Professional Management of Housekeeping Operations

By Thomas J. A. Jones

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2008 Thomas J. A. Jones
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-471-76244-7

Chapter One

The Executive Housekeeper and Scientific Management


After studying the chapter, students should be able to:

1. From memory, describe how the role of housekeepers has changed over the years.

2. Identify the management theorists mentioned in the chapter and describe each theorist's major contribution to the field.

3. From memory, list the three elements managers work with, according to Mackenzie.

4. From memory, list the continuous and sequential functions of management.

5. Given the basic activities associated with the sequential functions, define them and correctly associate each with its sequential function.

6. List and describe five normative characteristics associated with housekeeping employees.

7. Explain why delegation is the key to managerial success.

8. Describe the link between rewards and motivation.

9. Explain why there has been a shift away from cleaning for appearance to cleaning for health.

10. Differentiate between a manager and a leader.

11. Define the key terms and concepts at the end of the chapter.

Over the last 30 years the profession of executive housekeeping has passed from the realm of art to that of scientific management. Previously, professional housekeepers learned technical skills related to keeping a clean house. Now, the executive housekeeper and other housekeeping supervisory personnel are not only learning how to do such work but also how to plan, organize, staff, direct, and control housekeeping operations. They are learning how to inspire others to accomplish this with a high degree of quality, concern, and commitment to efficiency and cost control. In order to understand how the art melds with the science, we will trace the origins of professional housekeeping and of scientific management.

Origins of Hospitality and Housekeeping

Hospitality is the cordial and generous reception and entertainment of guests or strangers, either socially or commercially. From this definition we get the feeling of the open house and the host with open arms, of a place in which people can be cared for. Regardless of the reasons people go to a home away from home, they will need care. They will need a clean and comfortable place to rest or sleep, food service, an area for socializing and meeting other people, access to stores and shops, and secure surroundings.

Americans have often been described as a people on the move, a mobile society; and since their earliest history Americans have required bed and board. Travelers in the early 1700s found a hospitality similar to that in their countries of origin, even though these new accommodations may have been in roadhouses, missions, or private homes and the housekeeping may have included only a bed of straw that was changed weekly.

Facilities in all parts of young America were commensurate with the demand of the traveling public, and early records indicate that a choice was usually available at many trading centers and crossroads. The decision as to where to stay was as it is today, based on where you might find a location providing the best food, overnight protection, and clean facilities. Even though the inns were crude, they were gathering places where you could learn the news of the day, socialize, find out the business of the community, and rest.

With the growth of transportation-roadways, river travel, railroads, and air travel-Americans became even more mobile. Inns, hotels, motor hotels, resorts, and the like have kept pace, fallen by the wayside, been overbuilt, or been refurbished to meet quality demands.

Just as the traveler of earlier times had a choice, there is a wide choice for travelers today. We therefore have to consider seriously why one specific hotel or inn might be selected over another. In each of the areas we mentioned-food, clean room, sociable atmosphere, meeting space, and security-there has been a need to remain competitive. Priorities in regard to these need areas, however, have remained in the sphere of an individual property's management philosophy.


In addition to the areas of hospitality we discussed, professional housekeeping requires a staff with a sense of pride. Housekeeping staffs must show concern for guests, which will make the guests want to return-the basic ingredient for growth in occupancy and success in the hotel business. Such pride is best measured by the degree to which the individual maids (guestroom attendants or section housekeepers) say to guests through their attitude, concern, and demeanor, "Welcome. We are glad you chose to stay with us. We care about you and want your visit to be a memorable occasion. If anything is not quite right, please let us know in order that we might take care of the problem immediately."

A prime responsibility of the executive housekeeper is to develop this concern in the staff; it is just as important as the other functions of cleaning bathrooms, making beds, and making rooms ready for occupancy. Throughout this text, we present techniques for developing such attitudes in housekeeping staffs.

Origins of Management

While the evolution of the housekeeping profession was taking place, professional management was also being developed. In fact, there is evidence that over 6000 years ago in Egypt and Greece, complex social groups required management and administration. It is even possible to derive evidence of the study and formulation of the management process as early as the time of Moses. Henry Sisk reminds us that in the Bible (Exod. 18:13-26) Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, observed Moses spending too much time listening to the complaints of his people. Jethro therefore organized a plan to handle these problems that would in turn relieve Moses of the tedium of this type of administration. A system of delegation to lieutenants thus emerged. We can therefore assign some of the credit to Jethro for establishing several of the principles of management that we recognize today: the principles of line organization, span of control, and delegation.


Although it is beyond the scope of this book to provide an exhaustive examination and comparative analysis of all of the approaches to management theory that have appeared over the past 2000 years, the following discussion is an attempt to identify the major schools of management theory and to relate these theories to the modern housekeeping operation.

The Classical School

The classical school of management theory can be divided into two distinct concerns: administrative theory and scientific management. Administrative theory is principally concerned with management of the total organization, whereas scientific management is concerned with the individual worker and the improvement of production efficiency by means of an analysis of work using the scientific method. These two branches of the classical school should be viewed as being complementary rather than competitive.

