There are valuable business lessons to be learned from “the human architect” of Disney’s magic kingdoms
Personal note: Soon after Disneyland opened in 1955, my father was invited by Walt Disney to tour the park with him and his brother Roy. (My father’s firm had been retained to design insurance coverage for the entire Disney organization and he served as the “general contractor” for assigning segment coverage.) Later, he took me. Frankly, I had no idea what to expect and still get goose bumps every time I recall entering, for the first time, what was both metaphorically and literally a Magic Kingdom.
Some organizations need to have more of their employees positively and productively engaged than do others and that is certainly true of The Walt Disney Company and, especially, true of its theme parks at which “cast members” constantly interact with “guests.” In this book, Douglas Lipp explains how “the Disney University develops [who he claims are] the world’s most engaged, loyal, and customer-centric employees.” They are “second to none when it comes to friendliness, knowledge, attentiveness, passion, and guest service.” That was true 58 years ago and remains true today.
Van Arsdale France is the “human architect” to which the title of my review refers. According to Lipp, he was “a strange combination of three of Disney’s most famous characters — Jiminy Cricket, Mary Poppins, and Donald Duck” who exuded qualities and values “every leader should strive to attain: crystal-clear direction plus an unwavering commitment and passion,” qualities that Disney also possessed in abundance. France played a major role in the development of people who make certain that each park would be “The Happiest Place on Earth” for guests as well as for themselves.
For leaders in any organization, whatever its size and nature may be, Lipp suggests thirteen specific lessons to be learned from the Disney University and devotes a separate chapter to each lesson. They are best revealed within the narrative, in context, but I will discuss briefly “Van’s Four Circumstances,” the values of The Walt Disney Company that create a perfect environment for the Disney University. They are not unique; rather, they are already well-known and must be pervasive at all kevels and in all areas of operation. Specifically: Innovation, Organizational Support, Education, and Entertain. Each must be constant and consistent. The complete discussion of these four can be found on Pages 19-25.
These are among the dozens of other passages that also caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Lipp’s coverage:
o The Two Worlds of Disney (Pages 7-11)
o The Disney University Is a Fun Place to Work (31-32)
o Capturing Hearts and Minds (36-38)
o Balancing Art and Science, and, Keeping the Park Fresh (44-45)
o “We Want to Meet Snow White” (48-50)
o A Different Perspective (57-59)
o The Birth of the Disney University (69-70)
o Disney University: Where Everyone Majors in “People,” and, Disney University: Tradition and Innovation (74-76)
o Disney Guest Service: Simplify the Complex SCSE (84-87)
Note: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Capacity/Efficiency
o The Disney Shopping Experience (87-90)
o The Walt Disney World Crisis (101-103)
o No Room for Excuses (115-117)
o Executive Development: A Disney Tradition (129-131)
o The Green Light Experience (132-134)
o Cultures Are Neighborhoods (175-178)
Lipp makes especially clever use of several reader-friendly devices, notably “Lesson Review” and “Applying Van’s Four Circumstances” at the conclusion of most chapters. He also inserts dozens of quotations from primary sources such as Walt Disney and Van France, of course, but from countess others who were also centrally and significantly involved in the process by which the Disney Parks and University evolved over time. Lipp cites (on Page 17) Van France’s memorandum dated (September 21, 1962) in which he proposes a program to establish “the University of Disneyland, 1962-1963.” And then as they say, “the rest is history” and much of that history is in this entertaining as well as informative book.
To Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, coauthor of How Will You Measure Your Life?, a primary task of leadership is asking questions that anticipate great challenges. Here is a brief excerpt from an interview conducted by Art Kleiner for strategy+business magazine, published by Bain & Company. To read the complete interview, check out other resources, learn more about the firm, obtain subscription information, and register for email alerts, please click here.
Photograph by Evgenia Eliseeva
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This is the second interview we’ve published with Harvard Business School professor and author Clayton Christensen. The first appeared back in 2001. Four years before, Christensen had published The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Harvard Business School Press, 1997). When his keenly original theory of disruption first appeared, it seemed like an audacious and counterintuitive view of organizational change. But it soon evolved into conventional business wisdom. And now he is applying it to a deeper question: “What is life for?”
In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen argued that as companies focus their attention on their best and most reliable customers, they can all too easily overlook the threat of disruption from young upstart competitors. Those competitors, exercising their creativity, develop innovative capabilities and reach customers that the incumbents ignore. Sooner or later, the upstarts steal the market with their better, less-expensive new ways of solving customers’ problems.
