Comparing apples with apples in Riyadh

Over the years I have often heard many of my colleagues ask the question “Are we comparing apples with apples?” This much used and much loved expression was raised recently by a member of my revenue-development team when we were preparing to review our first-quarter business results, as we had noticed a drop in certain segments, which was easily explained once we started to “peel” away the underlying “core” reasons for the variances.

During this particular discussion I grabbed a shiny red apple from the conference table, but before biting into it decided to set up an experiment based upon the “apples to apples” question, to see how everyone would respond to the introduction of a new unannounced service, without due process — the pre-launch issue of key objectives and an SOP.

So, right after the meeting, I filled a white ceramic bowl with six red apples and placed it on the reception counter top, which immediately drew stares from my highly attentive guest service manager, who was quickly briefed on my objective, which was to see if the standard could be maintained for 24 hours without the afore mentioned objectives being shared with the team. (In retrospect this was perhaps a little unfair, but it was, after all, just an experiment.)

We began with six red apples in a white ceramic bowl, an opening standard which was later changed to six green apples sitting in a rather less attractive glass bowl by the night manager.

The setup then changed again later to 10 green apples set on a glass cake stand the next morning by our restaurant manager.

Finally came six green apples and six red apples at noon, sunk into a glass flower vase, courtesy of our creative apple-loving trainee duty manager.

That same afternoon I invited all the apple changers and several of our young Saudi students and trainee managers to come to my office to enjoy an apple and a discussion on what should have taken place before undertaking the exercise.

While everyone enjoyed their apples I showed them the four images and then asked what should have been done in order to maintain the standard once the apples had been placed on the reception counter.

My Saudi students and trainee managers replied as follows, verbatim:

1. The objectives of the exercise should have been explained to us during a briefing.

2. Is this a new brand standard? If it is, which type of apples are recommended?

3. We all needed to know the precise location of the apples on the counter.

4. We should have been told about the type of bowl or platter to be used.

5. We should have been told how many apples to put out at one time, and the minimum quantity allowed to remain in the bowl before refilling.

6. We did not know where to get the replacement apples.

7. No one told us who would approve the apples requisition from the store.

8. How could we assure the guests that the apples had been sterilized?

9. We were not informed how many apples each guest could take. For example, could a family take four apples?

10. We should know how the cost of the apples will be accounted for.

11. If there is no provision for apples in the front-office budget, where should we post the cost?

12. Should we be tracking the number of apples taken per hour?

13. We should have known when most apples were taken, either by our guests on the way out or by guests checking in.

14. We should have been monitoring positive feedback from our guests as a result of this new service.

Needless to say, I was delighted that these fresh young minds came up with some excellent questions, which proves that all of them were indeed paying as much attention to these juicy fruits as they do to their other Apple devices, which apart from providing a source of learning and communication, can also be a serious distraction and disruption to their work. More about that “core “issue in a later post.