Book Review: Be our Guest

Disney is known for excellence in customer experience at their parks, hotels, and on their cruise ships. The company formed The Disney Institute so that other companies could learn from Disney’s approach. While a Disney Institute summit may set you back over $4,000, a lot can still be learned from its considerably more affordable book, Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service.

beourguestLike Starbucks and The Ritz Carlton, Disney has a well-defined, self-reinforcing, and rigorous system for customer experience. Disney’s “magic” is delivered through its organizational knowledge of guest psychographics combined with demographics (Disney calls it “Guestology”), its simplicity, and the complete integration and alignment of its system. Disney’s core purpose (like a vision statement) is defined as “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere”.


Disney invests time, talent, and treasure in its efforts to not only know who are their guests (demographics), but also what their guests expect and want to feel (psychographics). While demographics are important and relatively easy to access through existing systems, psychographics are even more vital to delivering a superior customer experience.

Disney looks at the mental states of its customers by evaluating all of the parts of their experience through 4 dimensions: Needs, wants, stereotypes, and emotions.

Applying this principle to another business, like in an urgent care, for example, this matrix would resemble something like this:

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 11.07.44 AM

This analysis is a helpful tool to get a chance to match your service offerings to the perceptions and emotional states of your customers. Disney implements processes to respond to its guests’ emotions throughout their parks and resorts. For example, Disney was the first to entertain guests who are waiting in long lines to help them be less bored and pass the time quicker. Since guest needs, wants, stereotypes, and emotions can change over time, Disney revisits this framework often to match their systems to guest expectations.

The lesson here is that knowing your customer, not just who they are but what they expect and why they expect it, is an essential component of building a superior and lasting customer experience. Another essential component is making sure your system for responding to these factors is actionable by the employees (Disney calls them “cast members”) who are expected to bring it to life. This is accomplished, in part, through simplicity.


Disney’s customer service system has only two components:

  • The Four Quality Standards
    • Safety
    • Courtesy
    • Show
    • Efficiency
  • Three Delivery Systems
    • Cast
    • Setting
    • Process

The four quality standards are listed in order of importance, giving cast members an idea around prioritization. These standards are deployed up and down the organization and are reinforced through constant training and coaching. To build a culture around the two components, Disney uses its own language to refer to customers, employees, and attractions. Further, cast members are given guidelines, not scripts, for them to use to deliver consistent service to guests.

Part of the art of the four quality standards and the three delivery systems are what Disney calls, “Think globally, perform locally”. Doing so allows individual hotels or resorts to integrate their own flavor and uniqueness into Disney’s approach to service delivery. Disney empowers its cast members by soliciting their feedback as well as recognizing and rewarding performance.

Disney’s cast can also then focus on the three delivery systems, including seeing themselves as a part of a larger whole and responsible for themselves as well as the setting and process. That is also where integration and alignment become important.

Integration and Alignment

The Disney Institute defines integration as, “the work of aligning and distributing your service stands over the three delivery systems of cast, setting, and process” (p. 185). Integration is a way to, “build a service organization greater than the sum of its parts” (p. 185).

Disney has built-in accountability to its components of service through its emphasis on integration. It ensures that Disney is staying true to its core purpose by making sure that its cast, setting, and processes are always accounted for in everything they do. It also makes sure that the three delivery systems are developed with the customer needs, wants, stereotypes, and emotions of the guest in mind.

To make Disney’s guest experience consistent and reliable, the leadership is committed to this model and includes new initiatives through the lens of integration to provide context for staff at all times. At other companies, initiatives often appear disparate and unrelated due to the lack of context. By using an integrated model like Disney’s, companies can usually avoid this type of cognitive dissonance.


Healthcare organizations can learn a lot from Disney and many have worked with the Disney Institute or read books like If Disney Ran Your Hospital. In order to successfully follow the ways of Disney, the leadership of the organization needs to agree to an aligned model that they will always use as context.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Learning about your customers, developing a simple system for delivering to their expectations, and creating integration and alignment around those elements is how Disney creates its “Magic”. Doing it in your organization requires the same level of intentionality and discipline.