Christensen has always had an entrepreneurial bent, and this clearly colors his approach. Before arriving at Harvard Business School, he founded the CPS Technologies Corporation, a manufacturer of thermal management materials (originally called the Ceramics Process Systems Corporation), and he is a cofounder of a small Boston-based consulting firm called Innosight. His ideas are particularly valuable for established industries that seek to respond effectively to the disruption coming seemingly out of nowhere.
In recent years, he has applied this approach to healthcare (The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care, with Jerome H. Grossman and Jason Hwang, McGraw-Hill, 2008), education (Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, with Michael Horn and Curtis W. Johnson, McGraw-Hill, 2008), and, most recently, the personal side of leadership.
Written as a reflection on the fulfillment of life’s purpose after a series of severe medical problems (including cancer and a stroke), Christensen’s most recent book, How Will You Measure Your Life? (coauthored with James Allworth and Karen Dillon, HarperBusiness, 2012), has struck a chord with many business leaders. It links the discipline of managing disruption to the kind of long-term thinking that is necessary if one is to step past today’s pressures and build a strong personal and professional legacy. In late 2012, Christensen spoke with strategy+business by phone from his home outside Boston.
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S+B: How did you develop the concept of measuring your life?
Christensen: I had always aspired as a researcher to develop models that were robust enough to relate to any level in a hierarchy, from a national economy to an industry to a corporation to a business unit to a team. A good theory is really a fundamental statement of causality, and it ought to be as applicable to a business unit as it is to a nation, or vice versa.
In all my work, I’ve looked for universal principles—starting with my doctoral thesis in the early 1990s, which was the original study of disruption in the disk drive industry [which I wrote about in The Innovator’s Dilemma]. I was trying to explain why it was so hard for successful disk drive companies to sustain their success, generation after generation. I’d concluded that the success of their past practices made it difficult to react effectively to new disruptive competitors.
At first, when I finished, I thought I had a model that applied only to the disk drive industry. Then I remembered that during the Cuban missile crisis, which had happened when I was a boy in 1962, my neighbors hired a steam shovel to dig a bomb shelter in their basement. The steam shovel was manufactured by Northwest Engineering, a company that died in the early 1980s because its products were made obsolete by hydraulic excavators. So, later, when I knew someone who worked for an excavating company, I went over to see him one night and described what I’d found in the disk drive industry, and he said the same thing had happened with big digging machines. “There must be something to this,” I thought, “if it explains hydraulic excavators and disk drives.”
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Finding “keepers” is only one step in a perilous process. Here’s what you need to know about the complete engagement cycle.
I cannot recall a prior time in U.S. business history when the competition for talent was more intense than it is now and I expect it to become even more so in months and years to come. In fact, much of the competition is now global in both nature and extent. Moreover, definitions of “keeper” vary not only from one company or industry to the next but also between and among first, second, and third world countries.
According to Steve Pogorzelski and Jesse Harriott who co-authored this book with Doug Hardy, the Monster Guide will help almost any organization (whatever its size and nature, wherever its operations may be) to recruit, hire, onboard, develop, and retain those candidate(s) who are best-qualified for the given position(s). I think this is what Pogorzelski and Harriott mean when referring to “the world’s best employees” in the book’s subtitle.
I commend them on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices such as “My POV” guest contributions by senior-level executives, inserted wherever relevant throughout the narrative, as well as a “Review” section at the end of all chapters and boxed (what I call) “snapshots” of core concepts and core processes. For example, in Chapter 9, Hire and Hold: Retention, Pogorzelski and Harriott provide Figure 9.1 a timeframe matrix, an “Exercise” for CFOs, a mini-commentary on “Benefits That Balance Work,” another on “Seven Rules for Retention,” a multi-stage program for onboarding, “MY POV” contributed by Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi, and then a “Review” of key points made in the chapter.
These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Pogorzelski and Harriott’s coverage.
