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agile development

Agile for Hospitality: 3 Key Principles to Adopt

Even if you aren’t someone that works in a technology role, you’ve probably heard the term “agile” used to describe software development and project management. It’s sometimes characterized as a methodology or framework, but that’s not quite right. Agile is often presented this way by consultants or companies that are trying to sell their products and services.

READ MORE Who will lead the digital transformation in hospitality?

What Is Agile?

Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.

Agile’s emergence as a huge global movement extending beyond software is driven by the discovery that the only way for organizations to cope with today’s turbulent customer-driven marketplace is to become Agile. Agile enables organizations to master continuous change. It permits firms to flourish in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

In 2001, a group of seventeen frustrated software developers gathered. They saw a problem with software development; companies were more focused on planning and documentation than the satisfaction of their customers. They were there to discuss how lightweight software development methods could offer a solution to the problem. These conversations resulted in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the 12 Principles of Agile Software.

We won’t include the full manifesto or list of principles here, but the values they listed are as follows:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

These developers weren’t saying that they didn’t value process, or documentation, or thoughtful planning. They were simply saying that they valued the items on the left more.

You’ll also notice that the words “methodology” and “framework” are absent from those titles. That’s because agile isn’t a set of rules or steps. Instead, agile is a philosophy, setting the foundation for good decision-making that produces great software.

Agile realizes that the key to success is not to do more work faster. The key is to be smarter by generating more value from less work and delivering it sooner.

The Future Of Hospitality Is Agile

Agile was originally written to help software developers satisfy and delight their customers, early and often. However, you’ll find that many of the principles can be applied to any company or team that provides goods and services to customers.

If you’re in hospitality, that means that thinking in the “agile way” can help you adapt quickly to unexpected challenges, build high-performing teams, and consistently improve your offerings. Let’s examine a few of the agile principles and how they can be applied to the work of hoteliers.

Principle 1: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

This principle is about adaptability. The agile mindset requires a shift to seeing unexpected changes as opportunities, rather than setbacks. The pandemic is an obvious situation that illustrates this principle. Some hotel brands took the challenges that arose from COVID-19 restrictions and used them to make changes that benefit their customers.

Principle 2: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

At the heart of agile is an emphasis on people, rather than process. Leaders of agile teams ensure that their people have the information and resources necessary to make good decisions, rather than offering them checklists and constant guidance. The goal here is to build teams with enough competency and confidence that they’re able to function as autonomously as possible.

Principle 3: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

A common practice on agile software teams is the retrospective (or “retro”). Generally, retros are meetings held at the end of a sprint or project. During this meeting, the team discusses what worked well, what could be more efficient, and areas of concern.

There are many different ways to conduct a retro, and the cadence can be adjusted to fit your specific context. What’s most important is that your team reflects consistently on the quality of their efforts.

Agile values transparency and continuous improvement ahead of predictability and efficiency

The Role Of Technology

To adapt quickly, empower your team, and reflect on performance, you need access to accurate, real-time information about your hotel. That data must be collected from various sources, stored, and organized in a way that makes sense to you and your team. Generally, hospitality organizations utilize a Customer Relationship Management system (or CRM) to store this data.

Consider employee training programs. Leaders within the organization likely want to understand how effective these programs are at improving performance. A CRM could be used to keep track of guest satisfaction, associating reviews and complaints with particular employees or teams.

Insights like this are critical to building an agile organization, and they aren’t possible without the power of technology.

Agile obliterates the traditional management distinction between exploitation and exploration. When Agile is done right, all parts of the organization are continuously exploring how to add more value to customers. This not only creates meaning for those doing the work and delights those for whom the work is done: it results in generous returns to the organization itself.

To its advocates, Agile is a genuinely better way to run a company and an economy—better for those doing the work, better for those for whom the work is done, better for the organization itself. Instead of management extracting value from the firm, Agile generates value for customers and for society as a whole.