Losing your corporate culture

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I have been at a training course, staying at one of the Disney resorts in Orlando for the past week, and travelling to the other resorts and parks across the 40 square miles of Florida controlled by Disney. Many of these venues were closed during the pandemic for up to 2 years and many people were laid off. Since re-opening, many new staff have been hired.

This lay-off/new hire situation appears to have had a catastrophic effect on the culture of the organisation. We all know the reputation that Disney has for amazing levels of customer service. That was not our experience this week as my colleagues and I struggled to get even the basics like laundry collected from our rooms or buy park tickets.

There is a lack of connectivity between systems, which makes everything so much harder, which appears to feed the cynicism. To finalise a refund between the resort hotel that had sold the park tickets and the park itself took several phone calls and involved the IT help desk. As this was last night, my colleague and I were no longer surprised because we had seen these difficulties all week. Even their app is so complicated, people struggle to use it.  

As customers (or guests as we are referred to), our experience of the staff (called Cast Members) has been that we are an interruption to their conversations with each other. Guests are annoying is the predominant feeling. It is noticeable that many of the new recruits are not speaking the old Disney language of the most magical experience on earth. Last night in one of the parks, the tired staff towards the end of the night, did not hesitate to show their cynicism for the whole Disney ethos. They were openly dismissive of the approach their managers took to fixing a refund issue for lots of guests when the Star Wars ride broke down – many of whom had queued for nearly 2 hours.

Disney cannot rely on its past reputation, it has to rebuild its culture from the ground up. It will take highly visible leadership to describe what this culture is repeatedly and to continually exemplify this at every level of seniority and in every role. Cultural change is not a separate change, it is something that runs alongside every other change that is taking place. It is baked into the “business as usual” and it is an objective of every project, from systems and processes to hiring and innovation.

If this subject interests you, join me on the Agile Change Agent course, where we explore the roadmap for creating cultural change, which is, by its very nature, a very agile, evolving type of change.