It’s Always Easier When You Work With Someone Who’s Been There Before

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the size and complexity of some tasks you undertake.

…like planning a week-long visit to Walt Disney World.

That’s the place I found myself in five years ago, when my wife and I began planning a Walt Disney World trip for our 22-year old daughter, as a delayed college graduation gift.

I had been to the Magic Kingdom once. As a senior in high school. For a day. In 1976. A long time ago…

Some things had changed a lot, and my memory wasn’t that good about the trip anyway. Being the research kind of guy, I began looking online at various websites about 9 months prior to the trip. I also checked out some guide books from the library. But the hands down, absolutely best way to plan a trip to Disney World is to use a travel planner. Better yet, a travel planner whose specialty is the Disney Empire, and is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

Enter Annette at Small World Vacations. When some good friends found out what we were going to do, they heartily recommended I get in touch with Annette. I’m so very glad I did! She walked me through the basics, helped me choose the best options for a fun week, made great recommendations for things to do and places to eat, and generally helped created a great week for us.

Amy WDW2011

This picture pretty much speaks for itself.

Through her services, we were able to get a fabulous room in a great resort, get all the dinner reservations we wanted, and plan plenty of surprises for our daughter. Annette’s service didn’t stop in the preplanning, either. When I had a couple of questions just before I left, she was quick to answer them. And waiting for us when we got back was an email welcoming us home and wanting to know how our week went.  And so, over the last five years, in preparing for many return trips to Walt Disney World, my first call has always been to Annette. Whether it’s a year in advance (planning a week-long trip for my immediate family of 13) or a week before (a last-minute change in schedule allowing me a day in the parks), the help and guidance of an expert is invaluable.

Planning is easier when you work with someone who’s been there before.

This takeaway doesn’t just apply to planning to go to Disney – I also found out it applied to what Disney itself does in their development for future attractions. While they are reluctant to just “copy” what has worked in one Park and transfer it to another, they do learn valuable lessons and apply a continuous learning cycle to all their operations.

The takeaway also applied to how they staffed Disney World prior to its opening in 1971: a year before the Park opened, they hired several hundred college sophomores for seasonal work; the next year, they went after juniors, and the following year, when the Park was really hitting its stride, they hired seniors. The best of this experienced group were offered entry-level management positions after graduation, and many went on to achieve high-level positions all across the Disney companies.

How do you take advantage of experience in planning and staffing at your organization?


Oh, there’s one other thing: Even with the best of outside help, you still have to do the work yourself.


What Could Apple’s Passion Do for Your Team?

What sort of values would an organization have to venerate if it wanted to duplicate Apple’s successes?

          Gary Hamel, What Matters Now

For months now I’ve been circling Apple like a moth around a flame, and have now taken the plunge:

As Vision Room Curator, I will be working off of a MacBook Pro.

As if the Auxano learning curve weren’t enough, I am also transitioning from decades of PC use to the world of Apple. I’ll have to get back to you on how it’s going, but for now, a quick drop-in to noted business thinker and strategist Gary Hamel’s thoughts on Apple from his book What Matters Now.

Specifically, his answers to the question above.

Be Passionate – great success is the product of a great passion; it arises from the tireless and inventive pursuit of a noble ideal. To deliver years of exceptional performance, an organization must first dedicate itself to the pursuit of an exceptional ideal.

Lead, Don’t Follow – what gets the teams at Apple up every morning? The chance to break new ground and radically redefine the status quo.

Aim to Surprise – as a company, Apple seems committed to exceeding expectations. Jonathan Ives, Apple’s head of design, stated “When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it becomes sort of magical.” That’s the bar Apple sets for itself.

Be Unreasonable – greatness doesn’t come from compromise, from resigning oneself to the trade-offs others blithely accept. It comes from transcending trade-offs, by turning either/or into both/and. Apple gets this, and frequently challenges itself to do the impossible.

Innovate Incessantly and Pervasively – at Apple, innovation isn’t a strategy or a department; instead, it’s the basic material that goes into everything the company does. Apparently there are a lot of people at Apple who realize that innovation – in products, services, and business models – is the only strategy for creating long-term value.

Sweat the Details – Apple aims to produce products that work intuitively, seamlessly, and reliably – and this can only happen when hundreds of people take the trouble to sweat the details.

Think Like an Engineer, Feel Like an Artist – a company can’t produce beauty if bean counters win every argument. There are lots of people at Apple who work out of both sides of their brain – and understand that their customers do too.

What’s the bottom line? Apple’s unique success is a product of its unique values, which are uniquely innovation-friendly and customer-centric.

What if Apple’s passions were the norm rather than the exception…

…at your church?

Pursuing Excellence…


From an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America:

Cooking is an inexact science, and this is where the art comes in. You’ve got standard ratios that work up to a point. There are always variables, as far as: Did you cook all the roux out? How high was your cooking temperature? How much evaporation did you have? How much did it reduce? You have to take all those things into account, and see what your final product is, and figure out how to fix it. You have to be not so stressed out or under pressure that you can say “I know it’s not right and I need to fix it.”

“You can’t ever send a product out if it’s not right,” he continued. It doesn’t matter how busy you are – your reputation is on the line every time you put a plate out. If you send it out hoping they won’t notice, then that’s the kind of chef you will be all your life.

“So. Start. Good habits. Early! Do it right. Take your time.”

As Tom Peters would say:



If not EXCELLENCE, what?

If not EXCELLENCE now, when?

Excellence is not a goal – it’s the way we live, who we are.

What’s up at your place, excellence-wise? Are you content with the same old, same old? Is is good enough? Or are you pursuing excellence?

Strive for excellence – ignore success.

Overboard on the Mouse? Or …?

For the last 10 days, I have gone into a little detail about what I considered the Top Ten Takeaways from a recent family trip to Disney World. Of course, there was also the Top Ten List itself. And the five posts while actually at Disney World. That’s sixteen posts in less than a month! You probably think I’ve gone overboard on Disney! After all, it’s only a Mouse…

No, I don’t think so – it’s much more than that.

My passion is to energize leaders so that they help their organizations thrive by turning challenges into opportunities.

And no one provides a better model for that than Disney.

So I’m going to keep coming back to the “magic” of Disney – because I know I’m learning a lot, and I’ve got a hunch you can too!