Saturday, December 19, 2015

Radical Collaboartion - How Lunch Saved EPCOT

The biggest challenge getting EPCOT ready for opening day wasn’t technological, WED does technology with the best of them. The VP of Engineering, John Zovich, called the problem "the invisible stuff" or "the voodoo," and the Engineering division of WED wouldn't get anywhere until the problem was sorted out.

Soon after he starting at Disney Art Frohwerk discovered that engineering was the most misunderstood and disliked group in the entire organization. At the heart of this was a lot of finger pointing. The Creative group complained that Engineering hadn't listened to what was at the heart of the story. Engineering would counter that the creative concept was impractical. At the same time, Purchasing was begging to get orders for materials like circuit boards, which had a painfully long lead-times and were difficult to obtain, while Engineering was struggling to work out the details of the design.

Frohwerk knew that something needed to change and decided it needed to begin with Engineering. He gathered the entire team together to go over the new rules; Rule number one was no more finger pointing. Art explained what that looked like and emphasized that if any more finger pointing occurred the perpetrators would visit with him personally, in his office. The second visit would include a set of empty cardboard boxes. The success of EPCOT was too critical for the teams to not get along with each other.

Having drawn the line in the sand, Art added a carrot to the end of the stick. Engineering Management would pay its Imagineers to have lunch with their peers from the other divisions — storytellers, show designers, manufacturing, purchasing, planning, etc.

He set aside about $5,000, and initially the plan worked. People started turning in lunch receipts. Then, after a couple of months, it stopped. Art wasn't sure what was happening. He asked the leadership team why he wasn't seeing any more receipts. At first no one said anything. Finally, an Imagineer spoke up and said: "Art, we wouldn't charge the company to take our friends out to lunch."

Art succeeded in busting down the silos and in establishing working relationships throughout the organization. Some six months later, everyone was invited to a meeting with Ron Miller and other Disney executives, to celebrate the progress and turn-around that Engineering had made, not only in organizing themselves for building EPCOT, but in their becoming better team players.

Everyone received a shirt with a graphic that stated "I love 510" with Mickey peering over the top. 510 referred to the name of their department. It was a celebration that the department Walt Disney Productions hated to deal with the most was now the department most loved by others. Department 510 had learned to collaborate, explain itself, and facilitate whatever it took to pull off the mission.

Soon after, Department 510 had its own visioning session to reflect on what it had now started to accomplish. Their internal motto became to: "Pick up where dreams left off."

We all have opportunities to "pick up where dreams left off," Its accomplished by effectively working with those around us - and a key element of Design Thinking.

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