This report is about Four Seasons Hotels, their outstanding management principles and core values, which played a crucial role in the legendary breakthrough in the hospitality industry. It describes also a big challenge of entering a new country, new market and facing completely different mentality and environment. It represents how core principles and values of Four Seasons were implemented during this establishment. It also describes gradually the process of adaptation, along with profound managerial decisions which were made and management strategies, which were applied during this process.
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Executive management of Four Seasons had set an ambitious goal to enter French market with an opening the first hotel in Paris under their brand. They were aware and have predicted the difficulties they might face with French culture and especially in Paris. On the early stage of Four Seasons’ development they have applied a core principle of flexibility, which leads to success and they were “learning across borders, from each country and property”1 as well. The senior managers of Four Seasons claimed: “Our strengths is our diversity and our singularity, while the essence of culture may vary”2, by stating that they were building new management principles.
In general the report covers crucial managerial tactics and decisions, aimed to adapt to a new culture and environment as well as to manage difficulties in a highly effective and entrepreneurial manner.
Cultural awareness and adaptation
Before entering French market, Four Seasons Hotel Corporation had managed challenges related to entering new markets in different countries. From theoretical perspective they were prepared and experienced to admit that every culture is different and there are many distinctions in preferences of customers and the way service is expected to be provided. Based on their acknowledgement, they have stated a pattern, which says “Italian in Italy, French in France”3 that will lead to the target result “”Each hotel is a tailor made” and adapted to its national environment; each property represent its location”4. Based on the previous statements, Four Seasons had drawn a creative, internationally-based and worthwhile approach, variable from country to country,- creating ‘cultural destinations’4 and allowing those cultures be distinctive with clearly highlighted features of each of them.
Their success lies in the knowledge and awareness of a simple principle of flexibility that one should adapt a management style and service delivery to each country. The standards were designed according to each destination, allowing the “local flexibility and encouragement of doing something beyond”5 the core standards and values. In terms of cultural awareness globally, Four Seasons’ regional management structure was considered to be a “”key component” of its ability to deliver and maintain the highest and most consistent service standards at each property”6 as well as to adapt to every culture effectively and efficiently.
One of the key challenges and difficulties to launch Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris was adaptation to the cultural differences and national mentality of the people. Although executive management was aware of cultural diversity issue, what is proved by their statement: “If you are going global you cannot be one way”7, it still seems not enough to manage all internal and external environment affects at the beginning. Cultural differences were the major barrier for Four Seasons’ management, on the grounds that they were part of several problematic issues among employees, such as postponement of responsibilities, exaggeration of self inability to solve challenging situations and needless of reference to existing standards. Previously mentioned facts are the sign of low level of responsibility and accountability of decisions among middle and front-line managers. Problematic issues had also involved unreasonable scepticism of Four Seasons in the society and employees without actually knowing it.
One of the greatest and crucial management change was new General Manager – Le Clavez, who was an ideal candidate for this position. Firstly, he was French and that was beneficial for employees’ perception and understanding of their needs. Secondly, Le Clavez had a lot of experience in Four Seasons in the US, so that he knew the core values and standards by heart. Thirdly, he had willingness to return in France, which plays a critical role and affects the future performance.
Le Clavez has established a lead by example tactic through ‘Apples and Oranges approach’ which is a part of Total Quality Management and says “if one rotten apple can ruin the barrel, then you have to seed the organization with oranges”8. According to this fair approach, people with the right attitude were promoted, what shows loyalty and tolerance of management. In the same time it was a smart and wise adaptation measure, avoiding violence, restrictions and negative-effects.
Nowadays the importance of cultural awareness is critical for a success, especially in the times of globalization9. Overall it is seen that hospitality managers are searching for patterns in order to fix cultural problems. The topic of cultural diversity and management is relevant and described in details in many books, where authors and professionals state that “cultural identity is multidimensional, involving far more than nationality alone”10. It also a big issue and “the greatest challenge in intercultural interactions to decide who adapts whom and how”11. Based on the last argument Four Seasons management in Paris has done an attempt for mutually beneficial solutions and suggested compromises for both sides, by accepting an existing situation and features of French culture.
