Thursday, February 5, 2015


We are working on the 3rd edition of The Disney Way.  We are interested in examples of organizations that embrace the Dream, Believe, Dare, Do principles.

We want to know...

1.  Why Disney?  Why The Disney Way is right for your culture
2.  How have you been implementing The Disney Way?  How long?
3.  What results can you claim from your implementation?



Monday, November 3, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Disney Way Strategic Planning with Storyboarding

The storyboarding process is like building a house; it requires a logical progression. Just as a house begins with the architect’s conceptual rendering and then moves through the various stages—foundation, sub-flooring, walls, and roof—the storyboard process starts with the “concept,” or the problem to be solved, and moves along in a creative exchange of ideas and suggestions until the desired solution has taken shape.

Walt once said, “We don’t allow geniuses here.”  And, Walt did not feel that creativity was just for right-brainers.  He felt that everyone was creative.  All we have to do is invite people to a session in which they can unleash their creative energies to solve a problem in a team atmosphere.  Storyboarding helps you do just that.

Taking the time and effort to plan early is well worth the investment.  If you change something in the planning stage, it costs you a dollar. If you change something in the design phase, it costs you ten dollars. If you change something after the product is built, it costs you a hundred dollars.  

In your annual strategic planning process, don't forget to construct a planning storyboard. Think of what dreams and goals you and your team wish to accomplish, and let the storyboarding process help get your collective creative energies flowing!

Storyboarding - Chapter 10 - The Disney Way

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Disney Customer Service in Government?

Beautiful Ottawa County is located in the southwestern section of Michigan's lower peninsula. Its western boundary is formed by Lake Michigan and its eastern boundary is approximately 30 miles inland.  
Today the County has a population of 260,364 inhabitants and is the 8th most populous county in the state. 

Why Customer Service in County Government?

Most counties consider customer service as a distraction from doing their real work.  At least in the private sector, competitive forces provide an incentive to emulate the outstanding customer service icons like Disney, Starbucks, Zappos or Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.   So, what difference does it make to have an outstanding Disney-like customer-centric culture in the public sector?  Surely, counties have a monopoly on their services!

Each year, Ottawa County welcomes millions of visitors to its vacation playground. In Holland, people from all over the world come to the Tulip Time festival in the spring.  (It is the third largest such festival in the United States.) Ottawa County's convenient location and rarely-too-warm summer climate have made it a mecca for sportsmen and vacationers alike.  

So, why should this County, with all of its considerable assets, be concerned with customer service?  Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator, said, "we owe great service to our citizens, our employees and it’s good business….”

For example, when a new business locates within a region, the impact on employment is: (1) a direct impact from the jobs provided by the business itself; (2) an indirect impact if the business buys production materials and services locally; and (3) an induced impact or multiplier effect from the flow of wages spent by new employees, which may provide new jobs in other businesses and in turn the spending of those wages--on and on.  San Jose State University Department of Economics reports that the regional employment multiplier ranges from 1.28 – 3.67.

That means that if a business locates within your county and provides 100 new jobs,  a range from 28 to 267 additional jobs will be created to support the new business.  So if a visiting executive has a good customer serve experience with your county, it certainly may help their decision to locate there, but if they have a terrible customer experience in your county, they will likely choose another place to put down roots. 
As part of a total company-wide improvement effort in 2010,  Al Vanderberg began an Ottawa Way Customer Service Initiative.  After reading The Disney Way, Al contacted Bill Capodagli to help Ottawa County adopt a Disney-like customer service culture.

The Journey Begins

In the fall of 2012, Bill Capodagli began working with Al and his Customer Service Steering Team.  The Steering Team is comprised of the key leaders from 33 departments.  The first step was for the Steering Team to understand and become totally immersed in the Disney Way Experience through a series of workshops.
During the initial presentation and discussions, Al and his team came to the realization that although the 33 departments ranged from law enforcement to social services, the same Disney Way Experience Model should drive them all.

 Front-Line Management Buy-in

The next step to implementing The Ottawa Way Customer Service culture was a 3-day Leadership Workshop for approximately 100 first-line leaders. 
Becoming “customer-centric” is not an activity to be “checked off” during an annual strategic planning process or meaningless performance reviews.  An organization-wide cultural change driven by top management is required for success.  Ultimately, the Dream/Vision, Values and Culture of the organization must be embraced by all employees for the transformation to be realized.   Front-line leadership must not only embrace the new culture they must believe that they have ownership in its development and results. 

