How to engineer a magical experience for your team and your client.
Everything at Walt Disney World is intentional.
The trees are groomed in such a way that the bees had access to their nectar. Thorns are removed from the cacti within patron reach. The pavement around low fountains changes to a worn, uneven brick pattern that commands subtle attention, reducing the risk of texters and scrollers falling in.
On the safari, you feel like you are so close to the animals. But, invisible to the untrained eye, are ditches, specifically planted foliage, and other ways to ensure patrons are safe. Is it magic or science? Maybe a little of both. It’s clear that Disney studied animal and human behaviors, and that information was used to ensure an immersive but safe experience. But the effect is certainly magical.
Throughout the park, the mechanics are also designed to be invisible. You hear music but don’t see speakers, see projected images but never see projectors, hear and see fireworks but never see barges, boats, or pyrotechnic staff. You never see a groundskeeper, yet the place is immaculate.
During my recent visit, I marveled at the choreography of the rides. It seemed like no seat was left empty for more than 30 seconds before the next rider was seated. Moving floors went at the same speed as the cars, so the line kept moving as customers eased on and off the rides without getting hurt. The effect was almost elegant, like a waltz.
The cast members are specially chosen and perfectly trained. Everyone stays in-character, no matter what; you’re always interacting with Cinderella or Peter Pan – never, ever the actor. The driver of your vehicle doesn’t feel like a Lyft or Uber, but a new friend taking you to one of their favorite places.
The effect was almost elegant, like a waltz.
The overall experience is that you are the center of this wonderful universe. Everything was created, designed, and implemented with you in mind. A visit to Walt Disney World leaves you feeling embraced and cared for.
As I enjoyed my visit, I thought about the Walt Disney World organization needed to create that magical experience. It requires leadership, strategy, science, innovation, and tight management, thousands of skilled employees – the same things that serve any high-performing organization. After my trip to Walt Disney World, I’m trying to put a touch of Disney into my work with clients.
So how can you manage a magical project?
The Magic of Information
- Learn as much about the client and the subject matter as you can. Information is power; it will help you to deliver the best for your client. You might uncover business needs that weren’t part of the original scope. You might find synergies with other initiatives. Doing your research and constantly learning will help you be more agile, making smart decisions and delivering beyond your original scope.
- Science is your friend. There’s a wealth of information out there that can inform your solution. Ground your work in behavioral science, technical knowledge, and lessons learned by organizations who have done similar projects.
The Magic of Invisible Design
- Think about the outcome your client wants, and design everything toward that end. The organization doesn’t need to see what you did to deliver the results; they need the results.
- Take the employee’s point of view. What will they see, hear, read, and experience? How do you want them to feel, think, and act as a result of the program you’re building? That’s what matters. Start by thinking of that end-user experience and their work lives after you have implemented your program. Focus on creating that future state for them.
Think about the outcome your client wants, and design everything toward that end.
The Magic of Seamless Efficiency
- Break down barriers for your team. I like to call this Dragon Slaying. Look ahead to see what dragons may be on the path to slow your team down and remove them. Sometimes this means that the magical dragon poofs into thin air and sometimes it’s mitigating the risk in a way that your team must merely step over the dragon’s lifeless body. Either way, identify and minimize them, ideally before they become a hindrance for your team.
The Magic of Elegant Orchestration
- Keep up with schedules and deliverable dates. Use your project plan as a living document; update it daily, identifying risks, challenges, and wins. Keep detailed notes of and track deliverable status.
- Ensure all team members are aware of the project plan, dates, and outcomes. They need the whole picture, including the hand-offs: what comes before and after a task and how their work affects other team members and teams.
Dragon slaying: Look ahead to see what dragons may be on the path to slow your team down and remove them.
- Ensure smooth sign-offs and transitions as project moves from one stage to the next. Have clear methods for sign-off and task completion. Document and share completion criteria for each task.
- Build strong communication channels across functional areas. Ensure teams know who to communicate with, when, about what, and how. Establish stand-up meetings, status documents, collaboration forums, or anything else that ensures great communication.
The Magic of Being In-Character
- Cast wisely. Know your team’s roles and superpowers: what they do, how they do it, their capabilities, and their limitations.
- Give them their script and character. Each person must know their roles and responsibilities and the roles and responsibilities of the other Super Friends.
- Put on a show. Remind them they are a cast of characters, not solo players. Where one person is weak, another might be strong. Encourage them to lift each other up and succeed as a team, in service of the client. Your client’s experience depends on the entire team playing their parts.
Know your team’s roles and superpowers: what they do, how they do it, their capabilities, and their limitations.
The Magic of Caring
- The project experience hangs on the well-being of your teams, client, and stakeholders. It might go without saying but treat them with care. Make sure they walk away from your project feeling good about their work and themselves.
- Is your project NOT the happiest place on earth? Set rules of engagement. Plan to deal with conflict. Handled well, conflict breeds innovation and invention. Set the standard that respect, dignity, and civility are requirements on your project.
- Think again about the experience of each client team member and stakeholder. Do they get that your efforts are centered on them? Will they feel your program was a custom-made experience that made them better? Keep your eye on that goal and adjust your work to make that happen.
Make sure they walk away from your project feeling good about their work and themselves.
Whether we think of Disney as a magical experience or an elite organization, we can learn a lot from them.