The Ritz-Carlton Model for Culture
I'm often asked about where and when I first got the idea for the Fundamentals and the system of creating weekly rituals to reinforce them. There's a lot to be learned from that story, which goes back to 2002, so I thought I'd briefly share it with you here.
In my never-ending search for ways to deliver amazing service experiences, I once took the entire staff of my former company, RSI, to the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia for a day of brainstorming. Since the Ritz was always known for extraordinary service, I figured they must have systems and processes that enable them to deliver service with such amazing consistency. During lunch that day, I asked them to share some of those processes with us. Little did I know at the time that two things I learned that day would reshape the rest of my career.
The Ritz-Carlton Basics
The first thing I learned was the Ritz-Carlton Basics. The Basics are a series of 20 simple behaviors that define how employees (called "ladies and gentleman") are expected to perform their jobs. For example, "Escort guests rather than pointing out directions to another area of the Hotel." Or, "Never lose a guest. Instant gratification is the responsibility of each employee. Whoever receives a complaint will own it, resolve it to the guest's satisfaction, and record it." These Basics are numbered 1-20 and are printed on laminated cards that all employees carry with them at all times.
The notion of clearly articulating the behaviors for success, while obvious and simple, struck a real chord with me. Within a few weeks I had created our own behaviors, which we called "Fundamentals." They included such actions as "Do what's best for the client," "Take the extra time to do things right the first time," "Follow-up everything," and "Practice blameless problem-solving," to name just a few.
The Daily Lineup
The second thing I learned that day was how the Ritz-Carlton Basics are practiced over and over again through the process of the Daily Lineup. Each day, in every department and in every shift, the team members gather together for a brief 10-minute meeting at the beginning of the shift.
The first thing that happens in that meeting is a discussion of that day's Basic. The Basics are reviewed one per day, in order, and then repeated over and over again every 20 days. In fact, on any given day, everyone throughout the entire organization (more than 30,000 employees in more than 29 countries) is on the very same basic! This system drives extraordinary consistency despite tremendous staff diversity in education, skills, professionalism, compensation, etc.
While we chose to focus on one Fundamental per week (vs. one Basic per day), the concept of creating rituals to systematically teach and practice the desired behaviors over and over again is what jumped out to me. I realized how powerful this process was in helping employees to internalize the behaviors and to make them part of the very DNA of our organization.
Practicing weekly Fundamentals had a profound effect on RSI and its employees, helping us to create a truly world-class culture and organization.