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    Fall 2011: In Person: ‘Continuous Improvement’

    His title sounds daunting, but Doug Santoni, senior vice president of strategic planning and continuous improvement at Royal Caribbean Cruises, seems to have both feet planted solidly on terra firma. He and his team work mainly for the Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands. The strategic planning horizon is five to 10 years, going significantly beyond the operational planning horizon, he said. "We are concentrating on the financial metrics we want to deliver, and it involves nearly every part of the company."

    Santoni was named to this new position in August 2010. This was part of an organizational change designed to improve the company's effectiveness and to better realize its strategic goals. He provided an example: "A few years ago, the company made the strategic decision to grow outside of North America and, as you can see, we have done just that. We are not far from sourcing more than 50 percent of our business outside of North America. Our corporate metrics and key performance indicators are tied to our long-term strategy."

    Deployment and itinerary planning for two of the largest North American brands is also among Santoni's responsibilities.

    While the functions are different, they are interlinked, according to Santoni, who said: "We do not try to silo these functions. People who have process experiences can help with the deployment planning and speed up the time it takes to go from itinerary planning into our system."

    As for continuous improvement, Santoni said he and his eight-person team focus both on functional areas and ensuring that the concept is a corporate mantra.

    "We strive for continuous improvement in everything we do," he explained. "It is a cornerstone of our corporate culture. We look at better ways to do things whether with procedures or technology. Our group is just the enabler," he continued. "We work with the other departments to implement initiatives."

    "We are focused on revenue opportunities, improved efficiencies and cost reductions," Santoni said.

    As for whether ships can drive revenue and cost initiatives too hard, he answered: "The ships live and die by their ratings on every cruise. The bottom line is guest satisfaction."

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