2. Four Seasons’ success is owed to an excellent core values and management system which ensures compliance of “family” structure in the hotels. The Golden Rule of Four Seasons is the greatest approach among the all, because it is fairly simple, functional and says: ‘One should treat others as one would like to be treated’12. The Golden Rule puts all 270 core worldwide operating standards into practice, unlike many other organisations, which have it on paper only. In addition the perception of standards among executive managers is equally spread worldwide. Another distinctive value of Four Seasons is personalized service and flexibility with a help of which management allows employees to go beyond the standards in order to satisfy and over fulfil guests needs, whenever it is possible.
From my point of view, the main focus has to be held on people, and Four Seasons Hotel policy had proved my assurance, by drawing to the attention the fact that people make the strength of the company. I am convinced that as easier for understanding the value or rule is, than more effectively it will be sustained in reality, and people are those priceless resources, who build and compose any company and its future.
One more overwhelming factor, which highlights Four Seasons among others, is maintenance of all standards and core policies “all staff all over the world at all times”. For this particular reason a key word ‘SERVICE’ states for ‘Smile’, ‘Eye’, ‘Recognition’, ‘Voice’, ‘Informed’, ‘Clean’ and ‘Everyone’13. An impressing simplicity of this policy has created a ground for installation core values and principles of Four Seasons worldwide.
A performance of Four Seasons on a global arena wouldn’t have been outstanding, without the leading figures who were driving the process of development to inevitable success. Outgoing persons such as the founder, chairman and CEO Isadore Sharp and executive vice president John Young are the biggest shareholders of Four Seasons. Owing to them and many more local talented executive managers, like Le Clavez in Paris, core values and standards were successfully instilled in the hotel operation worldwide.
One of the profound values, appraised in Four Seasons are human values of employees and The Golden Rule is the best proof of it. John Young commented about The Golden Rule: “We recognize that the only way to assure that guests are treated well is to treat employees well”14. According to the last statement, Four Seasons provides everything necessary for its employees, including spare uniform, trainings ‘top-notch equipment’, feedbacks and all the necessary information.14 ‘270 core worldwide operating standards’ have several exceptional characteristics, which make them operating globally. First is their allowance of local flexibility, so that service will be provided according to local preferences. Second is a profound awareness of core standards and principles, so that some executive managers perceive standards as a religion! Cultural awareness made another beneficial input to the company, which designed the ‘Apples and Oranges approach’, which was instilled in hotel in Paris following by a salutary and desirable effect.
Another significant step of cultural renovation of Four Seasons property in Paris which Le Clavez has applied was The Task Force approach, which was instilled in every new property previously. This approach has a worthwhile deep impact on employees, because it uncovers underlying philosophy of the company and helps getting the property running. It is also considered as a strong symbol and highly effective approach from a human resource perspective.15
General Manager of F.S. George V has also instilled trustworthiness and reliability among employees, by simply keeping the promises and decisions made, when implementing The Golden Rule. With time staff members has realized that management of the hotel is supporting them in all different ways. It also tries to follow the tide with an intention to improve employees’ personal lives, by changing working shifts in favour of their interests.
In my opinion, Le Clavez played a primary role in the establishing of hotel in Paris and especially in bringing into it a Four Seasons’ flavour. His entrepreneurial and effective decisions contain the half of successful installation of core values and standards. Le Clavez did not limit himself on applying common strategies and approaches; he took a risk to go beyond ordinary practices and brought worthy changes into French business.
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3. Entrepreneurship is a necessary measure to apply in unstable conditions of internal and external environment. The decisions and new approaches that Le Clavez had instilled into the management structure were reasonable and innovative. The strategy of general manager was in compliance with The General Principles for Successful Cultural Change16, where the first step is acceptance of existing behaviours, based on values and underlying assumptions within the organisation and encouragement of those, who meet organisational objectives. Le Clavez first has announced ‘the Commitment of good environment’17, he was communicating ideas and organisational objectives and in an open manner to employees. Secondly, the means of ‘Apple and Oranges approach’ is perfectly matches The General Principles for Successful Cultural Change. And finally, as a result all entrepreneurial measure which he had taken worked out in the best case scenario.
