Thursday, February 25, 2016

Be Our Guest

"Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test."

Most of us can sing or hum the words to this popular Disney song from "Beauty and the Beast."

For those of us who have been fortunate to visit Disney World and Disneyland, we know that Disney is world-renown for its customer service, the ability to create magic and memories over and over again for little kids and big kids such as us.  Walt Disney's ability to do the "impossible" has been sustained over time through generations with the implementation of unique business principles.

As educational leaders devoted to serving our students and families, what can we learn from Disney's service model?

In a recent Disney Institute blog post, Bruce Jones discussed the Disney principles of "Doing Things Right" and "Doing the Right Thing."

As a programming director for the Disney Institute, Mr. Jones discussed the singular mission of Disney: "striving to create happiness to begin forming life-long relationships with our guests."

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici via Free Digital Photos.

Think of even that one word-- "guest."  Other theme parks, organizations and businesses aim to attract visitors, but at Disney we are all "guests."

Mr. Jones explained that guests are different than visitors.  In our homes, we invite and welcome guests.  We do special things for our guests-- the best towels, the best sheets, favorite meals and desserts.  "If someone is your Guest, don't you feel a greater obligation to ensure his or her happiness?" Mr. Jones posed.

So what can we learn from Disney.  Mr. Jones stated that Disney provides a script to each "cast member" (employee), for common questions or occurrences so that guests can have a high quality consistent experience.  It is important for each staff member to "do things right."  The Disney way.

Are there instances where we can provide better support for staff by providing guidelines on how to handle certain situations.  How do we want our secretaries or teaching staff to handle a parent who insists on seeing a staff member unannounced?  One who wants to visit classes during the school day? What about how to handle an irate phone call or nasty email?  How about a parent-teacher conference?  The more help we can provide our staff with common situations should provide a better experience for all of our key stakeholders.

In addition, Disney, according to Mr. Jones,  also empowers their cast members to "do the right thing."

In solving problems for guests, and in daily interactions, Disney encourages and promotes staff members to go off script in order to "empower people to intervene and own the common purpose."

A current TV Disney commercial shows a family excitedly at their first day of Disney and the cast members suddenly grows pointed ears in making all of their dreams of happiness at Disney come true.  Disney also empowers staff to do whatever it takes, even if it has never been done before, to make the Disney magic real.

Do our staff members feel the same way?  In this ever-changing educational landscape, the true work of every teacher, building and district has to be to individualize and personalize education so that each child can learn.  Our shift continues to be from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning.

Do we empower our staff to be creative in approaching each child in our classrooms?  When we were early in our Professional Learning Community journey, we discussed strategies that were uncommon in our district and building?

Re-does, test re-takes, differentiating reading assignments, flipped classrooms, grading practices,  extended time for learning, homework-- all of these became same-subject team and whole-staff discussion points.

Teachers at first were hesitant to individualize and personalize without making sure we were fine with it.  Clearly, change requires the culture and climate to empower and encourage staff to "do the right thing."  How empowered is your staff to try something never tried before?

Disney fosters creative problem-solving within a culture and climate where personalization ensures happiness and success.

Can we-- for every student in every classroom in every building every day?  If Walt Disney actualized making the impossible possible, we can, too.