Simplify the Complex; or What to Do When A Guest Drops a Mickey Bar

Providing the happiest Place on Earth means that cast members must manage a delicate balance of priorities; without clarity, the task becomes overwhelming. Van France and Dick Nunis recognized the challenge. In response, they simplified this inherently complex environment by providing every cast member with crystal-clear marching orders during his or her Disney University orientation.

Dick Nunis came up with a program which, at the time, was a totally new concept for operations. The four elements of theme park operations were listed in order of their importance.

Van France

Simple service standards can be powerful tools in any organization.

ice cream

What happens when a child drops a Mickey ice cream bar?

  • Is it tough luck for the unhappy child?
  • What about the sticky mess on the busy sidewalk?
  • How would you handle a tired, irate parent?
  • What’s the impact on the bottom line?

There’s not an easy answer for the situation above – or for the tens of thousands of other daily occurrences that happen in a Disney theme park.

How do you train cast members to handle whatever may come up in a normal – or not so normal – day in the park?

The recipe for creating the magical environment at Disneyland involved boiling down park operations into four priorities that represent the values driving every decision:

  • Safety – The most important priority for Guests and cast members. Cast members must often protect Guests from themselves! Guests distracted by the beautiful architecture may walk into lampposts and walls. Every operations and design decision must first address safety.
  • Courtesy – The second most important priority after safety is courtesy. Cast members know the value of the smiles on their faces and in their voices and the importance of engaging Guests. A lack of cast member courtesy will poison the safest and most interesting environment.
  • Show – Once safety and courtesy are assured, attention turns to show. Well-maintained attractions and facilities populated by well-groomed cast members ensure good show, a condition Walt Disney passionately promoted.
  • Efficiency – This last priority refers to the number of Guests enjoying the attractions, restaurants, and retail shops. This is the “hard numbers” portion of a business. By placing numbers last, the SCSE model makes a clear, somewhat paradoxical statement: accomplishing the first three priorities ensures that this fourth one is sustainable in the form of happy and loyal cast members and Guests.

The image of shrinking the massive and complex operations at Disneyland – a pot of soup – into a smaller, more manageable package – a bouillon cube – via the SCSE priority model is powerful.

Disney’s Four Keys serve as a compass for creating happiness and serving others. More than five decades after they were created by Dick Nunis, these Four Keys continue to serve as the foundation for everything Disney does. Any organization would be envious to have several key standards stand that test of time. It is at the heart of what has made Disney the powerful name it is today.

About that Mickey ice cream bar…

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

> Simplify the Complex

How are complex operations and processes communicated in your organization? Are priorities succinct and memorable? How are Van’s Four Circumstances used to convey complex and vital procedures and priorities?

> It’s All about the Basics

  • How do you help team members understand standard operating procedures and priorities?
  • Are team members actively involved as change agents, or do they wait for direction?
  • Are policies followed? If not, why not?

> Great Trainers Transfer Knowledge

  • How does your training staff leverage experience from one area to another?
  • What do you do to encourage interactions with Guests and attendees?

> From Pot of Soup to Bouillon Cube

  • What is your organization’s equivalent of SCSE?
  • Can your team member manual be simplified?
  • What are your priorities? Can you summarize your standard operating procedures and priorities, regardless of complexity, with memorable phrases or acronyms?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Disney U

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Continue the Disney U experience on 4/15 with The Honeymoon Will End

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year.



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