ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - April 2000
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Issue Highlight - Hard Measures for Human Values
--- We have now made the stock market our primary measure of well-being. It is the lead story on the news, it stares me in the face at the top of my home page. It peers at me from the lower right hand corner of my TV screen...

In This Issue...
Looking For Adventure
Healing Blue Cross And Blue Shield
Applying The Magic Of Disney
When Teams Are Destructive

Features...
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Pageturners
Briefcases
Diary of a Shutdown

Applying The Magic Of Disney
Does Your Company Need a Little Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo?


-- One can say that Walt Disney was a magician: He turned a swamp into a magical wonderland, made a mouse a life-long companion for millions and built an empire from animated images.

-- But more than a magician, he was a dreamer. Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, partners in Capodagli Jackson Consulting, Indianapolis, have taken Disney's magic and cast a spell with their book "The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company."

-- In it, the authors share secrets behind the magic of Walt Disney, and set out a management strategy based on the 10 basic principles of the Disney Way (see sidebar below). The management-consulting duo has also snared a few princes for clients, including Whirlpool, British Petroleum and Motorola, based on what they call the "dreamovations" approach: dream, believe, dare, do.

From Magic to Management
-- Capodagli spent 10 years studying Disney before co-authoring the book with Jackson. Widely known as an expert on Disney, he points to the ethics that guided Walt Disney, the person, as directly responsible for the momentum behind today's multi-million dollar empire and its strong corporate identity. When asked to identify those ethics, Disney is quoted as saying "I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true."

-- It is the dream element that is most unique to Disney. In the animated Disney films we hold dear "Cinderella," and "The Lion King," we identify with the hero, who's a bit of an underdog, but always a dreamer; the dream is an ethically upstanding one and our hero's pursuit of it is an uphill, and eventually hard-won, battle. But Disney's pursuit of a dream wasn't just part of his personal compass and the films he produced. Capodagli and Jackson argue that each Disney employee is systematically encouraged to pursue his or her dreams, to dream about future prospects for the company and, in exchange for sharing those dreams, to watch them come true.

Once Upon a Time
-- Disney's belief in inspiring his employees began early on. When building Disneyland in the 1950s, he insisted that the castle be built first, so workers constructing the rest of the park would be inspired by it. And Disney's desire to hear from every employee, from janitors on up, is evidenced by his asking all employees to test every ride in the park before its grand opening. Disney wanted to know what needed improvement, and he took the word of his employees as his direction.

-- "The Disney Way" is full of anecdotes about Disney and his ability to bring out the best effort of his employees, and one that sticks out is the story of Pinocchio animator Ward Kimball's struggle to create the perfect Jiminy Cricket. After working away on the project, Disney still wasn't happy with the production of the animated film. He halted further work on the project and called Kimball to his office. Kimball was so disheartened as he went to meet Disney that he walked into the office ready to quit. Within a short time, however, Disney had turned Kimball's disposition completely around. Kimball left inspired and with renewed energies to the task at hand. Most of us, of course, have seen the result: Jiminy Cricket and the movie that made him famous, "Pinocchio," are a family entertainment classic.

-- Even the plotting of Disney stories is not the work of a single Disney employee. Disney developed a storyboarding process for creating his movies, in which employees assembled in a room to plan out the feature on pieces of paper pinned together on a large bulletin board. Notes were added and subtracted until eventually the story was complete. Capodagli and Jackson encourage companies to use the same process, whether to create a new marketing plan or to solve internal problems.

Happily Ever After
-- Today, the Disney company continues to reflect Walt Disney's principles, and such integrity has paid off: the job turnover rate at Disney is a low 30 percent for hourly and 6 percent for salaried employees, and Jackson points out that Disney has increased revenues by 150 percent since 1992. The company has implemented new ways to harvest the opinions and dreams of their employees, including a three-times-a-year "gong show," in which Michael Eisner, CEO, and Roy Disney, vice chairman of the board, listen to employee presentations on ideas for feature-length films and other potential enterprises. If you think this is an exercise in futility, consider this: Disney's 700 chain stores nationwide, with $100 million in annual revenues, was the brainchild of employee Steve Burke and was presented during a gong show. The concept for the animated feature "Hercules," was also presented by an employee during a gong show.

-- Disney has never been a company to short-change creativity, and some of the highest-paid creative minds in the country work under the ears of Mickey Mouse. Bran Ferren serves as president of research and development for the Imagineering division of Disney, which was founded by Walt Disney in 1952 to help design Disneyland. Today Imagineering is a think-tank that serves all of Disney's six divisions, including top-secret projects like Ferren's Telefusion Lab, in which new interactive frontiers between television and computer are being explored. Ferren compares his job at Disney to playing in a big sandbox, and its clear that other employees in the Imagineering department feel the same: One Disney creative employee, W. Daniel Hillis, is working on a romping, life-size dinosaur for an upcoming theme park. Another, Eric Haseltine, is busy creating outer space and Wild West simulators.

-- While Capodagli and Jackson can't promise to make all their clients jobs that much fun, they can promise to help introduce some of the Disney magic that inspires creative work. They've developed a concept called Dream Retreats, based on the Imagineering department at Disney. During a Dream Retreat, client teams gather off-site for a few days and brainstorm to clearly define goals, mission and values. They identify barriers to achieving those goals and develop a strategy to overcome them. And Capodagli and Jackson encourage companies to offer these Dream Retreats to all levels of the organization, not just upper-management.

-- Another way in which companies can employ the Disney Way is to utilize the same training method as Disney, called Traditions. Jackson says that many companies don't bother with adequate training before six months, justifying this with high turnover statistics. But Disney asks employees, regardless of position, to train with a fellow "cast member," as they call employees, before taking on their post.

-- According to Jackson, not only does this introduce a new employee to company culture, it also reinforces Disney's culture to the trainer simultaneously. This gives employees a sense of ownership. With the training in Traditions, employees understand their jobs and know more about how their job fits with Disney's values.

-- It's this kind of extra step that makes Disney a magical company. Dream, believe, dare, do. Walt Disney's credo inspires the best in us, not just as we appreciate the success of the man, or the entertainment of the empire, but also as we consider the possibilities for ourselves. Disney's magic lies in the inspiration to make the most of our dreams.

 

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