Capodagli, B. and L. Jackson. 1999. The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company. McGraw-Hill.
Summary by Colleen McGinn-Cardwell
Master of Business Administration Program
University of South Florida, Summer 2003
Leadership Main Page | Strategy Related Main Page
The authors outline the leadership and motivational strategies that have contributed to the success of the Disney Company. They discuss practical ways to incorporate these strategies into other organizations.
Walt Disney’s 4 core concepts:
to Dream, to Believe, to Dare and to Do.
The Disney Company’s 10 Management Principles:
1) Make Everyone’s Dreams Come True
2) You Better Believe It
3) Never a Customer, Always a Guest
4) All for One and One for All
5) Share the Spotlight
6) Dare to Dare
7) Practice, Practice, Practice
8) Make Your Elephant Fly
9) Capture the Magic with Storyboards
10) Give Details Top Billing
In their book titled “The Disney Way”, the
authors Capodagli and Jackson examine the leadership and motivational
strategies at the Disney Company. Its
founder, Walt Disney, is credited as the creative genius leading this one-time
cartoon production studio to become a multi-billion dollar entertainment
industry recognized worldwide. The
authors, Fortune 100 consultants by trade, outline the methods they have
successfully used to integrate the Disney management principles into other
The authors explain that Walt Disney was consistently guided in his work
by 4 concepts: to Dream, to Believe, to Dare and to Do. These concepts have become the foundation of the 10 management principles
that remain to this day at the heart of every Disney strategy, despite almost 40
years since Walt Disney’s death. Although
outlined as 10 separate principles, the authors stress the importance of the
collective integration and interplay of all of the principles.
The first Disney management principle, “Make Everyone’s Dream Come
True”, outlines the importance of allowing members of the organization to
dream and develop their creative talents. The
Disney Company employs hundreds of “Imagineers” whose sole purpose is to
develop creative ideas. But this
creative spirit is not limited to the Imagineers. The organization fosters a culture of creativity in all of its employees. This encourages participation and is credited with
a decreased turnover
rate as compared to the industry’s competitors.
The second principle, “You Better Believe It”, examines the
importance of a clear understanding of the basic beliefs and core values of the
company. Product and service
excellence is dependent on each employee’s understanding of the expectations
and methods of prioritization.
Thirdly, Disney is guided by the principle “Never a Customer, Always a
Guest”. To this day, a visitor to
a Disney theme park is always referred to as a guest. Walt Disney was insistent on being able to understand the wishes and
needs of his guests. He believed
that guests deserve respect and honesty. The
authors outline that to best examine how an organization values its clients, one
only needs to evaluate how the organization deals with complains. Walt Disney felt that solving guests problems sparks innovation.
The forth principle, “All for One and One for All”, highlights the
importance of teamwork and empowerment of the employees. Teamwork is described as a method of fostering intense loyalty,
enthusiasm and commitment. Because
the focus at the Disney Company is to make sure that each guest has a memorable
and pleasant experience, it doesn’t matter whose “job” it is to pick up a
piece of trash. It becomes everyone’s responsibility. The book notes that even the current CEO, Michael Eisner, is compelled to
pick up trash. Michael Eisner is
also continuing in Walt Disney’s legacy in fostering empowerment among his
employees. It is not uncommon for
him to be touring one of Disney’s theme parks, requesting and implementing the
opinions of his frontline workers.
Disney management has adopted “Share the Spotlight” as its fifth
principle, which outlines the importance of partnerships with other companies.
Instead of utilizing a Disney group of musicians, the Philadelphia
Philharmonic became a critical partner in the success of the Disney film
“Fantasia”. Other large partners
have included General Motors, Nestle, and Mattel. Every Disney supplier, big or
small, is treated with respect. The
Disney theme parks have specific reception areas for vendors to sign in, get
directions, and receive coffee and use the telephone. Walt Disney felt that partnerships help expand the possibilities,
although he did feel that the partnership with like-minded people was critical.
The sixth principle, “Dare to Dare”, encourages risk-taking as a
method of cultivating innovative ideas. Although
the company’s success is a result of the risks that Walt has taken, he does
stress that risks need to be calculated risks, based on solid fundamentals. For Walt, the fundamental trademark was whether the risk passed his
“family entertainment” test.
Many of the aforementioned principles are dependent on the seventh
principle, “Practice, Practice, Practice”, which outlines the importance of
formal and continuous training. Employees
are trained at the “
The eighth principle, “Make Your Elephant Fly”, stresses planning.
The long term vision must be aligned with short term execution. Walt Disney recognized that although creativity does require space to
grow, the generation of ideas is considered part of the corporate process and
requires careful management. This
Project Management Process facilitates communication and the holistic thinking
that everyone is working for the common good.
“Capture the Magic with Storyboards” is Disney’s ninth management
principle. It outlines the
usefulness of the storyboard technique as a method to generate solutions and to
enhance communication. Walt Disney
is credited to have conceived “Storyboarding” which, for the cartoon
industry, is an effective method to keep track of thousands of drawings
necessary to achieve full animation of cartoon features. Today, the technique has spread to many areas of the organizational
process. It is helpful in
conceptualizing a mission statement, in the analysis of barriers and in the
creation of team solutions. It
breaks situations into smaller, more manageable parts and focuses group
attention on specific aspects of the problem.
The tenth and final principle, “Give Details Top Billing”, outlines
the importance of paying attention to detail. Walt Disney was relentlessly searching for perfection and always asking
how something could be improved. Nonetheless,
he recognized the need to have a careful balance between the financial bottom
line and the quest for perfection, otherwise details can become expensive.
Paying attention to detail also means measuring results to ensure that
the effort matches the outcome.
Walt Disney is truly a remarkable man, as outlined by the continued success of the organization he started in 1922. The Disney management principles have over time proven themselves true to the success of the organization. The authors of this book have outlined practical methods to make these principles equally applicable to organizations of all sectors. This book is not only interesting but useful and methodical. It is a recommended book for any manager.