Administrative Theory

Considered by many to be the father of administrative theory, Henri Fayol (1841-1925) was a French engineer who became the managing director of a mining company. Fayol sought to apply scientific principles to the management of the entire organization. His most famous work, Administratim Industrielle et General (General and Industrial Management), first published in 1916 and later in English in 1929, is considered by many to be a classic in management theory.

Fayol asserted that the process of management was characterized by the following five functions:

1. Planning-the specification of goals and the means to accomplish those goals by the company

2. Organizing-the way in which organizational structure is established and how authority and responsibility are given to managers, a task known as delegation

3. Commanding-how managers direct their employees

4. Coordinating-activities designed to create a relationship among all of the organization's efforts to accomplish a common goal

5. Controlling-how managers evaluate performance within the organization in relationship to the plans and goals of that organization

Fayol is also famous for his Fourteen Principles of Management and his belief that administrative skills could be taught in a classroom setting.

Scientific Management

Fayol's counterpart in the management of work was Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915), the father of scientific management. Taylor was an intense (some would say obsessive) individual who was committed to applying the scientific method to the work setting. In 1912, Taylor gave his own definition of scientific management to a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, by stating what scientific management was not:

Scientific Management is not any efficiency device, nor a device of any kind for securing efficiency; nor is it any branch or group of efficiency devices. It is not a new system of figuring cost; it is not a new scheme of paying men; it is not a piecework system; it is not a bonus system, nor is it holding a stop watch on a man and writing down things about him. It is not time study, it is not motion study nor an analysis of the movements of men.

Although Taylor's definition of scientific management continued at length in a similar vein, he did not argue against using the aforementioned tools. His point was that scientific management was truly a mental revolution, whereby the scientific method was the sole basis for obtaining information from which to derive facts, form conclusions, make recommendations, and take action. Taylor's contribution was a basis for understanding how to administer a project and the people involved.

In his Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, he outlined four principles that constitute scientific management:

1. Develop a science for each element of a man's work, which replaces the old rule-of-thumb method.

2. Scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the workman, whereas in the past he chose his own work and trained himself as best he could.

3. Heartily cooperate with the men so as to ensure all of the work being done is in accordance with the principles of the science which has been developed.

4. There is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibilities between the management and the workmen, while in the past almost all of the work and the greater part of the responsibility were thrown upon the men.

Taylor also pointed out that the mental revolution had to take place in the workers' as well as the managers' minds.

The School of Management Science

An outgrowth of "Taylorism" is the school of management science, or, as it is alternatively known, operations research. Management science is defined as the application of the scientific method to the analysis and solution of managerial decision problems. The application of mathematical models to executive decision making grew out of the joint U.S. and British efforts during World War II to use such models in military decision making at both the strategic and the tactical levels.

The Behavioral School

A predecessor to the human relations school of management was the nineteenth-century Scottish textile mill operator Robert Owen. He believed that workers needed to be "kept in a good state of repair." Owen urged other manufacturers to adopt his concern over improving the human resources they employed. He claimed that returns from investment in human resources would far exceed a similar investment in machinery and equipment.

Unfortunately, it was not until the second decade of the twentieth century that the results of Elton Mayo's Hawthorne Studies affirmed Owen's position and caught the imagination of American management.

Mayo (1880-1949) was a faculty member of the Harvard University School of Business Administration when he began to study workers at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company in Chicago in 1927. From this study, Mayo and his colleagues concluded that there were factors other than the physical aspect of work that had an effect on productivity. These factors included the social and psychological aspects of workers and their relationships with managers and other workers.

Mayo's work effectively demonstrated to managers that in order for them to increase productivity in the work setting, they must develop human relations skills as well as the scientific management methods of Taylor and the other classical theorists.


The behavioral school does not end with Mayo. Douglas McGregor summarized certain assumptions about traditional, or work-centered, theory of management under the heading Theory X. McGregor's Theory X assumption is summarized in the following four statements:

1. Work, if not downright distasteful, is an onerous task that must be performed in order to survive.

2. The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can.

3. Because of the human characteristic to dislike work, most people must be coerced, directed, controlled, or threatened with punishment to get them to put forth adequate effort toward the achievement of organizational objectives.

4. The average human being prefers to be directed, wishes to avoid responsibility, and has relatively little ambition, and wants security above all.

Simply stated, Theory X indicates that there is no intrinsic satisfaction in work, that human beings avoid it as much as possible, that positive direction is needed to achieve organizational goals, and that workers possess little ambition or originality.

McGregor also presented Theory Y, which is the opposite of Theory X. His six assumptions for Theory Y are as follows:

1. The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as normal as play or rest. The average human being does not inherently dislike work. Depending upon controllable conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction and will be voluntarily performed.

2. External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing about effort toward organizational objectives. Man will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he is committed.

3. Commitment to objectives is a function of the awards associated with their achievements. The most significant aspects of such work (e.g., the satisfaction of ego and self-actualization needs) can be direct products of effort directed toward organizational objectives.

4. The average human learns under proper conditions not only to accept but even to seek responsibility. Avoidance of responsibility, lack of ambition, and emphasis on security are general consequences of experience, not inherent human characteristics.

5. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.

6. Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average human beings are only partially utilized.

An important point is that the opposite ways of thinking, as reflected in McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y, are what are actually conveyed by managers to their employees through everyday communication and attitudes.


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