Strategic Initiative Case Study: Destination Disney

Walt Disney World Resort logo

Destination Disney was a company-wide strategic project to transform the company’s marketing and sales processes, implement Customer Relationship Management, and replace mission-critical sales and service systems at Walt Disney World. Strategic initiatives are transformative, and in this case, Disney

transformed its business from a product-centric to a guest-centric organization.

The frontier of competitiveness for many organizations is this: customers buy experiences, not products or services. Too, Disney customers willing pay premium prices because the experience is valued. Disney attends to this business driver by designing an engaging, quality experience.

According to Roger Berry (retired CIO of Disney)  the key elements for Destination Disney included:

    • Customer-first vision – Disney wanted to reduce the hassle for visitors to the park by creating a more personalized environment. The driver of this strategic initiative was to establish “real time” personal relationships with its guests. Guests can book and experience the “magic of Disney” the way that the guest wants to experience it.
    • Development, Deployment and Integration of Technology– Technology innovation was critical to the success of the initiative. This called for integrating a host of existing systems and technologies across all major business areas.  Most of these systems had not been previously connected or integrated. Walt Disney World became a pilot for an ambitious piloting of IT convergence—the combination of global positioning satellites, smart sensors, wireless technology and mobile devices, including one that looks like Mickey Mouse himself—to reinvent the customer experience, influence visitor behavior and ease crowding throughout the parks.
    • Socializing the program in the organization.  The biggest challenge wasn’t selecting and deploying new technology and process.  It was convincing cast in other areas to get IT involved before they planned and implemented technology. 

 This strategic initiative helped Disney restore the luster of its aging brand, increase efficiencies and boost attendance—as well as the bottom line. Destination Disney is part of the platform for future growth of Disney Parks & Resorts worldwide.

Customer Experience as a Strategic Initiative Business Driver

The leader of a strategic initiative can get a lot of traction by shifting the organization’s thinking away from “the solution” and toward the customer experience.  Few people want to wait in long lines at an amusement parks, yet if it could be turned into something fun and memorable, it could enhance the total offering.

Identify the stakeholders of your strategic initiative, especially the users and those who are spending the money.  Ask yourself,

  • What is a bad experience?  What do we do that annoys important stakeholders?
  • What is a good experience? What do we do – or could we do – to delight people?

Compare this case with other cases on this site. Do you see how vision, integration, alignment, and commitment are critical success factors?


About Greg Githens

Author, How to Think Strategically (2019) Executive and leadership coach. Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. Seminar leader and facilitator - high-impact results in crafting and delivering strategy, strategic initiatives, program management, innovation, project management, risk, and capturing customer requirements.
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6 Responses to Strategic Initiative Case Study: Destination Disney

  1. Pingback: Strategic Initiatives Case Study – Domino’s Pizza Turnaround | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  2. Jon Plsek says:

    Every business could learn from the story of Disney’s success. So many people fail to translate what drives their own personal buying habits into those that drive their customers. Hard to look past the specific experience that Disney provides and instead look at the experience of doing business with Disney. A great story with a great many lessons.

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