There are a dozen personal stories from my recent 2-day Disney immersion that would illustrate this takeaway:
- The very helpful Cast Members who helped with my Backstage Magic tour arrangements
- Cast Members at the parking lot ticket booth and in the parking lots who understood I was just being dropped off for the day
- Bob, the Security Team member who told me I was in for a good day
- Wayne and Ernesto, our Disney Institute tour guides, who were knowledgeable and passionate about all things Disney
- The funny and loud Cast Members of the Whispering Canyons restaurant, who fed and entertained us at the same time
- Cast Members who smiled and greeted us backstage and onstage
Team members who dream together create fantastic results
I could go on and on, but maybe the best story is one from the past:
In 1978, Disney announced it was opening another part of Walt Disney World in 1982. Not just a new section – this was EPCOT, one of Walt Disney’s original dreams for Disney World. And the opening was specific: October 1, 1982.
At the time, EPCOT was the largest construction project in the world. Most of the people working on the project did not work for Disney; they worked for all the contractors and subcontractors all over the country.
What Disney decided to do was to make these workers feel as though they were part of the Disney family – to get them to identify with EPCOT event though they weren’t actually part of the Disney organization. Here’s how they did it:
They closed down the job site one Sunday a month for over a year. Keep in mind that this was the world’s biggest construction project, moving toward a rock-solid deadline that had been announced almost four years in advance. To shut the place down one day a month was a big deal.
Disney brought in several big circus tents and set the up in what was eventually to be the EPCOT parking lot. Food service went in one of the tents – hot dogs, hamburgers, and the whole works – a picnic.
In another tent, the Disney Imagineers created a miniature EPCOT: the ground was sculpted to show where the land and water would be; photographs of the work were posted; artists’ renderings showed what the completed project would look like. Everything was kept up-to-date for over a year.
On that one Sunday a month, the project was shut down, and all the construction workers and their families were invited to enjoy the picnic and look around. They would enjoy the food and see what their Dad (or Mom) was doing.
Disney continued this for over a year so the families could watch it grow and the workers could see what they were creating – not just the big picture, but where their piece happened to fit into the big picture.
This went on all the way through the construction cycle until EPCOT opened. The $1.2 billion project came in on time and on budget, with very few snags. This was in part thanks to thousands of people who were not Cast Members, and had little motivation to do so. Disney wasn’t writing their checks; they weren’t giving them benefits. They couldn’t do the traditional things that you normally do to keep employees happy.
Instead, they treated them like Cast Members. And it worked. At the grand celebration of the opening of EPCOT, there was a huge celebration with thousands of people attending - most of them the construction workers and their families.
When a rough-necked iron worker is seen wearing mouse ears, you know he understands the dream.
Can you say the same thing about your team?
#9 in a series of Ten Takeaways from a Disney Immersion
GsD Spring 2013 DisneyLab