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Today, more than ever before, organizations realize the importance of nurturing its employees to lead the organization towards long term growth and success. However, it was observed that through the years, many companies are not able to stay sustainable due to missing developmental opportunities or challenging business environments. Thus, today's paper seeks to perform a book review on The Disney Way by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, to understand the developmental programs at The Walt Disney Company (DIS); and how it can help companies achieve profitability and competitiveness in an increasingly volatile marketplace of the 21st century.
The book review paper includes a fundamental research study on Disney's company profile in Section II; followed by Section III and Section IV which aims to discover key insights to Disney's core management principles and corporate strategies; after which Section V will address the key takeaways from The Disney Way and last but not least, Section VI will conclude the paper.
II. Why Disney?
Being perceived as the driving force for growth in the family entertainment industry, Disney provides creative products, and a dynamic environment aimed at maintaining and expanding its media presence worldwide. Disney currently has five main business segments: (1) Media Networks (television and internet operations), Parks and Resorts (theme parks, holiday hotels and other traveling-relevant establishments), Studio Entertainment (Disney studio, soundtrack recording and theatrical & visual divisions), Consumer Products (play toys, Disney brand clothing and merchandises) and Interactive Media (Disney's varied websites, video games and online entertainment).
These five subsidiaries have equally contributed to Walt Disney's vision of building the "Most Magical Place on Earth"; thus compelling Disney to sustain its top talents in an increasingly competitive business environment. Hence, Disney is a natural fit for the authors to pen the book: The Disney Way; as first and foremost, Human Resource (HR) played an essential component at Disney and second, Disney has adopted specific strategic measures that contributed exceptionally in building Disney to become a prominent, prevailing and comprehensive company it is today.
Through The Disney Way, the authors also seeks to share Disney's valuable insights; internal dynamics, knowledge and experiences; to help other businesses advance a valuable workforce within its organization.
Disney at a Glance
The Walt Disney Company (DIS) or Disney was formed on October 16, 1923. It is the world's largest brand in family entertainment; serving consumers through its 5 core business areas as mentioned above. As of 2011, the company operates in over 40 countries, hiring 156,000 employees and cast members worldwide.
One of Disney's key responsibilities is to create a conducive, innovative and competitive work environment that is pro-consumer and pro-business. To support growth of the entertainment industry as well as to increase the bandwidth of media and theatrical related activities throughout the world, Disney over the years have been building and acquiring many large media and mass communications companies to enhance the company's existential product and services.
At present, Disney is best known for its picture films such as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. These films were all produced in the iconic Walt Disney Studios. Apart from cartoon animations, Disney also runs ABC Studios, The Disney Channel, ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network), and A+ E Networks. Today, Disney owns and license 14 theme parks globally and still uses its longest standing cartoon character: Mickey Mouse, as its official mascot.
III. Walt Disney's 4 Core Concepts
As a progressive organization that nurtures and develops its people, Disney provides a challenging; yet, enjoyable working environment for its employee's to grow, both personally and professionally. The authors of The Disney Way have highlighted four core concepts that primarily shaped Disney's organizational culture and they are: 1) Dream, 2) Believe, 3) Dare and 4) Do.
(A) Dream: #1
The first core concept at Disney is Dream. Disney encourages its employees to dream of concepts and ideas for the company. In order to cultivate his employee's imaginative faculties, Disney took his cast members on excursion trips, where a creative environment is presented to stimulate his team's imaginations; which facilitated the brainstorming and idea generation activities.
The Dream concept was also implemented to employees at all levels of the organization; thereby created a positive impact on his employee's career experiences, attitudes and expectations. Having diverse sets of ideas from bottom to top management also enables Disney to have flexible workforce, which is key in remaining competitive in the marketplace. Also, Disney was able to rely on its management team's internal knowledge and experiences rather than searching for ideas from an unfamiliar source; which could prove costly and ineffective.
(B) Believe: #2
The second core concept at the Disney is Believe. Disney's Believe concept is anchored on twin principles of being committed to personal beliefs and sharing personal values with everyone in the organization. Since Disney's employees was encouraged to share their views, ideas and opinion regardless of their position held with the company, Disney's employees felt treasured, valued and empowered. This played a pivotal role in reducing employee turnover, while at the same time increased employee's engagement towards Disney and its customers.
(C) Dare: #3
The third core concept at Disney is Dare. In order to remain competitive, it is in the first place necessary to allowing employees to feel acceptable making mistakes. Part of the Disney's success was hinged on Walt Disney's willingness to take the risk; even if that means that he has to make mistakes along the way.
However, it is also important to note that despite Disney's risk taking persona, he held a strong set of personal values which enabled the company manage risk. For instance, newly proposed projects had to meet certain requirements before they can be implemented. This helped the company cut back on the underlining disadvantage of risk taking, placing Disney in a much more favoured position to manage risk.
(D) Do: #4
The forth concept at the Disney is Do. In order to successfully nurture creativity, Disney saw the importance in ensuring that its employeesï€also its most important resource, received the best holistic training and development programs; where they are able to make outstanding contributions to the organization.
