Efficient Operations

How to affect change and leave denial behind

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

The Nile River Tour was a 15-minute boat ride that transported guests along the interior perimeter of the LuXor Hotel showing them recreations of some of the most famous Egyptian tombs and paintings while sharing a brief lesson in Egyptian History. I was part of the opening team and we experienced immense popularity as soon as the hotel opened. Each morning the line would start to build right at opening – 9 am – and by midafternoon we usually had an hour plus wait; but there was a problem, during the afternoon rush, just as we were at our busiest, the number of boats we were operating would suddenly be cut in half – from 10 boats, to 5.

The reason for this was no mystery. There were 20 attendants staffed to operate the Nile River, 15 regular attendants and 5 breakers, and at 3:45 each afternoon, while 5 people were still on break, the breakers in each of the 5 rotations was scheduled off and would leave the rotation. With two people out of the rotation, this left every other boat empty. The Supervisor knew this was a daily problem but, despite being the person in charge of scheduling, choose to do nothing to resolve the issue.

I was on the dock as the acting Lead on the day that our department head came down to get to the bottom of the problem. “Why are half the boats running empty?” he asked. “It’s shift change” replied one of the ride attendants. “Shift change?” the department head questioned. “Doesn’t that happen everyday? Can’t it be planned for?”

At that point I pulled the department head aside and explained to him how the attraction was being scheduled. He asked me if I thought it made any sense and I said “No, and I already told the Supervisor that, but he doesn’t seem to be concerned. In fact, I offered him a solution weeks ago. May I show you?”

I spent the next 30 minutes discussing how we could easily solve the problem with a small increase in daily labor hours and a with a reduction in the Nile River attendants second break; they would now get 30 minutes instead of 45. When these changes went into effect on the next schedule it immediately solved the issue; all boats remained staffed and Guest Service won out.
How often do we as operators become so used to the way things are running that we fail to recognize when something isn’t working?
How often do we let our ego interfere with simple solutions, simply because they weren’t our idea?

At the ticket counter efficiency matters just as much as it did on the Nile River. When we allow a staff member to close their window to go to break during the height of a rush, our guests can become upset – and with good reason. When we fail to staff up for the holidays or Spring Break and then blame the long lines on the holiday – “Well, it’s Christmas week” – isn’t that the same type of excuse as the boats on the Nile River going half empty during peak hours of the day?

The point is, we can plan for, and avoid, many of the things that lead to poor guest experiences with a bit of advanced planning. Scheduling, operational savvy, and common sense are the tools you will need, but you have to put in the time to think about both your short term/current needs AND your long term/future needs:

• Do I have a plan for how to staff up daily if the need arises?
• Will I need to hire more staff to accommodate the Spring Break/Summer/Holiday crowds?
• Is my team trained and prepared for the added crowds during busy times?
• After each season, do we have a process in place to review the season and identify both our Strengths and our areas of opportunity?

This week I invite each of you to think over each of these questions. I would love to know what you are already doing to stay ahead of the eight ball. If you have a tip or solution you would be willing to share, please email me at; in a future edition of Monday Morning I will share some of the tips I receive. I look forward to hearing from each of you!

Have a fabulous week!

Melea Desrochers