External environment in France was unusual for American, from the legal perspective, affecting design, work pattern and laws in favour of employees, regarding to the working hours, hygiene and “right-to-light”. Internal environment factors are closely linked to external in the way that mentality and French pride of personnel was interfering the working process and law were creating termination difficulties.
The major differences refer to cultural, where ‘monochronic’ American culture with its scheduling, code of behaviour and stability states versus ‘polichronic’ French culture, to which instability in employee’s attitude is typical. Regarding to these cultural inequality, several difficulties related to the job and professional performance can be emphasized, they include: limited selling activities, inability to apologize, accept one’s fault or responsibility, and many others. An absolute difference between American and French cultures had created a detrimental barrier, which had an adverse impact on the business until the critical entrepreneurial practices were applied.
Le Clavez was on the right path of improvement by instilling several unusual for France communication approaches. One of it was a ‘Direct line’ approach, which was a turning point of qualitative and effective communication among different managerial levels. Another innovation in communicative process was an open door event, which involved families of employees ‘to spend time in the hotel and to break down existing barriers’18.
In order to reward employees, Le Clavez has introduced uncommon in France employee-of-the-month and employee-of-the-year program along with annual evaluations. These programs were settled on the fair basis of meritocracy and aimed to avoid favoritism. On the external level, Le Clavez was straight-forward and open minded when dealing with press and publicity, which had helped to create a transparent and beneficial image of the hotel.
As a result of managing cultural diversity, Le Clavez had created ‘A Cultural Cocktail’ or in other words a truly international environment with a French flavor and several entrepreneurial innovations. The process of development wasn’t easy in the beginning and “It is understandable that people tend to be resistant to change”19 because of their comfort zone, which is familiar to them.
One of the new HR trends says that the measurable result and target is “to create a win-win situation for both the employer and employee”20 that is exactly what Le Clavez had achieved in Paris.
At present cultural awareness plays a particular role in Hospitality management during an increasing globalization process. People understand importance of cultural diversity and create new approaches to manage it efficiently and effectively in their businesses. Management of change gains its popularity and appraisal in today’s industry. Executive management understands values and significance of flexibility in managing external and internal environment, cultural differences. Building workplace equality through the cultural borders is crucial success factor nowadays.
We can observe a variety of approaches in management regarding to previous subjects, they include: “Cultural-Cocktail simulation”21, focus groups observations and countless number of cultural diversity trainings, books, materials, researches and practical case studies. It all monitors an actual tendency ‘to make organizations more accommodating to diverse groups of people’22 and to react on unexpected situations in external environment.
The senior management was anticipating a ‘great challenge and triumph’, although they could not know in advance what exactly they are going to face with. The report provides analyses of the process of installation of core Four Season’s values into the French environment. It also compares Four seasons experience, management tactics and approaches of that time with today’s reality.
Every remarkable success is inseparable from stability and maintenance of quality, in other words it is not enough to reach a high level of service, standards and quality, one should sustain it on that high level constantly. Common understanding of core principles and values of Four Seasons management worldwide, as well as common culture of providing a luxury service, supported with simplicity of standards and its actual implementation, has been recognised and appraised globally.
I would like to admit an outstanding professional performance and management of Le Clavez and the whole Four Seasons organization on the global arena. The core managerial principles which were innovated that time are still relevant and serve a base for future technologies.
The story of hotel George V in Paris analysed in this report can be considered as a tutorial guide full of entrepreneurial and innovative ideas, as well as logical steps, which were intended to modify the current environment and to handle cultural diversity issues effectively. It is also an illustrative description, which reveals key managerial principles for the success, quality and sustainability of Four Seasons.
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