Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Legacy of Walt Disney

Too many people underestimate the value of a legacy. In fact, too many leaders at all levels of the organization don’t even think about what will happen after they are gone. Oh, sometimes they will have groomed a successor, but even that is hit and miss. For a variety of reasons, leaders have engaged in short term thinking and have equated that with “nimbleness” in the marketplace.

Of course, another way to look at this nimbleness might be directionless.

The validity of thinking long term, creating something bigger than yourself, and leaving a legacy that can be built upon is no further away than Anaheim, CA. or Orlando, FL., or at any one of the other Disney Parks worldwide.

Walt Disney had a vision for something bigger than most people could even grasp. He wanted to build “the happiest place on earth”, where parents could take their children and be able to live in a fantasy world. And he wanted his new “world” to be isolated from surrounding business, and traffic, and congestion in general. To accomplish this new world, Walt Disney purchased over 27,000 acres of land near Orlando. When he announced his plans for his new world people thought he was absolutely crazy. After all, most of that 27,000 acres was swampland and not suitable for building.

I won’t bore you with all of the details but Walt Disney World in Orlando opened for business on October 1, 1971; about 5 years after the death of Walt himself. The fact that his legacy carried on and allowed this park to be built even after his passing is truly extraordinary, but that is just the beginning. Epcot Center was added in 1982, 16 years after his death and the Disney Animal Kingdom was opened in 1998.

Today the tradition continues, and the Magic Kingdom is indeed the “happiest place on earth” just the way Walt envisioned it. If you have visited the Magic Kingdom you are no doubt aware of it’s isolation from surrounding businesses, meaning that you are truly lost in Disney’s world. And, if you are like me, you were stunned by how clean and fresh everything looks all the time. Rides come and rides go, but technology is a key component of the Disney magic, and this company remains in the forefront of their industry and are more nimble than companies 1/3 of their size.

All of this happened because of the dream of Walt Disney and his ability to vest his dream in those around him. He left a clear legacy for his company that guides their decision making even today. Employees at all levels of the organization are introduced to Walt’s legacy, and the culture he created, while morphing over time, remains as strong today as when he first communicated it to his team.

The culture of Disney is not perfect, but it’s an excellent example of what a leader can do if they want to. It’s what they can do if they think big, think broad, and incorporate their vision into the company’s culture. Because the culture you leave behind is the building block for your legacy.

What is the culture that you have built in your organization?

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Dave thanks for the post.

    Walt had a good sense of what Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why calls WHY. It is the purpose of the organization. Many organization start out with a strong sense of purpose and then as they grow and bring in new talent the culture can get diluted.

    By recruiting, selecting, communicating and training your team with WHY in mind vs. the What and the How organizations create the legacies you are talking about.

    Take Good Care,