o Three Forces Set the Stage: Demographics, Candidate Empowerment, and Increasing Relative Value of Talent (Pages 2-8)
o Poised Employees = Your Employees (15-18)
o Generational Perspectives (19-33)
o Who Is Most Valuable and, Monitor Your Recruiting Effectiveness (41-49)
o Analysis: Employer Brand Delivery (70-71
o The Candidate Experience (77-80)
o Customizing Your Message (83-94)
o Your Recruiting Web Site (96-99)
o Employee Referral Programs (111-116)
o The Funnel (127-136)
o Closing the Candidate (142-147)
o The Cost of Turnover (150-155)
o Employee Engagement (i.e. “with a strong attachment to the work itself”), Pages 157-159
o Onboarding (168-171)
o Next Practices: Transparency, Interactivity, Mobility, Diversity, and Flexibility (191-210)
Before concluding their brilliant explanation of how the Monster Guide can help almost any organization to hire and then retain who are — for them — “the world’s best employees,” Pogorzelski and Harriott observe, “It comes down to this: do you treat people as human beings or do you treat them as assets, as commodities? If you don’t care about people, they’ll have a hard time caring about you. But if you care about them as employees, as friends, as partners in business, and as neighbors and colleagues, they’re bound to join you and stay engaged. Respect, recognition, and engagement are the essence of finding keepers.”
Fred Reichheld has written books and articles about what he calls The Ultimate Question: “On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us (or this product/service/brand) to a family member, friend or colleague?” With only a minor revision (replacing “us (or this product/service/brand) ” with “working here”), the question could — and should — be asked of those who comprise the given workforce. Finding “keepers” is only one step in an engagement cycle. I agree with Steve Pogorzelski and Jesse Harriott: If your people are not evangelists about being employed by you, the Keepers you find soon realize that and have no interest…nor should they.
I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the material provided in this volume but I hope that I have indicated why I think so highly of it. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will gain a better understanding of their organization can recruit, hire, onboard, and then retain the talent needed to achieve its strategic objectives.
“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To add wisdom, subtract things every day.” Lao Tzu
While writing his latest book, Matthew May invited more than 70 people to be guest contributors, sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences about subtraction. More than 50 accepted and I was among them, pleased to be included. That said, only when I read the book in final form did I understand and appreciate what his specific objectives were. As with the objectives for The Elegant Solution and In Pursuit of Elegance, he achieves them fully and eloquently. May observes, “neuroscientists have shown, using magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), that addition and subtraction require different brain circuitry” from what many (most?) people prefer, “hardwired to add and accumulate, hoard and store.”
This book offers to guide new and innovative thinking on how people can make better decisions (to add as well as to subtract) and produce better results by artfully and intelligently using less (or more). “The Laws of Subtraction is meant to be a guide to creating more engaging experiences not only for others but for ourselves.” There seems to be remarkable agreement over many centuries about the potential benefits of subtraction, simplification, reduction, etc. The title of my review is from the Tao Te Ching, dating back to 6th century BCE. It is also noteworthy that the insightful quotations about the subtractive mindset, strategically inserted throughout the book, are selected from a wide and diverse range of sources.
May offers six “simple” rules or laws that are, he explains, based on one of the laws in John Maeda’s brilliant book, The Laws of Simplicity. Here is #10: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.” (Maeda is another of the contributors.) May devotes a separate chapter to each, concluding with a cluster of guest commentaries that are most relevant to the given law. I appreciate his clever use of a “Spotlight on” device which features mini-commentaries on topics such as “What Isn’t There” (Pages 10-11), “Connecting the Dots” (80-81), “Constraints” (127), “Sunk Work” (159), and “Doing Nothing” (190).
These are among the dozens of other passages that caught my eye:
o The Zen of Nothing (Pages 18-20)
o A Sense of Place (38-49)
o Let It Be (51-56)
o Connecting the Dots (70-74)
o Audience as Author (93-95)
o A Tale of Two 25a (118-123)
o The Chains of Creativity (128-132)
o Breaking Barriers (151-158)
o Daydream Believin’ (179-184)
I agree about both the difficulties and the benefits of making better decisions during what many regard as an Age of Excess. May observes, “At the heart of every difficult decision lie three tough choices: What to pursue versus what to ignore. What to leave in versus what to leave out. What to do versus what to don’t. I have discovered that if you focus on the second half of each choice — what to ignore, what to leave out, what to don’t — the decision becomes exponentially easier and simpler. The key is to remove the stupid stuff: anything obviously excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use or ugly.”
However, I think we should keep in mind that the power of subtraction, reduction, elimination, etc. can have both positive and negative imoact. I learned years ago that only severe pruning could save our crepe myrtle trees during a period of sub-zero temperature. But to extent the gardening metaphor, we must not rip out seedlings to see how well they’re growing. Thank you, Matthew May, for your latest book. I think it is your most entertaining as well as most informative and valuable book…thus far.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
The Lombardi remarks help to explain why Bob Vanourek and Greg Vanourek urge all leaders as well as those who aspire to become one to “chase perfection” at a time when “we live in a world that is overmanaged and underled.”
