166. The convention services staff was incredible. To be honest, it’s not easy to find help in a hotel convention center. Not so here. We received a warm reception, and we needed something, it was never a problem. At one point, we needed additional pens and paper. I only saw a catering host. I knew he was in a different department, but I asked him anyway. A few minutes later, he arrived with the requested materials. Now, I know the conflicts between departments that exist in hotels, but at Opryland, everybody seemed to pitch in and help each other! . After our “long” day of meetings, most of the team gathered in the Key West section for an impromptu happy hour of sorts. The poor servers must have been overwhelmed, as we all arrived at the same time! It wasn’t a problem. In fact, servers from the nearby restaurant joined and helped out until the rush was over. Now that’s teamwork! And the appetizers and drinks, by the way, were incredible! Best apps in Orlando! . My husband was so impressed with the landscapes under your atrium. Several times, I caught him poking around, chatting with your horticulture staff. They were friendly and patient with him, and answered all of his questions. One staff member even ran back to his cart to fetch some materials that identified the hotel’s plants and gave growing tips! As I am certain that you both know, our Annual General Meeting is extremely important to our company, as it brings our team and our shareholders together, and is critical to reinforcing shareholders’ belief and confidence in our vision and our company. I am pleased to say that Opryland Hotel Florida exceeded our wildest dreams. Thanks to the entire team at Opryland Hotel for delivering to our shareholders an experience like never before… Thanks to both of you and your team for delivering the promises made to us. You truly took care of our every need. And for that, we’re fans for life! Best Regards, Karen B. Wood Big Mega Corporation 34 Hamilton Place Park Lane Chicago, Illinois 48176, USA About the authors Robert C. Ford (PhD, Arizona State) is a professor of management at the University of Central Florida where he teaches management of service organizations. Bob has authored or coauthored numerous publications in both top tier research and practitioner journals. He has also published texts in managing customer service in hospitality and in health care. Bob has served extensively the Academy of Management (AOM) and the Southern Management Association (SMA). He has served AOM as the editor of The Executive, Director of Placement, and division chair of both its Management History and Management Education and Development divisions. He has served SMA in every elective office including president. He was elected to SMA Fellows, served as its dean and recognized by its Distinguished Service Award. Bob’s service extends to other organizations. He served as a founding member and Chair of the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration. Ford currently serves on the Accreditation Commission for Destination Marketing Association International. Celeste P.M. Wilderom (PhD, New York State, Buffalo) is a professor of Management and Organizational Behavior at the University of Twente, The Netherlands, where she is responsible for the Master of Science in Service Management (Business Administration). Celeste co-authors a great variety of publications in both research and (Dutch) practitioner journals and she is currently a senior editor of the British Journal of Management. Previously, Celeste has served three years as one of two associate editors of the Academy of Management Executive (when the first author was her editor-in-chief). In Europe she initiated and heads EGOS’ standing workgroup on Professional Service Work and Organizing (together with Royston Greenwood and Huseyin Leblebici). Currently Wilderom publishes in the areas of service innovation and organizational leadership, change and culture (e.g. SAGE’s 2000 and prospectively, the 2nd edition of the Handbook of Organizational Culture & Climate, together with Neal Ashkanasy and Mark Peterson). Celeste P.M. Wilderom is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: c.p. John Caparella is executive vice president and chief operating officer for Gaylord Hotels. He joined Gaylord Hotels in 2000 as senior vice president and general manager of the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center. Prior to joining Gaylord Entertainment, Caparella served as executive vice president, planning, development, and administration and president of for Planet Hollywood International, Inc. Before joining Planet Hollywood, Caparella was with ITT Sheraton for 17 years in convention, resort, business and four-star luxury properties, as well as with ITT Sheraton’s corporate headquarters. Caparella has also held leadership positions in lodging properties in New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Baltimore and Orlando. He received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Delhi and serves on its Hospitality Advisory Board. He received his Master’s degree in Business Administration from Rollins College. To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: Or visit our web site for further details: focused culture 167 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

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