I few years ago I took a tour of the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. Here, I learned about the values at Disney – Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. I am not here to debate the validity of the values that Disney has aspired to, but more what they represent and how they play out.
During my “keys to the Kingdom Tour” our guide talked about each value and how the respective value is demonstrated. The popcorn smell as you enter the Magic Kingdom represents Show like at a movie theater. The air conditioning that blasts from the shops into the “Africa hot” outdoors to give patrons some relief is another.
Each time I visit Disney World I look for ways they demonstrate these values. This time I was taken aback by something that to me was noticeable. Only a seasoned Disney parks veteran would have noticed. But the airconditioning I usually feel blasting from the shops on Main Street was considerably dimished. I soon noticed the same at other shops.
The reason for this change is unknown and of course each Disney Cast Member denied it, but the difference was undeniable. Was this the work of some bean counter finding profit or a change to save money . . . or a response to a crisis economy? I may never know.
The question to me – Is compromising their values? Is this the first step to a decline? Time will tell.
The genius of understanding customer demand is profound and effective. Values are typically generated inside-out based on interpretations of customer expectations or a lofty vision. Customer demands on the system are the real deal.
The power of customer demand is that it is constantly changing. Building systems that can absorb the variety of customer demand makes for flexible systems. As customer demand changes so should the organization be allowed to change too.
Front-line employees are in the best position to absorb variety from customers and armed with an understanding of customer demand can make adjustments as needed. This is far different than the top-down, command and control style of management that most service organizations embrace. With understanding, workers can experiment with method or adjust as necessary to improve the system in accordance with customer demand.
Values may still have their place in the corporate psyche, but customer demand has a more outside-in focus that can separate “what matters” to customers from “what matters’ to the corporate hierarchy.
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