Disney has thus far strengthened its employee's competencies by adopting the Performance Learning Cycle (PLC) framework in its HR training program, which facilitates formalized learning channels through 4 crucial stages: (1) Training, by empowering employees through acquisition of relevant skillsets; (2) Focused Experiences, through practice sessions where employees practice their new skillsets with role playing under a supervised environment to improve their capabilities in meeting customer's actual needs; (3) Results, via appraising employee in his/her effectiveness in meeting customer-centric standards; (4) Recognition, through Disney's display of appreciation, to stimulate intrinsic motivation needed to attain a desired end result.
With the PLC, Disney's training program is thus both extensive and intensive; since training programs do not simply adopt a "cookie-cutter" approach of a one-size-fits-all solution; but rather, training materials are tailored specifically to each individual learning needs; thereby ensuring effectiveness of the training programs at Disney.
IV. disney's 10 Management Principles
This chapter aims to further list 10 Management Principles of Disney; which encompasses the four core concepts of: (1) Dream, (2) Believe, (3) Do and (4) Dare.
(A) Make Everyone's Dreams Come True: #1- Dream
Firstly, the Disney principle "Make Everyone's Dreams Come True" under the Dream concept highlights the importance of fostering participation; where the organization can come together as a collective whole; to work as one, towards yielding outstanding contributions for Disney.
Historically, Walt Disney used to communicate his visions in a highly detailed-oriented and inspiring manner. For instance, he insisted on the castle at Disney Theme Park to be built first before anything else, so that the standing physical structure can powerfully stimulate the feelings of excitement and commitment needed to materialize the vision. Walt Disney thereby formed a highly creative working environment in which employees can perform at their best.
As a result of Disney's large scale undertakings, Disney employees can anticipate a period of career growth opportunities and promotions as its ambitious corporate goals would progressively require employees to demonstrate new skills and competencies.
(B) You better believe it: #2- Believe
Secondly, the Disney principle "You Better Believe It" under the Believe concept outlined the importance of ensuring employees understood the company's formal expectations and objectives; so that they can engage in the right beliefs and attitudes needed to advance the interests of Disney.
For instance, Walt Disney wanted all employees to show courtesy to its customers. This policy was also applied to employees in the lower ranks of the organization such as security officersï€ even though the cost of training officers was more expensive than outsourcing the job, Disney nevertheless viewed it as a compulsory policy, in order to ensure that courtesy was firmly ingrained in its corporate culture. This resulted in stronger brand equity for the Disney brand, as customers felt welcomed and treasured whenever they visited Disney's theme parks as well as its other accommodations and attractions.
(C) Never a customer, Always a guest: #3-Believe
The third Disney principle "Never A Customer, Always A Guest" under the Believe concept, illustrates Disney's appreciation for its customer. It has always been part of Disney's tradition to treat each and every customer as guest. Over the years, many of Disney's films and movies have been observed to echo the theme of viewing customers as guest. For instance, in the 1991 picture film of "Beauty and The Beast", one of its best known songs was entitled "Be Our Guest"; which coincides with the company's deep abiding philosophy to always treat customers as guest. Due to Disney's immense efforts to inform customers that they are the company's top priority; customers can thus expect to receive only the best service standards in the industry.
(D) All for one, one for all: #4- Believe
Next, the forth Disney principle "All For One and One For All" under the Believe concept, addresses the power of teamwork. To support growth, Disney made it clear to all employees that each and every one of them have to assume equal responsibility regardless of the individual's position within the company. Even then CEO, Michael Eisner, had to make ground visits to front line employees at the Disney Theme Parks to receive feedback. This non-discriminatory and an all-inclusive work environment fostered trust, teamwork and cohesiveness amongst all employees through fairness and equality; where employees feel obliged and motivated to give their best.
(E) Share the spotlight: #5- Believe
The fifth Disney principle "Share the Spotlight" under the Believe concept, recognizes that through harnessing partnerships, it can improve business productivity and competitiveness. For instance, Disney hired the Philadelphia Philharmonics to produce the music soundtrack in the 1940 Animated Film "Fantasia", instead of subscribing to their in-house group of musicians. With the new music partnership, a new stereophonic sound was invented and produced for the picture film and to date; "Fantasia" was the 22nd highest grossing film of all time in the United States.
This illustrates that organizations can strengthen its existing capabilities through joint partnerships to create a dynamic organization. Disney has since partnered with other large organizations such as DreamWorks Animation (DWA) and General Motors (GM); to achieve and realize its company's far-reaching corporate goals.
(F) Dare to Dare: #6- Dare
The sixth Disney Principle "Dare To Dare" under the Dare concept, addresses the need for a company to take calculated risks. Disney for instance took a calculated risk by disclosing some of the more confidential corporate information to employees in the lower-levels of the organization. Despite uncertainties, Walt Disney went ahead to keep all employees equally well-informed; irregardless if one holds a senior position or a relatively low ranked job. Ultimately, the risk paid off and today, due to the company's transparency and its open communications with its employees, Disney was able to communicate its corporate objectives and plans clearly and effectively; where everyone understood their roles and responsibilities. This enabled projects to be completed more productively and efficiently; thereby reducing cycle time; which resulted in overall cost savings for the company.
