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Assessing Corporate Culture (Walt Disney)

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Assessing Corporate Culture

Whether you are an employee (Cast Member) or a visitor (Guest), it is easy to see that the Corporate Culture of Walt Disney is one of magic, empowerment, and diversity. It is an organization with a strong set of values and beliefs that motivates it's Cast Members toward one specific goal, creating a magical experience for all guests who enter.

When entering the career home page for the Walt Disney Corporation it reads:

Welcome to DisneyCareers, We are the dreamers and doers; a cast of thousands committed to making magic and making dreams a reality. Our people represent a broad spectrum of experience and cultural heritage, and we want to add to this diverse wealth of talent (

By definition, an organization is a group of people who work interdependently

toward some purpose (McShane, 2002). The Walt Disney organization revolves around the concept of magic. In an interview with CEO and chairman, Michael Eisner (2000), he states, "Make sure people throughout the organization routinely perform "practical magic" Ð'- a potent mix of exciting ideas and hardheaded questioning" (p. 115). The organization stresses the importance of working together to come up with innovative ideas to make the environment an exciting and magical experience, not only for guests, but also for employees. Disney believes that employees having fun facilitates teamwork.

The scenery overwhelms anyone who has been to Disney. The environment is filled with opportunities to visit different countries at Epcot Center, experiencing spine-tingling thrill rides, and meeting famous characters like Mickey Mouse or Cinderella. These artifacts suggest an organization that emphasizes teamwork, balancing work and play, and energy. This creates an atmosphere of empowerment for Disney's employees. Employees can feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions and feel that they are contributing to the success of the organization. It is a shared assumption by all that to provide a magical experience for guests, management and employees must create a fun and magical environment for themselves.

Walt Disney has been quoted saying "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse" ( This quote emphasizes the importance of knowing how it all started and to not over look the purpose or the people. The Disney Company thinks so highly of this quote that they put it on their corporate web site. "If you can dream it, you can do it" has been a phrase that comes across everyone's television and inspires us to visit the fantasy world of Disney. "Its fun to do the impossible" is another quote that sums up that Disney is always on the cutting edge and inventing new and wonderful ideas. Jayne Parker, director of Disney University stated, "We have some pretty strong beliefs about things like who is responsible for service, and it's every member of this organization" (Paton, 1997). This saying lets everyone in the organization know that they are responsible for the service they render. Disney has a very strong sense of nationalism and has achieved such a good management and quality reputation that they hold classes for people to attend.

As stated earlier employees of Disney are "cast members" and they stay in their

role. Disney keeps the cast members well-trained, enthusiastic, and motivated through good leadership. According to Paton(1997), as part of their orientation, cast members go

through one on one, half-day training sessions called Traditions. Disney has developed

the Disney Institute, which has management and service classes for any person to take.

"More than 60,000 people a year attend classes offering a behind-the-scenes look at the Disney management philosophy, which boils down to "making every moment magical" for the customer. From that point on, business owners and managers were eager to find out how Disney managed 40,000 people in its Florida parks alone. Participants pay about $2,500 to attend a three-and-a-half day course in leadership, people management, and quality service (Applegate, 1996).

Walt Disney has been making America's dreams come true for years. Through their success at managing and motivating cast members and the need for other corporations to want this information, Disney has developed the Disney Institute and Disney University where they provide every part of their knowledge except brand management or strategic planning (Paton, 1997).

The organizational structure of Disney values the balance between work and life. Disney has combined business programs with personal fulfillment courses and allows cast-members to bring family members to business workshops. Disney also empowers

employees to think creatively and once a year host a "Gong Show" (McGowan, 1997), in which any cast member can pitch his or her idea. The top decision-makers and CEOs all attend and at the end decide on a winner. Many of the movies and attractions that are affiliated with Disney have come out of the "Gong Show." Disney has gone the extra step and developed a different language. Visitors to Walt Disney World Resort and the Disney Institute are referred to as guests. Employees are called cast members, whether they perform on stage or work behind the scenes, at whatever level. Each cast member has to spend an afternoon as a Disney character and later share his or her experiences with other cast members who are in training. All cast members learn three imperatives: Keep the park clean, create happiness, and do your job. These principles help Disney stress the importance of values, vision, and a focused approach (Allerton, 1997).

In the early days of organization, management consisted of Walt, who controlled and micromanaged every aspect of the business. To a degree Michael Eisner (current CEO) has a similar style. However, he has also refined a management structure that includes decision makers for each segment of the business, each of which work together to leverage all parts of the business (Lewis, 1997). Because Disney has done such a wonderful job with organizational procedures, many companies have requested training from them.

The Walt Disney Company seems to be well known for the excellent treatment of its employees. "Disney expects its leaders to be coaches and to give its people feedback to help them grow" (Nelson, 1999). There are over 180 programs to recognize and motivate their cast members. An



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