Be our Guest is available for purchase on Amazon for $24.99 (does not include Prime discount)

Design Thinking in Health Care

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on


Design thinking describes the empathetic development process for a new product or service. Design thinking is user-focused and includes important time for observing how people interact in the environment where the product or service will be launched.

To understand design thinking and the empathic process used to develop new products, there are a few really good resources on the internet. The most well known pioneer in design thinking is David Kelley, who was a close friend of Apple founder Steve Jobs and developed the first computer mouse. Kelley founded a company called IDEO, which takes on clients who want to develop a better product or service.

Kelley has been featured on national broadcasts regarding IDEO and design thinking. In this interview with Charlie Rose, he explains how it works and talks about his relationship with Steve Jobs:

IDEO was featured on 60-minutes for their work helping to redesign the grocery cart using design thinking. The video is a good high-level overview of the process. How it works:

There are many more resources on the internet for design thinking. IDEO has an online University where they offer courses on design thinking that start from $199 (I have not taken their courses, so I cannot say whether or not I would recommend them). Stanford University has the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or the “d school”, which is the most prominent academic program focused on design thinking in the United States. They have many resources too for the public to understand design thinking, such as this helpful overview.

Applications in Healthcare:

In healthcare, design thinking can be used in ways ranging from how the patient and their families experience care at the hospital, outpatient office, etc to how the physical building is laid out and designed, to how the equipment is laid out and designed for clinicians. In essence, the possibilities are endless.

As an administrator, the main thing that design thinking is helping me focus on is the patient experience.

Take for example Doug Dietz. Dietz builds imaging equipment for GE and realized that children who had to be tested on his machines were so scared that 80% of pediatric patients had to be sedated to administer the test. To fix this problem, he launched the “Adventure Series” at GE (pictured below), and made the machines look more kid-friendly. As a result of this new design, fewer children are sedated and tests are done correctly the first time, which adds capacity for other patients to use the testing machines.


An Example from the GE “Adventure Series” – photo courtesy GE Healthcare on Flickr

I recently read an article about healthcare disruption in the American College of Healthcare Executives magazine. My favorite quote from the article was from Ian Morrison, PhD, author, consultant and healthcare futurist. He said,

“A lot of outsiders to healthcare view the field as ripe for disruption because it is profoundly dysfunctional. Most entrepreneurs who get into healthcare do it because they or a family member have had a bad experience and were so frustrated that they thought they could start a company and do it better”

Dr. Morrison is right and his statement describes the empathetic nature of design thinking. We can and should do a better job of making the dysfunctional system less-so for our patients by empathizing with them and their experiences in the hospital. Only through empathy are we truly delivering able to help sick patients get better. Those elements need to baked-in to what we do every day.

KEY TAKE-AWAY: Empathy is at the heart of design thinking. Applications for design thinking are everywhere, especially in healthcare. By observing and understanding how people interact with your product and service, the better you can make it.

My First Post: Welcome to The Blog

Thank you for taking a look at my new website! This is my first blog post and I am really excited about getting started! By way of background, I thought I would tell you a little about why I am starting to write publicly. The main reasons are:

  • Engaging with others in continuous learning
  • Sharing what I am learning
  • Creating a central repository of ideas and information on a variety of topics, including:
    • Leadership
    • Innovation
    • Strategy
    • Any other topic that is interesting and top of mind

One of my personal goals is to engage in continuous learning. I enjoy taking what I learn and synthesizing it with what I know to help form a deeper understanding of the world and continue to hone my practice as a leader. While I learn new things, I enjoy sharing them with my family, friends and colleagues as well as learning from their experience.

photo of person holding black pen

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Another reason I started this site is because people I spoke to about my latest learnings were often asking me what I was reading and where some of my ideas came from. I will be sharing that information on this site as well as on social media (please follow me on twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn).

Finally, my goal is to use this website to create a central hub for ideas and reflections on articles, books, and other forms of media for my family, friends, colleagues, and team to access conveniently.

I hope you find this website helpful and informative. If you have any recommendations or suggestions, feel free to contact me on the “Contact” page of this website. Thank you for reading!

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