Disney over-manages its way to success

10 March 2014

NEW YORK: Walt Disney has achieved its current level of success by applying a philosophy of "over-management" to every aspect of its business.

Jeff James, general manager of Disney Institute, the entertainment giant's business development arm, told delegates at BRITE '14 – an event held by the Center on Global Brand Leadership, part of Columbia Business School – that the company did not neglect the finer points that others typically overlooked.

"When you pay attention to those details, things happen in an amazing way in terms of what you can provide for your customers," he said. (For more, including Disney's CARE model for success, read Warc's exclusive report: How Disney delivers magical experiences.)

An example was something as simple as a child dropping an ice-cream they had just bought. In other organisations, James suggested, staff would just clean up the mess but Disney staff were trained to go and get a replacement ice-cream for the child before clearing up.

He distinguished between a person's role and their purpose. A custodial host's task might be to sweep the streets, but that wasn't why they were there. "Your main focus and function is to think about the higher purpose of providing happiness," James declared.

That emphasis has also led Disney to reverse the usual corporate order of priorities. "It is ingrained in our brains that the way we think about our business is cast [staff] –guest [customer] – financial," said James.

"It's all about the cast," he added, "because if you don't have a strong cast … that create that experience, you'll never get there."

And visitors to Disney's parks have high expectations. "We know that people prefer to have an experience over material things," said James. "And at Disney, what we try to do is always create an incredible experience."

Data sourced from Warc