Beyond Orientation: Executive Team Development – Moving from Silos to Synergy

Walt was very firm in stating that Disneyland – the dream – was the star. It was his way of controlling the people with their outsized egos who thought that they or their divisions, departments, or functions were responsible for our success – Van France

The entrepreneurial and highly innovative culture created by the Disney organization had an unintended consequence: divisional and communication silos.

People were so focused on their areas of responsibility that they didn’t consider their impact on other divisions and departments.  Executives lost sight of the big picture, and as a result, lost some opportunities for synergy.

To counter that, the Disney University team created an experience for the executives that borrowed from Van France’s timeless model for any training program:

  • Make it simple, not simplistic
  • Make it enjoyable
  • Design experiential activities that make it memorable

The result: Disney Dimensions, a training program for 25 senior leaders throughout Disney. It was designed to give them a full-immersion, 7-day experience of the California and Florida theme parks, as well as Disney Studios and Imagineering (the design geniuses behind the parks).

Essentially, the executives were exposed to every business unit in the company and had them solving each other’s problems.

Disney Dimensions captured the essence of a Van-France inspired educational event. It informed. It engaged. It was fun. It accomplished its business goals. The leadership program also enjoyed each of the Four Circumstances Van identified as crucial to the success of the Disney University:

  • Innovate – the multiday, multivenue design exposed the participants to every area of the company. Until then, most executives hadn’t ventured beyond their own area of expertise.
  • Support – Disney Dimensions received the overt, enthusiastic support of top management, who had a hand in choosing the participants and didn’t hesitate to sing its praises.
  • Educate – combining executive-level attendees from each operating division in the unique and interactive environment created a forum in which participants educated one another.
  • Entertain – every training event is an opportunity to be creative and interesting rather than the opposite: dull and academic.

The living laboratory experiential activities that led to advanced levels of cross-functional collaboration and creative problem solving are worthwhile goals for any organization.

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

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

 How is executive development handled in your organization?

  • What is being done to fully engage executives in organizational collaboration? Who does it and how frequently?
  • How could this strategy improve?
  • How are real-time ministry issues used in training and development programs?
  • Are there examples of ministry hits and misses that can be transformed into case studies for senior leadership team development?
  • Does the senior leadership team in our organization openly assess ministry successes and failures?
  • How can leaders in your organization lend their support to training initiatives?
  • In your organization, what needs to be done to promote and perpetuate senior leadership team development?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Disney U

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Conclude the Disney U experience on 4/24/14 with The Language of Success

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.



One thought on “Beyond Orientation: Executive Team Development – Moving from Silos to Synergy

  1. Pingback: Keep Plussing the Show: No Room for Excuses | 27gen

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