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Look around- Organizational design is everywhere!

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

December 29, 2020 Partnership for Talent

At this time of year, my family would typically be on a plane to my “happiest place on earth”, Disney World (thanks to COVID- not this year). Each time I go to Disney World, too often some might say, I marvel at the intentional organizational design. Before you label me an HR geek and close the article, let me explain.

When you are in the park and hungry for a snack, the Mickey pretzels look and smell amazing. As you order, the person who serves the pretzels is not at the same time sweeping the sidewalks around the pretzel cart or taking tickets for the ride that happens to be next to the pretzel cart. These very specifically focused jobs help to ensure the cast members understand what is expected of them, what success looks like in their job, and lets them maintain a keen focus on fulfilling the wants and needs of guests in their area without significant distraction. There it is …. job design!

When you check into a Disney resort hotel, the clerk behind the counter is responsible for checking you into your room and making sure you have all of the information you need for an enjoyable stay. They have been given the responsibility to do everything in their power to meet your needs. Typically hovering behind the front-line staff is a manager. They blend into the background for much of the time, simply observing. When they overhear a front line staff member who is being asked for something that is beyond their responsibility, they discretely step in to help support that cast member and escalate the guest’s need to a different level of the organization. The front-line cast member then passes you off and looks to serve the next available guest. And voila ….. a job matrix and managerial support structure!

I recently re-watched Disney’s 2019 documentary “One Day at Disney”. It is a documentary and book that focuses on Disney cast members and their daily jobs. What I found fascinating is that, time and again, you hear cast members tell you that they have the best job at Disney. How is it possible that cast members with such varied jobs believe that theirs is the best? Most likely because the organization has done an excellent job of matching the right talent with the right job. This ensures that cast members are successful at their roles, feel fulfilled, and in turn exude that engagement to the guests in the form of positive experiences. And there you have it ….. strong employee selection processes!

Organizational design goes so much deeper than organizational structure alone. It also encompasses job design, employee processes and organizational alignment. Walt Disney had a theory of operations. “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” When you understand organizational design, and really think about it, this operational theory has manifested itself into a clarity of organizational design that translates into exceptional outcomes.

Now you may agree with my husband that I need to simply go to Disney, enjoy my time, and leave my work at the gates….but I can’t help myself. Organizational design is everywhere!


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