Mark Graban's - Lean Healthcare, Lean Hospitals, Healthcare Kaizen, Lean Thinking, Lean Manufacturing, Toyota Production System

Hotel Housekeeping Overprocessing


I'll try to lighten things back up a bit. I may have written about this before, but as a frequently traveling consultant, the hotel room is my “gemba” many evenings, so it's hard not to find waste. I actually gave some feedback to the management at my current hotel, so I'll copy and paste and post it here (somewhat edited). Do you think there's a little waste of “overprocessing” here? Bonus points if you can guess the chain from my possibly subtle clue.

Dear Local Management of Franchised Large Mid-Priced Chain Hotel: I appreciate the clean and comfortable rooms at your hotel, as a frequent guest at your establishment. I have some feedback and suggestions for your housekeeping staff that would improve my customer experience. The ideas might also save you money!

  1. Please ask your housekeeping staff to not turn down the thermostat to 65 during the day when they clean. I normally have it set at 72 and it is neither pleasant nor comfortable to return from work to an icebox. The last two nights, I turned the temperature up and the heat kicked in. This overcooling and unnecessary heating is costing you $$.
  2. I do not need a new fresh bar of soap every day. The one that I started using this morning would have been acceptable tomorrow morning, there was still plenty left! I hope you are not replacing the ink pen on the desk (there's still some ink left) or the refrigerator (there's some non-freon refrigerant left) every day.
  3. When I take the extra pillows out of the storage bag in the closet, please do not put them back in the closet, in the bag, until I check out – they can remain on the bed. This is wasted effort for your staff and I don't enjoy repeating the same motion of taking the pillows back out each evening.
  4. If I've placed your book and promotional materials on the lower shelf of the nightstand, they do not have to be placed back in the middle of the desk, where I have to again move them so I can work.

I think it would be “smart” to avoid these extra costs and irritations to your frequent guests. Thanks for listening to my feedback, as did your front desk manager when I talked to her in person.


I didn't complain about it, but the in-room refrigerator froze the soda and leftovers I had in there, frozen solid. More overprocessing!! :-)

I know these are, relatively speaking, nice problems to have. I have a great job, a loving family, and a roof over my head (surrounded by freezing air when it's 102 outside). So please take my bitching with a grain of gourmet salt.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is currently writing his next book, tentatively titled Measures of Success.

  1. Anonymous says

    I feel the same way. Vacuuming every day? I handle it by leaving a “Do Not Disturb sign” on the door and asking for service only every other day or every third day. Bill

  2. Neutron Jerk says

    Traditional thinking: We’re overbudget on housekeeping (or doing worse than benchmarks), so let’s cut corners.

    Lean thinking: We’re doing more than the customer requires, so scale back the overprocessing and spend more time on the REAL cleaning (or cut costs through attrition).

    Traditional thinking, if they’re meeting their budgets or benchmarks would never consider cutting the overprocessing, would they?

  3. Charles says

    As an itinerant Lean consultant, I often spend whole weeks at mid priced hotels. I try to have this conversation with the front desk staff.

    If I leave a towel on the floor, it’s yours.

    I sweep all local directories, menus, etc into the bottom drawer of the desk. Please leave it there ’til I leave.

    I tip housekeeping staff, generously, on the last day of my stay.


  4. Jason says

    This is just one of the many ways that green building and sustainable design cross over with lean processes. Take a look at what Starwood hotels are doing in their new “1” chain of eco-friendly hotels: Link

    Only downside I can see is that they’re not (yet) doing this across their other chains.

    Smaller hotel chains have been going green/getting lean, too–take a look at the Lenox in Boston, part of the forward-thinking Saunders Hotel Group Link

  5. Anonymous says

    Try moving the Do Not Disturb sign from the inside doorknob to the outside doorknob. Reverse the process when you’re ready for service. It worked fine for me in my days as a road warrior.


  6. Mark Graban says

    I may begrudgingly try the do not disturb sign. It’s a bit of a workaround… and I do like having the bed made (although I could see the argument that re-making the bed is overprocessing if I’m just going to unmake it to get into bed at night). So, I wouldn’t necessarily want them out of the room completely.

    I think the approach of talking to the front desk at check in might be a workable approach.

    Thanks for the comments!

  7. Sue says

    Thank you for the nice post. I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for the
    time and effort you spend for keeping blog lively and attractive and that
    makes it worth visiting and re-visiting.

  8. […] reminded me of our discussion about overprocessing and hotel housekeeping. This article states the same point I had made, that sometimes saving costs and keeping your […]

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