What I Learned on My Summer Vacation
By Peter DeHaan
fall, the thoughts of school age children everywhere are focused on
returning to school. Some approach the new school
year with dread and trepidation, a few with excitement and high
expectation, and others with inevitable acquiescence and acceptance.
Regardless of their personal perspective, many will be faced
with the traditional writing assignment, “What I Did on My Summer
I did, or more precisely, what my family did on our summer vacation is
not noteworthy or unique as far as family vacations go. True,
the time together as a family was special and the memories will last
forever. The time of bonding, through both the high
points and the not so high points, fostered a deepened understanding
of each other and a renewed respect for our individuality and
divergent personalities. My daughter summed it up
succinctly, “Ya know, this is kinda like a once-in-a-lifetime
issues aside, it was also a vacation for me. It is
one thing to take a vacation from the office; it is another to take a
vacation from work. Taking a vacation from the
office means you aren’t there physically, but you’re still there
mentally. Taking a vacation from work, means
leaving work behind completely. That was my goal;
one that I accomplished with a considerable degree of success.
Nevertheless, our vacation experience did bring to mind some
vacation was a pull-out-all-the-stops, eight-day adventure at Disney
World. The Disney experience and their unique
vision for achieving high “customer satisfaction” is legendary and
has been the focus of many a discourse. While true
and correct, customer satisfaction was not the central theme of the
three insights I gained.
is not only inevitable, it is also necessary and must be ongoing: At
each of the parks we visited, we would see signs of change.
At Epcot Center, one whole attraction was being demolished; at
MGM, shows present just a few months prior were nowhere to be seen,
replaced with newer, fresher alternatives. The
Magic Kingdom had one area boarded up with the simple explanation,
“New attraction under development.” Some rides
were shut down for “maintenance,” other areas were being expanded,
and new developments were being squeezed in where space permitted.
Disney, with its reputation as the premier family entertainment
company in the world, is continually reinventing itself. If
this is necessary for them, then it is all the more true for us.
you’re not making an ongoing effort to keep your business fresh and
moving forward, then the rest of the industry is going to pass you by;
don’t get left behind. The moment you assume that
you have everything in place could signal the beginning of the end for
lasts forever – no matter how good the idea: Several standard
fixtures of the Magic Kingdom had been impacted by the march of time.
The ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was no more; the lagoon
still exists, but the attraction has disappeared. The
Tiki-Hut was “Under New Management,” and “It’s a Small
World” was, well, smaller – the portion of the ride outside of the
building had been eliminated.
Disney, which has been thus far successful in re-releasing its
animated movies every seven years for a new batch of kids, knows that
no attraction will draw visitors and hold their interest perpetually.
The same is true for all organizations.
innovation will last forever, no paradigm is without end, and no idea
cannot be bettered. Today’s revolutionary,
earth-shattering development is nothing more than tomorrow’s status
is key: Despite
all of the technology, all of the marketing, and all of the
organization and structure, the key to Disney World’s ongoing
success resides with its people. As I watched
Disney employees in action, their performances (remember, all Disney
employees are “cast members”) were on a higher level than any
other organization I’ve encountered. Certainly
they outshone everyone at the airline, which brought us to Orlando, as
well as the employees of the shuttle bus company, which took us from
airport to hotel, but they also outpaced those at other theme parks.
How? Quite simply, they acted as though they
enjoyed their work. They appeared to be saying,
“I have a choice on how I do my job. I can do
what’s minimally required to get by or with little more than an
attitude change, I can make my job really enjoyable – for both
myself and those around me.” I assume their
training played a big part in this, but I also saw many of them switch
jobs frequently and conclude that variety and variation played a key
role as well.
are lessons we can apply directly to our businesses. Yes,
we all advocate training, but do we really practice what we preach?
Do we provide ongoing training, as well as coaching, mentoring,
and career-path development? All are required if we
are to have employees who outshine the competition. In short,
merely give our staff enough training and support to get by or do we
give them enough training so they can excel?
is highly unlikely that your organization will ever achieve the status
or prominence of Disney. However, we can all aspire
to improve our business and take it to the next level. Rather
than be overwhelmed by the formative challenge that the Disney example
sets and the enormity of the task before us, we are well advised to
start small and put things in proper perspective by recalling the
humble words of Walt Disney himself when he stated, “Remember, it
all started with a mouse.”
is Inevitable and Necessary: Make
an ongoing effort to keep your business fresh and moving forward.
Lasts Forever: The
edge your business enjoys today will not sustain it tomorrow.
Staff is the Key: Give
your employees the training needed to excel.
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