“Walt Disney would regularly walk through Disneyland, looking for problems or things to improve. He was good at it and always welcomed suggestions. I copied his routine. I continually walked through Disneyland, looking for different things, people problems. Facts are easy to identify, I was looking for feelings that were bothering Cast Members.”
Disney University Founder, Van France
Walt Disney’s strategy of walking the park dates back to the construction phase of Disneyland. He regularly visited the construction site to assess the proportion, or size, of buildings. A common sight was Walt, squatting down, and then looking up at a building from a lower angle. Walt’s equally common comment, “Can you see little kids looking up at this?” kept his planners and designers on their toes. Walt’s determination to view the storefronts and buildings from the vantage point of children ensured the needs of this large population of guests—an often overlooked group—was addressed.
Gather Facts and Feelings
Staying in touch with the front lines and connecting directly with your team and customers involves more than simply reading summaries derived from surveys. The best leaders know nothing can replace human contact. Restaurant owners praise the value of “touching tables.” The most effective ship captains know the value of “leading from the deck.” Walt Disney and Van France “walked the park.” 60 years later — and several generations removed — scores of Disney leaders continue to do so. How do you stay in touch with the front lines to gather facts and feelings from employees and customers? If Walt made the time, anyone can.
Walk the Park
- What is the equivalent of walking the park in your organization? Who does it and how frequently?
- How could this strategy be improved? More people involved? More frequency?
- If leaders aren’t walking the park, what is the excuse?