Friday, May 1, 2009

Be the Napa Rose

Like many of you, I have customized my iGoogle, and of course it's loaded with Disney content. Well, one of my widgets had a link to something that I MUST share! I've added the link, to which I recommend you go. However, I want to make sure that I can go back to this article, so it's pasted below.

I gave Jeff Kober, the author of this article, positive feedback, and he provides great words of wisdom in today's 'gloom-and-doom' world!

Be the Napa Rose!

Be The Napa Rose

Thursday, April 30, 2009 Jeff Kober, staff writer,

One of my favorite places to take clients and friends when I'm at the Disneyland Resort is the Napa Rose restaurant at Disney's Grand Californian Resort. Many of you have enjoyed a terrific meal at Napa Rose, which celebrates the food and cuisine of the California Wine Country. Many are fascinated with observing the continual activity and bustle of the show kitchen. I prefer twilight views that overlook Grizzly Peak and Disney's California Adventure.

Few know, however, what a "napa rose" is and why the restaurant is named for it. What do napa roses have to do with winemaking? Napa roses are planted at the head of long rows of grapes. While in and of themselves they are very beautiful, their purpose is not centered on show.

Rather, they are sentinels for the grapes that follow down the vine. You see, Napa roses are very susceptible to disease, to pests, to fungus, and to other factors that could potentially harm grapes. Farmers need not study every vine to know the status of their vineyard. Rather, they simply have to look at the Napa roses planted at the head of the row. If the roses are faring poorly, it is a sign that they need to pay attention to the grapes located in that end of the field before things become worse.

So it is in business. Leaders must be the Napa rose of their organization. They must be the sentinels that observe the trends and patterns around them. They must be on the lookout for competitors or critics to those who would threaten the well-being of their organization.

In many ways, over the years, Disney has been the Napa rose—in some amazing ways. For instance, they are very prepared in the event of a major hurricane. They have a tremendous plan in place to not only prepare, but to monitor the storm, care for their guests, and get the operation back in business as soon as possible afterward.

More proactively, Disney has been the Napa rose in anticipating opportunities in the marketplace, such as getting into the cruise line business, or building the vacation ownership business. They saw possibilities, and they pursued new markets.

Still, one wonders who failed to watch the roses as the economic clouds moved in. There is no question that economic times are tough. And as armchair managers, it's always easy to look back and say what should have been done after the fact. But great leaders simply anticipate the challenges their organizations might face, and prepare for such situations long before they make an impact.

Critics for some time in and out of the Disney Company have talked about the layer of fat that existed—especially in management circles. This has been particularly true as parks on one coast managed matters almost entirely indifferent to what was being done on another coast. There was no sharing of knowledge, much less streamlining responsibility and accounting.

What if "One-Disney" had been thought through a couple of years ago when times were going great? What if organizations were streamlined, and unneeded personnel given opportunities to leave when there were more options for them, and more time to prepare for them to leave? What if existing personnel were directed toward new positions that better met the future needs of the organization, rather than hire additional personnel that would create excess in uncertain times?

Instead, the result is that such cutbacks come at a time people fear in finding work elsewhere. Therefore morale plummets, and people become anxious about the future. Even those who didn't get laid off are not focused on creating "One-Disney." Rather they are pondering what they're going to do to make sure it doesn't happen to them next time.

The result? Is anyone focused on what matters: Helping the resorts succeed in uncertain times? Creating great guest loyalty? Building new attractions that guarantee park attendance? Engaging cast members in being the best they can be?

That said, some say layoffs are not only intended, but would have been demanded, at times like this by share holders who want satisfaction in knowing that Disney is trimming things at a time when the company's fortunes are in reverse. But a better question would be: Shouldn't we have been satisfying shareholders all along with the knowledge that the organization was always running in a manner that is lean and mean?

Again, such reflection might be just armchair management. But, remember, this isn't about Disney. At the end of the day, it's about your organization. Be the sentinel that warns of impeding challenges before they happen, rather then after the entire vineyard is fraught with challenge.

Be the "Napa rose." It's how you lead the magic.

J. Jeff Kober consults with businesses and public sector organizations to improve customer service, teamwork and leadership practices. His keynotes, seminars, and workshops help people take best-in-business ideas from Disney and other great organizations and adapt them to their own practice. His newest book, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney is available at Also, imagine having your company pay you to spend time at Walt Disney World, shop at Nordstrom, or spend the night at Ritz-Carlton!

Go to to find out how you and/or your organization can benchmark great Orlando businesses on your next trip.

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