The phenomenon of motivating missions linked with high levels of performance and leadership excellence is a topic cited in both popular and academic literature. The author of this paper posits a model of leadership applied to examples in hospitality organizations from literature in the areas of biology, chemistry, and physics that explain the mechanics of the systems approach to managing organizations. Future empirical studies done by other researchers will advance the model presented in the paper to additional levels of development.
Over the past two decades the popular literature on the subject of leadership has presented accounts of daunting challenges (motivating missions) and their relationship to outstanding levels of performance (peak performance) in organizations (Garfield, 1986; Peters, 1994,; Roberts, 1991; Robins, 1989). In citing his experience with the Apollo space mission, Charles Garfield coined the terms "Motivating Mission" and "Peak Performance" to describe the challenges and the levels of performance respectively (1991). Similarly, academic literature on the subject of leadership has linked challenging missions to improved performance in organizations (Carr, 1993; Hersey & Blanchard, 1988; Kanungo 1992; Kotter 1990). In the hospitality industry, examples can be seen in specialized projects such as major sporting and entertainment events, large- scale conventions, and milestone social functions which have provided challenges to individuals in the hospitality industry. While leadership literature provides descriptions linking challenges and performance, what appears to be lacking is an explanation for the phenomenon.
What causes individuals, groups, and organizations to "rise to the challenge"? When "peak performance" does occur, why do performance levels decrease over a period of time? Why do some challenges foster outstanding performance while others create service failures? Does scientific literature provide an explanation for "peak performance" behaviors in challenging times? The purpose of this article is to propose a model for adaptive continuous change in organizations based on the accumulated scientific literature in the fields of physics, chemistry, and biology that may explain the "Motivating Mission" phenomenon.
When Garfield (1986) wrote about the Apollo space mission, his intent was to use the metaphor to apply to leadership practices in any organization or institution. He described the ten-year NASA project as a compelling force that generated emotional buy-in from a critical mass of individuals and groups resulting in numerous accounts of high level performance for the life of the project. He coined the term "motivating mission" to describe the catalyst for excellent performance levels. In contrast, performance levels reduced to mediocre levels after project completion. This phenomenon led Garfield to study psychology and observe anecdotal accounts of "peak performance" in all walks of life. One conclusion drawn was that certain challenges create missions that motivate individuals to achieve greatness.
Motivating Missions in the Hospitality Industry
Examples in the hospitality industry of this phenomenon are numerous. Samples of "best practices" are commonly cited for well known hotel chains and restaurants. Southwest Airlines is referred to as a company with a compelling mission that drives excellent levels of customer service from all the members of the staff.
When the "Whitbread Around the World Race" (world class yachting event) was scheduled to stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the host hotel became the center attraction in the community. Employees engaged in accelerated levels of individual and team performance under the leadership of the general manager. Department directors and line staff recounted numerous heroic "moments of truth" in the preparation and execution of the event (Albrecht & Zemke, 1989). Another example of accelerated performance occurred at a large resort in Key Largo, Florida in response to the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in August of 1992. A skeleton staff of workers came together to direct a 23 million dollar re-building project to receive guests by Christmas of that year. In March of 1999 students at the Travel Industry Management (TIM) School at the University of Hawaii executed a major practicum entertainment and banquet theme event at the Hawaii …