http://fallensorcery.com/newsletter/marianathorn.com One of the concepts that I learned from the Disney Institute that is a personal favorite is the importance of “strategic focus.”
Strategic focus is follow url not micromanagment. Disney defines strategic focus as being intentional where others are unintentional – paying attention to the things most companies and people ignore or undermanage.
I characterize it as observing the big things, the small things, and everything in the middle to make your organization stand out and be special. Managing the experience so that from start to finish every element is the best that it can possibly be.
There are a million, literally, examples of this in Disney parks and resorts. A couple of years ago the http://go2uvm.org/tag/uvm/ Harvard Business Review had a post (http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/03/the-mouse-on-the-manhole/) about manhole covers at Disney parks as one of the “details that don’t need to be there.” Things that you may never overtly notice but that are part of the overall perception of quality. When they are pointed out to you, you say wow!
I have not been even close to being as successful at strategic focus as Disney. In part because to do it like they do takes more money than any role I have been in – and I made the wonderful “mistake” of a career in the not-for-profit world!
But Disney teaches that you can still use the concept and be very successful even with limited resources. I know that it is possible because I have tried it.
Let me give you a couple of personal experiences where I think I used strategic focus and see if it will give you some ideas how you can too in your leadership role.
(Some of you who have worked for me might now understand why we did some of these things!)
At the Philmont Training Center (PTC) we always flew the flags on the poles in front of the office. Not only was it the right thing to do at the national training center of the Boy Scouts of America, but the flags flying against the background of Trail Peak, Urraca Mesa, and the beautiful blue New Mexico sky as a guest drove in was an important and welcoming visual image.
We put photos and paintings of Philmont in all the guest rooms, the Assembly Hall, walkways, and classrooms. They gave people another visual image. This time of what happened at the ranch – now and in the past. (More about the role of things like this in a future post about “culture.”)
Housing also included bedside lamps, alarm clocks, coffee makers, irons and ironing boards, and microwaves in the rooms. Philmont brands were on the curtains – hand stenciled by some “crafty” staff members.
When we set up the Assembly Hall at PTC for events all the chairs were the same color and style – except for a row of silver ones we put in the front row for faculty – and were lined up neatly. Window blinds were all open – so that the parents could see their children having fun and see the beauty of Philmont – and were raised to the same level in every window. The chairs and things on the stage were neatly arranged and flags were in the proper place.
When I arrived in Kennewick the lobby of the service center was very cluttered. To Janet and me it was not a welcoming, or professional, first impression. So we bought (wooden) file cabinets for all the “stuff,” opened up the entry way, added seating areas to make it “homey” and welcoming, and put up things on the walls that told the story of the council.
I could give you more examples, and these are small details for sure. And pretty cheap. But they each had a part in meeting our “customers” high expectations of the facilities and gaving them a positive impression of our facilities even before any interaction with a human.
Think about how you can use strategic focus for a meeting or event. Are things organized and ready to go when participants come in the door? Is someone at the door welcoming them? Or is there chaos as you try to finish up last details? At the Disney Institute, PTC, and the BSA’s Center for Professional Development I observed classrooms which were welcoming and exciting. My first impression was that this was something I wanted to a part of and not disorganization.
Perhaps later I will write about some strategic focus of big details (invitations?) and people (uniforms?) too.
Most of these things were probably not overtly noticed by most people who came to PTC or the Glenn C. Lee Scouting Service Center. Like the manholes at Walt Disney World they were mostly subliminal. But they helped us create a perception of quality, and I know that if we did not do any of them the overall picture of our organizations would have been different, and I think not as positive.
I urge you to use strategic focus in your role as a leader. Take the time to listen and just look around. Invite a trusted friend who is not part of your organization to take a look around and experience your services to see what you might be missing.