Marriott Hotels and how They Didn't Act as an Aligned Organization in St. Thomas

Marriott Hotels chartered a ship to go to St. Thomas and ferry stranded guests from Hurricane Irma to Puerto Rico. They knew people were in need and they wanted to serve. A solid article in the Washington Post recounts the story.

However, as the ship arrived and Marriott guests were loaded on board, there were a number of other people that wished to get off the island before the next hurricane hit. They were not allowed on even though there, apparently, were a good amount of room available.

People left in St. Thomas said Marriott people on site said one thing (told higher ups didn't want the liability), Marriott PR said another (port officials wouldn't allow people not on the manifest to board) and that they had to get out to sea before the next storm. Either way, did Marriott behave in alignment with their core values? Let's look at it.

What comes below is not to denigrate Marriott. They did take steps to get people off the island, likely at their own expense. They might have even brought food and supplies on their way to St. Thomas. This is just an example of how organizations allow misalignment to mission, vision and core values to get in the way of doing the right thing.

Marriott Hotels doesn't have a mission statement, according to their website. However, they have stated core values and heritage. The first Core Value is "We Put People First." Number four is, "We Act with Integrity."

Afila Group does consulting work for a great company called Orgametrics®, who measures alignment to an organization's mission and vision and then helps leaders and employees buy into and act in accordance with that mission, vision, strategic plan or, in this case, Core Values. We've seen a number of organizations that don't behave as the organization strives them to act.

Marriott officials on site said higher ups said no to non-guests because they didn't want to have the liability risk in case something happened. If you choose to believe the story from the PR department, the ship couldn't take on people that weren't on the manifest, which were Marriott guests.

Would either version demonstrate alignment to the two Core values listed above?

In the first case, Marriott minimized the stranded people as human beings. They weren't good enough to get on board because they weren't staying at a Marriott at that particular time. They may have been guests before and they most likely would have been guests in the future because of the efforts. To leave people that are in harm's way (local people as well that wanted to find a way out before Jose, too) in the name of insurance liability easily doesn't fit with Marriott's stated Core Values.

If the St. Thomas port officials did enforce manifest restrictions, couldn't Marriott have found ways to contact competitor properties on the island to determine whether any of their guests needed help off the island? Either though phone, internet or walking across the street, lines of communication would have been available. Marriott personnel could have taken the additional steps to live the Core Values of the organization. People were in need. Do what you can. Put People First. Act with Integrity.

What's left for Marriott is a situation where they cannot win. Neither version of the truth paints a good picture. Neither version aligns with Core Values. Management and employees missed an opportunity to be better.

How can you look at what you and your people do within your organization to align with its mission, vision, strategic plan or core values? What can you do to make it better?


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