The Roll-out

Upon completion of the Leadership Workshops, Al mandated a 3-day Ottawa Way Customer Service Training for all employees.  For the ensuing year, approximately 60-100 employees participated in the training on a monthly basis. You may be asking, “Why does this training need to be conducted over three days?”  A well-trained presenter could deliver the principles in less than a day.  However, if it was that simple, countless organizations would be as magical as Disney!

When employees arrive at the 3-day training, they do so with a set of values that has been ingrained in them over the course of their employment.  Now they are expected to embrace a new set of values, yet they need time to realize that the old values are no longer the best for the organization as a whole.  Through a series of exercises and discussions over the three days, most employees embraced the new values.

The “Hot Seat”

During the afternoon of the second day of the Ottawa Way Customer Service Training, participants experience the “Hot Seat.”.  Al Vanderberg and two of the Steering Team department heads become the “Hot Seat” panel.  Participants are invited to ask the panel any questions pertaining to the Ottawa Way Customer Service Initiative or County operations.  

The purpose of the “Hot Seat” is two-fold.  First:  Top leaders being available, displaying candor and demonstrating support to employees; Secondly: Establishing trust and open communication between top management and the work force

“Brain Trust” Follow-up

 “A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas” – Ed Catmull, President of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

The key to any cultural transformation is frontline leadership.  Their diligent commitment to embracing a shared set of values, attitudes and behaviors is absolutely essential to creating a customer-centric culture.

The Ottawa Way will continue into 2015 with a newly created Leadership "Brain Trust" comprised of 15-20 leaders and a facilitator.  The leaders will complete a Customer Service Implementation Questionnaire with the goal of achieving excellence in categories such as Elements of the Customer Experience and Removal of Barriers to Pride in Workmanship.

Congratulations to Al Vanderberg and his entire workforce for staying the course to achieve "Disney Way" customer-centric cultural excellence!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pixar Brings the Magic of Walt Disney Back to Disney: Part 2 - True Love

by Bill Capodagli

President of Disney and Pixar Studios, Ed Catmull, and John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of the Studios have scored the highest accolade for Disney Animation – Best Animated Feature Film – with their smash hit Frozen.  This is their first such award since it was created in 2001.

The overall message in Frozen is that an act of true love conquers all.  In the final moments of the film, The Snow Queen of Arendelle – Princess Elsa – accidentally freezes the heart of her younger sister, Princess Anna.  Sadly, unless Anna’s heart is thawed by an "act of true love", she will become frozen forever.

A few scenes later, Anna realizes that her beloved Prince Hans is ready to kill Elsa, and refuses to let this happen.  As she hurls herself between the two to save her sister Elsa, she instantly freezes solid.  Anna’s decision to sacrifice herself to save her sister is indeed an "act of true love."  At last, Elsa’s pain turns to joy as Anna begins to thaw right before her eyes! 

Early in Pixar’s history, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter had made a decision that may have sacrificed the very existence of Pixar.  During the creation of Toy Story, their partner, Disney (this was prior to Disney’s acquisition of Pixar in 2006) wanted Woody to be sinister and the movie to be darker.  Remember back…this was Pixar’s big break!  Until Toy Story, Pixar was struggling to keep its doors open.  The project was the opportunity of a lifetime…Disney would produce, co-finance, and distribute the film.  

Based on Disney’s demands, John and his team began to make the film darker and darker.  Then one-day, John said he realized that he wasn’t making the film of his dreams and that he was allowing the Disney executives to steal his passion.  Finally, John and his team decided to push back and challenge their demands.  When the Disney executives realized John’s indignation, they told him to pack up and move his entire team to Disney’s Burbank Studios.  But, John begged for just two more weeks to fix all the things that the Disney executives felt were wrong with the film.  John and his team literally worked around the clock, but they resurrected the original storyline.  Disney was truly amazed, and the results were magical! 

In the same spirit as Princess Anna, John threw himself in front of the Disney “bullies” in order to save the story of Woody and Buzz that he wanted to tell.  Without that act of “true love”, I doubt that Pixar would have been able to produce their string of phenomenal blockbuster hits, nor would they have had the opportunity to bring the magic back to Disney Animation with the Academy-award winning Frozen.