By the way, this is precisely what J. Keith Murnighan has in mind, in Do Nothing!: How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader, when observing, ”Things are simpler when other people are in charge and you don’t have to make big decisions. Taking over as a leader means that you must depart from the comfort of the status quo, and the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty that accompany your excitement really are noxious. To avoid these feelings, people naturally fall back on what’s familiar and certain – that is, what they know how to do. Unfortunately, this can be truly counterproductive.”
Readers will appreciate the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that the Vanoureks provide, much of it based their wide and deep experience with C-level leadership worldwide as well as their interviews of leaders at 61 quite different organizations based in 11 countries. These organizations include Cisco, eBay, Google, KIPP, Xerox, and Zappos. Readers will also appreciate the provision of “Practical Applications,” an end-of-chapter section that suggests options for implementation relevant material, Chapters 1-10.
Here are some of the several dozen passages that caught my eye:
o Chapter Road Map (Pages 13-16)
o Benefits of Triple Crown Leadership (36-37)
o Chapter  Supplment: Interviewing for Heart (59-60)
o Getting Beyond [One's] Natural Leadership Style (90-92)
o Personal Breakdowns and Organizational Breakdowns (151-152 & 152-154)
o Turnaround Adaptations (176-184)
o TripleCrown Social Impact (218-226)
No brief commentary such as this can do full justice to the nature and extent of invaluable material that the Vanoureks provide in this volume. They strike me as being world-class pragmatists who have an insatiable curiosity to understand — insofar as great leadership is concerned — what works, what doesn’t, and why. They are eager, indeed obsessed to share what they have learned with as many principled, results-driven executives as they can. They immediately establish a direct and personal rapport with their reader. In fact, most of those who read this book will feel — as I did — that the book was written specifically for them.
Presumably Bob and Greg Vanourek agree with me that it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to apply everything learned. Although the core values remain the same for all organizations (i.e. Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring), it remains for each reader to select material that is most appropriate to the needs, interests, resources, and values of the given organization.
Long ago, Oscar Wilde offered excellent personal advice: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” The same is true of organizations and especially true of companies such as Cisco, eBay, Google, KIPP, Xerox, Zappos…and yours.
How and why leaders transform themselves so that they will be more effective transforming their organizations
Each year, the average tenure of a new CEO becomes shorter and is about 36 months as I begin this brief commentary. One of several major reasons for this is the fact that change really is – and will continue to be – the only constant in the global business world as it occurs faster and in greater number, requiring business leaders and their organizations to respond faster and with greater effectiveness. In this context, the title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s most valuable books is especially relevant, asserting that “what got you here won’t get you there.” In fact, I’m convinced that what got you here won’t even allow you to remain here (wherever and whatever “here” is). Continuous improvement has become constant improvement and that can only be achieved by organizational transformation. Once again, I am reminded of Pogo the possum’s epiphany: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
All this is by way of introducing material in a book co-authored by Jeffrey Fox and Robert Reiss in which they feature 44 CEOs who share the “impact lessons” they learned while leading initiatives to achieve organizational transformation. These are real executives in real companies who candidly discuss real-world crises, perils, and opportunities. It is accurate to call them game-changers only if it is clearly understood that the “game” was played in their heads and hearts (and yes, guts) as well as in the C-suite, throughout the given enterprise, and within the given industry.
There are 33 brief chapters, focusing on major business challenges, to each of which several CEOs contribute insights and experiences as well as thoughts and feelings, in collaboration with Fox and Reiss. The reference to ”impact” earlier includes one’s self, one’s colleagues, and one’s organization. As you can well imagine, the two co-authors and the 44 CEO contributors are able to draw upon a wealth of invaluable experience, especially with crises, setbacks, and even major failures. As most of the book’s chapter titles correctly indicate, their collective focus is on what works, what doesn’t, and why.
For example, Chapters 3-9 explain how to turn a company around, protect or change a company culture, put culture first, hire to the given culture, perform while transforming, serve a higher purpose, and give back in response to deserving need.
In Chapter 11 and then in Chapters 14-15, the reader is provided with information, insights, and wisdom that will help to prepare her or him to take prudent risks, innovate at all kevels and in all areas (to varying degrees of scale), make everything “Better! Better! Better!”, defend ideas and the process by which they are generated, and “lead with love” (i.e. with emotional intelligence that appreciates and protects as well as nourishes human dignity).
