Success Story in Brief

A case study of how IHG bridged the divide between project rigor and creativity, implementing a project management approach that works for everyone.

“This was probably the best IHG training I’ve ever taken.”

Cleveland McKinneyDirector, Priority Club Rewards and Channel Integration
About IHG

IHG operates 9 hotel brands encompassing more than 722,000 rooms in over 4,900 hotels in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world. The company behind such iconic hotel brands as InterContinental® Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels and Resorts, Hotel Indigo®, Holiday Inn®, Holiday Inn® Express®, Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites® has built a strong service culture that values interpersonal connections, collaboration and creativity. It’s a culture that is paying off not just in awards and recognition from the industry but in the positive word-of-mouth and service rankings from its loyal guests.



To minimize project risk and deliver complex projects on time and within budget.

The company realized the kind of people-focused, “big picture” thinking that has made it so successful in achieving and maintaining “guest love” was in many ways at odds with the rigorous, disciplined thinking required to manage the increasingly complex projects involved with a growing portfolio of 772 managed and more than 4,000 franchised hotels around the world.

To make their projects as successful as their guest satisfaction eff orts, they would have to bridge the divide between analytical, step-by-step project management approaches and the interpersonal, collaborative culture they had worked so hard to create and maintain


To improve collaboration between project managers and team members/stakeholders and develop a project management approach more aligned with the corporate culture.

IHG had a team of experienced project managers in place, but they were struggling to deliver projects in the IHG environment. The work was complex, but even more problematic was the clash of thinking that was making it difficult to carry projects through to completion.

Project management typically relies on rigorous, incremental thinking, with processes and tools designed to match, but at IHG the project managers were dealing with a service-oriented culture filled with people who preferred to get things done through collaboration, relationship building and freeform communication.


Using a thinking-based approach as the framework for improving communication and for bringing creative thinking and design sensibility to the rigor of project management. 

“Other models are more focused on behavior, so it’s harder to have a conversation about problem solving. Whole Brain® Thinking is more applicable in the workplace because it’s about the way you think and solve problems. It facilitates a good work discussion.”

– Crystal Snoddy, Head of Delivery Excellence, IHG

Snoddy and the company had been introduced to Whole Brain® Thinking and the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) the year before as they were setting up a new Hotel Openings Team. During that process, each team member completed the HBDI® assessment to learn about how they preferred to think and how thinking preferences aff ect relationship building, communications and other behaviors—and ultimately the results achieved.

These consultants needed to be able to authentically connect with their clients— the hotel owners—to facilitate the opening process, so they learned how to “put themselves in the investor’s mindset” and communicate in a Whole Brain® way.


Increased project visibility, a noted improvement in risk management, improved collaboration and a shift in culture. “Now that we’ve introduced the IHG Way with Whole Brain® Thinking as the core foundation, as a company we’re able to have more strategic decisions on prioritizing projects.” – Josie Oliver, Project Delivery Methodology and Training Manager, IHG The process has allowed the company to articulate a clear IHG Way of Managing Projects, which includes a community of project managers, a project management approach and project delivery standards all grounded in Whole Brain® Thinking. According to Snoddy and Oliver, it has yielded clear results, including:

    • More visibility for their projects
    • Increased ability to manage project risks—an improvement that has been specifically noted by the executive sponsors
    • More effective collaboration, which means they’re able to deliver on more complex initiatives
    • A shift in culture, with the language and processes now part of the culture

Of the HBDI® profile debriefs and discussions, Leanne Henderson, PMO–BSI team, Director, Global Brand Standards, says, “These were the most accurate analyses of our personalities and preferences that I have seen to date at IHG…We enjoyed overlaying our profiles to see why we work as a team and where we had room to grow—we need to head more ‘into the red’ when we are under pressure! I hope this is used more through the business as it was a real winner for us.”

For a hotel organization that encompasses more than 720,000 hotel rooms across nearly 100 countries, there are complex projects in all areas of the business benefitting from the approach. Not only is Whole Brain® Thinking helping the teams improve project success rates, it’s also helping the company make smarter decisions about project prioritization.