(G) Practice, Practice, Practice: #7-Do
The seventh Disney principle of "Practice, Practice, Practice" under the Do concept describes Disney's commitment in providing abundant learning and developmental opportunities to its employees. For instance, Disney provides a "refreshment" course for those employees who have completed the mandatory Performance Learning Cycle (PLC) training track.
Under the reinforcement course; revision, coaching and recognition programs are implemented where employees can polish up on their existing skillsets; while improving on their weaknesses so that they can maintain and preserve the level of competency that is required of them. Ultimately, the purpose of the refreshment course is assembled to promote self-improvement amongst its employees; so that in the long run, they are able to accumulate important skillsets, to become a valuable part of the organization.
(H) Make your elephant fly: #8-Do
The eighth principle highlights the concept of "Make Your Elephant Fly" under the Do concept. In this section, the author stressed the need for managing creativity through planning and preparation. In The Disney Way, Walt Disney was analyzed to have adopted a highly organized management style when producing animated pictures. Hence this principle thus revealed that even a highly creative company like Disney required management skills; assessment guidelines and plenty of preparatory work to establish a strong foundation for the project to build up momentum and take shape as it is being implemented.
(I) Capture the magic with storyboards: #9-Do
"Capturing the Magic with Storyboards" is the 9th principle under the Do concept. It highlights the effective use a creative technique called the storyboard method; in which a structural group exercise is formulated; to record the thoughts and ideas of an assembly of participants. It was observed by the authors that apart from Disney, many present-day organizations also employ the "storyboard" technique to promote better dialogue and interaction between the company and its employees. The technique also tends to highlight strong likes and dislikes about a given subject matter. Thus, the storyboard technique is a useful mechanism for companies who seek absolute and definitive responses. Besides its resolute aspects, the storyboard technique can also assist an organization in research studies or during a decision making process.
(j) Give details top billing: #10-Do
The tenth and final principle, "Give Details Top Billing", outlines the importance of paying close attention to details. One key factor the authors noted was Walt Disney's steadfast pursuit for perfection through his fastidious attention to detail. From the groundskeepers at the theme parks to the number crunchers in the finance department, Walt Disney never missed out on anyone and even held employees in the lowest of ranks responsible to do whatever it takes to put on the best displays for its customers.
Paying attention to detail also meant recognizing the need to strike a fine balance between cultivating perfection and the organization's bottom line; otherwise details become unsustainable. Thus, organizations which have a similar perfectionist trait like Walt Disney; needs to allocate resources efficiently so that perfection does not get in the way of the financial health of the organization.
V. Key Takeaways from the Disney Way
After reviewing Disney's background, Disney's 4 core concept as well as Disney's 10 management principles, it is now time to summarize the key takeaways from The Disney Way.
Overall, Walt Disney considered four key success factors in building a successful organization: First, one must have the courage to envision and dream; second, one must believe in solid values; third, one must dare go after one's vision, and forth, one must venture out to do it. Walt Disney's unwavering philosophy of creating a magical experience for his customers; showcased how success was achieved his way-through uncommon discipline and preparation, but with lots of excitement, creativity and enthusiasm along the way.
Moving into the 10 management principles of Disney; like Edward Deming's Total Quality Management (TQM)  , Disney wanted to provide customer service of the highest standards that it could possibly offer, by ensuring every employee had a role to play in contributing to only the most excellent products and services.
Additionally, the 10 management principles of Disney; like IDEO (Innovation, Design Engineering Organization) a design and innovative consulting firm, practices a non-hierarchical organization culture. IDEO's employees are not rewarded based on their seniority or rank with the company, but instead are rewarded based on the number of projects that the employee undertake. Similarly, offering each employee equal opportunities to speak up as well as through Walt Disney's willingness to disclose corporate information to everyone in the organization, Disney dissolved any existential hierarchy barriers and was able to effectively convey the important message to all that no one is more or less important than the other and every employees had an equally important role to play within the organization. More importantly, Disney provided an environment that is both productive and enjoyable; fostering a culture where employees are confident in realizing their full potential and fulfill their career aspirations.
Currently, The Disney Way has highlighted Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts, Ernst & Young, The Cheesecake Factory and Men's Warehouse as some of today's most recognized and established businesses to have adopted Disney's 4 core concepts in their daily operations.
Looking at future developments, The Disney Way revealed that building or scaling up a company does not require adopting highly complex frameworks: but one that can be as straightforward as Disney's 4 core concepts of (1) Dream, (2) Believe, (3) Dare and (4) Do. Companies can also look to the dynamic environment of Disney to boost its organization's internal Human Resource (HR) capabilities i.e. cultivating teamwork and adopting a philosophy of a people first mindset; since each employee's output and creative performance does contribute significantly to an organization's growth and long-term success. In a nutshell, this book is recommended to businesses both large and small because it provides very original, simple and insightful ways of managing an organization.
Capodagli, B., and Jackson, L. 2007. The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Education (U.S.A.).