It is important to keep in mind what this book’s sources are. First, several dozen CEOs: results-driven empiricists who are world-class pragmatists, each possessing what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a “built-in, shock-proof crap detector.” Then there are hundreds of other executives that Reiss interviewed for “The CEO Show.” Add to all that what Fox and Reiss have learned from their own wide and deep involvement in the business world during the last several decades.
I highly recommend this book to all C-level executives, whatever the size and nature of their organization may be. Also, to middle managers who aspire to provide effective leadership at that level. Finally, especially at this time of the year, I think this would be a terrific gift to those who are preparing for a career in business or have only recently begun one. Many of those who read it will also be transformed. I hope they realize that transformation should be a process that never ends. The “bad news” is that it can be very difficult to achieve and even more difficult to sustain. As this book so compellingly reveals, the “good news” is that personal transformation and professional growth will accomplish almost anything the human mind can imagine. Helen Keller said it quite well: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
Here is a brief excerpt from another outstanding interview featured online by The McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company and conducted by Joanna Barsh. To read the complete article, check out others, obtain subscription information, and sign up for free email alerts, please click here.
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Forward-looking executives must respond to the growing need for a new managerial model.
“Sometime over the next decade,” warns renowned strategy guru Gary Hamel in his new book, The Future of Management, “your company will be challenged to change in a way for which it has no precedent.” (Note: Gary Hamel with Bill Breen, The Future of Management, Harvard Business School Press, 2007) What’s even more worrisome, he argues, is that decades of orthodox management decision-making practices, organizational designs, and approaches to employee relations provide no real hope that companies will be able to avoid faltering and suffering painful restructurings.
McKinsey partners Lowell Bryan and Claudia Joyce, in their recently published book, Mobilizing Minds (Note: Lowell L. Bryan and Claudia I. Joyce, Mobilizing Minds: Creating Wealth from Talent in the 21st-Century Organization, New York: McGraw Hill, 2007), arrive at a similar conclusion from a slightly different perspective. They find that the 20th-century model of designing and managing companies, which emphasized hierarchy and the importance of labor and capital inputs, not only lags behind the need for companies today to emphasize collaboration and wealth creation by talented employees but also actually generates unnecessary complexity that works at cross-purposes to those critical goals.
Forward-looking executives will respond to this looming challenge, these authors conclude, by bringing the same energy to innovative management that they now bring to innovative products and services.
The opportunity is substantial. Against the backdrop of the digital age’s dramatic technological change, ongoing globalization, and the declining predictability of strategic-planning models, only new approaches to managing employees and organizing talent to maximize wealth creation will provide companies with a durable competitive advantage. It won’t be easy. As companies discard decades of management orthodoxy, they will have to balance revolutionary thinking with practical experimentation to feel their way to new, innovative management models.
Hamel is the founding director of the Management Innovation Lab, a nonprofit research organization with offices in London and Silicon Valley dedicated to accelerating the evolution of management practice. He recently joined Bryan for a conversation on the subject of management innovation. Joanna Barsh, a director in McKinsey’s New York office, moderated their discussion.
Joanna Barsh: What is the opportunity both of you have identified and how did you spot it?
Gary Hamel: For almost 20 years I’ve tried to help large companies innovate. And despite a lot of successes along the way, I’ve often felt as if I were trying to teach a dog to walk on his hind legs. Sure, if you get the right people in the room, create the right incentives, and eliminate the distractions, you can spur a lot of innovation. But the moment you turn your back, the dog is on all fours again because it has quadruped DNA, not biped DNA.
So over the years, it’s become increasingly clear to me that organizations do not have innovation DNA. They don’t have adaptability DNA. This realization inevitably led me back to a fundamental question: what problem was management invented to solve, anyway?
When you read the history of management and of early pioneers like Frederick Taylor, you realize that management was designed to solve a very specific problem—how to do things with perfect replicability, at ever-increasing scale and steadily increasing efficiency.
Now there’s a new set of challenges on the horizon. How do you build organizations that are as nimble as change itself? How do you mobilize and monetize the imagination of every employee, every day? How do you create organizations that are highly engaging places to work in? And these challenges simply can’t be met without reinventing our 100-year-old management model.
Lowell Bryan: I arrived at the same point from a slightly different perspective. McKinsey asked me about 12 years ago to try to understand the impact of technology and globalization on our clients. We concluded that these forces were creating a fundamental discontinuity. Or to put it differently, that technology and globalization were creating a set of opportunities that didn’t exist before.
We observed that companies were struggling to take advantage of the opportunities created by digitization and globalization because their organizations were not designed for this new world.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Joanna Barsh is a director in McKinsey’s New York office.