Richard Batchelor

Change Management & Strategic Human Resources

December 7 2011

Change management Disney Style (Part 2)

Following on from my previous blog post, I am now going to share more insight from the magical wonderland that is Disney. Well actually the pause for thoughts I had with some other experiences whilst on vacation there.

Every day there are a series of parades and presentations at various places across the park. These are high profile, themed events with a significant number of Disney characters. The parades are less interactive but a number of the events are far more interactive with both kids and adults alike being pulled into the atmosphere and getting engaged with the “stars”. Viewing this put a permanent smile on all around as well as those involved. The whole atmosphere was taken up to a happier fun time – a true Disney magic moment!

What did I learn from these events? It made me think of organizational culture and the way change managers work with businesses to influence and encourage a more receptive audience within the business. If a business decides to restructure, change its processes or reposition itself – one of the key roles of getting the business ready for the change is to help the people understand and be receptive to the change. All the explanations in the world can be made, but if you stick to a system of talking at people, the likelihood is that they won’t engage with the new ethos, culture or approach. But getting them to take an active part in the change process, including them in the development and delivery produces a different take on the change. Their involvement encourages not just acceptance of the upcoming change, but also promotes a cultural shift within the organization to embrace the change and no doubt take it on far faster than otherwise. So my recommendation is to get the people involved in the change development, develop change agents in the business from those at the front of the acceptance line and take forward the change as an engaging and inclusive experience and never just tell people about the change.

I noticed that there are two types of eating establishments at the core of Disney food provision. One involves an all as you can eat menu, with a fixed price and a buffet style of food gathering. The second is the table based service, where you order from a menu and pay for what you order. Now I never went to any of the buffet – all you can eat fiestas, preferring to choose specific items, but they were extremely popular. This made me think about the amount of effort we put into delivering communications, learning events and explanations of change events. We rarely provide the “buffet” experience. Should we perhaps consider a central point for all information about a change and allow people to come along as and when they want to, gathering as much information as they can manage, but enabling them to come back time and again. Now I have seen that successfully done with project plans and implementation plans for IT delivery, in simple calendar styles and use of internal intranets, information boards and libraries to provide a single point of access to all information about a certain upcoming change. I agree that this has to be supplemented with other engagement activities, but sometimes its worth remembering that different people learn in different ways, and for some that may mean they will learn best by just going and getting information as it arises.

My final point to share about the Disney experience relates to the journey out of there, or more to the point, the problems we had. We were leaving by train, from the Parc Disney - Marne la Vallée-Chessy station, through to London, with a change in Lille. We had done the same journey there and ha a few moments but generally it has gone without issue. However, the TGV train we were supposed to catch up to Lille, was running late. The frustrations I felt in just seeing train departure times pushed back, several times, and every one without communications, is totally understandable. My French is not perfect but good enough to understand station announcements. When over 2 hours later it arrived, I was not best pleased.

However, they put us in first class on the TGV and because we had missed the proper connection in Lille, the stopped a through train to get us to London and equally upgraded us to the top tier on board. So by the time we got to London, almost 2 hours later than planned, we were tired but less angry with the train issue.  What is my point on this train journey? Well apart from good reactions to customer services etc. it gave me two thoughts. The first is to always explain why a change event is being pushed back time and again. A lack of communication, and effective and appropriate communications at that, can disengage people with an upcoming change. Make sure they understand why the delivery dates or go live dates are changed and understand how that will be accounted for. The second point reflects the way we were upgraded on the train. If things are not going well, accept that people will be developing anger and frustration, so perhaps you need to find a way to provide some cream or sugar on top. If the system is being delayed, or the relocation pushed back, can you now provide it with something extra to make the wait worthwhile? Don’t be afraid to push the project sponsor or project manager to deliver a little more than originally planned to make up for the delays and subsequent frustrations.

When planning this vacation, I never expected to find so many opportunities for change management reflection but I guess it just goes to show how much it is an integral part of the way people lead their life and the experience through it reflects the constant change taking place in the world.

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