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Monday, October 27, 2014

Walt's Lessons: Trust Your Organization

Spend time with or read about anyone who worked with Walt Disney and you'll soon discover they all have a common story to tell. The details are different, but the basic outline is the same- Mr. Disney approached them with a task they didn't think they could do in a million years. Walt seemed so genuine and excited about the task, however, so they decided to give it a go. And guess what? They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Whether it was Harriet Burns getting asked to come up with a model for the Matterhorn (she had never done any such thing before) or Roy Williams getting the plum role of "Head Meeseketeer" on The Mickey Mouse Club (he had no acting experience) or even when Walt asked the Sherman Brothers to do the music and help with the story for Mary Poppins, Walt chose people who he knew from within his organization who he thought could accomplish more and gave them the chance to do so. "Real" architects could have been contracted with to produce a Matterhorn model, but then they all thought the project was impossible. Harriet Burns, a resourceful and sharp Dynamo, had no such prejudices. A professional actor could have helped Jimmie Dodd with the Mouseketeers, but Walt knew Roy Williams liked kids and kids liked him, so the show seemed more genuine. And the Sherman Brothers? Walt knew they had Oscar winning work in them. They just needed the opportunity.

By building up his organization from within and entrusting work to people he had faith in, Mr. Disney was able to do some amazing things in an amazing amount of time. Some organizations immediately look outside for "talent", ignoring the talent that might be underneath their noses. By looking inside his company, Walt built loyalty, talent and capability from inside the organization in a cheaper and faster way. His employees saw that he valued them and wanted to become even more productive to impress him. This is the primary reason that he was able to accomplish the impossible time and time again.