I recently returned from a vacation to Disney World with the family. I hadn't been there since 1984. Still beautiful. Still a shining example of unparalleled customer service and impeccable presentation.
A few thoughts came to mind while I was there.
1) Words matter. They refer to their employees as "cast members" and their customers as "guests." These are far more than words. They create a mindset that encourages everyone to live the Disney principles. What words can we use that will change the mindset of our people?
2) When it comes to managing projects, Disney has their act together, as evident by the sheer magnitude of their accomplishments and their feats of logistics and technology. I'm now reading The Disney Way
, by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, as well as Inside the Magic Kingdom
by Thomas Connellan to find out a bit more (both are excellent books). Right off the bat, I'm seeing that prioritized core values combined with common sense, appropriate risk-taking, extensive training, and long-term thinking permeate everything they do.
The core values are especially critical, and are what has helped Disney begin its return to form, after a slight detour during an internal civil war (read Disney War
, by James B. Stewart).
More to come.
3) Even our own vacation experience brought an interesting lesson. When preparing for a vacation, I typically do extensive research, exhaustively reading every book on the destination (not unlike Napoleon preparing for a battle). But once I'm there, I'm not so hung up on sticking to a rigid schedule. I like to allow for random discoveries (also not unlike Napoleon).
In this case, we had to reserve the dinners months in advance, so we planned a loose agenda around that (by loose, I mean we planned which parks we wanted to visit each day, along with attractions we didn't want to miss, but we kept things open otherwise). On day 4, we intended to go to Disney's Hollywood Studios, and day 5 our plan was to visit the Animal Kingdom.
The days were mostly 80 degrees and sunny. But lo and behold, on day 4, it was cool and slightly drizzly in the morning. As we waited for the shuttle bus to take us to Disney's Hollywood Studios, I noticed another bus came first---the bus to Animal Kingdom. I made a quick decision, suggesting we hop on the Animal Kingdom bus instead. Of course, my wife looked at me like I had two heads ("What, you're going against the plan???") and my daughter just followed along (she's 6).
Here was my rationale. Having done the research, the Animal Kingdom has no shade and can be exhausting on hot days. By siezing the moment, we could use the cool, overcast day to our advantage at Animal Kingdom, and visit the Hollywood studio the next day.
We hopped on the Animal Kingdom bus, and, luckily, it worked out perfectly. It also served as a reminder that, despite whatever plan may be in place, it pays to be flexible and seize an opportunity, even if it means altering the plan.
Project management is not about blindly following a rigid plan, ignoring the variations that reality brings. It's about doing the up front research, planning, and then adjusting to the current situation and latest information. That's quite a bit different than "winging it."
End of sermon.
Labels: lessons-learned, principles