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Walt Disney: a Decision Maker and Leader

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Every leader must make decisions; however, decision making is a task that is simultaneously of utmost importance and easily erred (Garvin and Roberto). In their 2001 article, “What You Don’t Know About Decision Making,” David Garvin and Michael Roberto claim that good leaders view decisions as processes not events, and these good leaders design and manage their decision making process (Garvin and Roberto). Under these premises, the evidence suggests that Walt Disney was a great leader when it came to decision making.

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Many leadership scholars attribute one methodology of decision making to Walt Disney, appropriately coined “The Disney Strategy” (Aston Business School). According to believers, Walt Disney kept three chairs in his office, each of which he placed in very particular spot. Each chair represented a specific anchor personality—the dreamer, the critic, the realist—from whose perspective Walt Disney would contemplate the issue at hand. First, Disney would sit in the dreamer’s chair and ask himself what he would decide if he was not constrained by resources or the risk of failure.

In the dreamer’s chair, Disney dreamt wildly. Next, Disney moved to the critic’s chair, where Disney would rip apart all the dreamer’s dreams. He would pose counter arguments and essentially play devil’s advocate. Finally, Disney moved to the third and final chair—the realist’s chair—in which he approached the decision in light of the information he knew and the resources that were actually available. This process led fluidly into development of projects, into thorough research, or when necessary, to the putting aside of certain unattainable projects.

In certain situations, Disney would repeat the process as a smaller level, for example, by analyzing just a project itself (Aston Business School). Supporters of this method and the principles behind it back the fact that it puts the decision maker in the proper mental state, imposes a rigid and multifaceted structure, and asks good questions (Aston Business School). The Disney Strategy combines a number of established decision making principles into a new, creative framework.

As promoted by Garvin and Roberto, good decision making involves debate (Garvin and Roberto). More specifically, Disney’s decision making style falls more into Garvin and Roberto’s inquiry classification, as opposed to an advocacy process (Garvin and Roberto). Disney forces himself, by undertaking three different roles, to inquire into the decision from different angles. Furthermore, Disney incorporated all three C’s of decision making—constructive conflict, consideration, and closure—into his process.

The constructive conflict came from the critic’s chair, as he would push against the dreamer’s plans. He then considered the reality in the realist’s chair and made his decision for closure. This process also inherently avoided affective conflict since he, as the decision maker, was wearing different hats. As a result, it was just Disney himself facing cognitive conflict. However, Disney did not make all decisions by himself. Rather, he surrounded himself with talented people (Brady).

Together with three to four other people, Disney would analyze storyboards. It is important to note, that decisions on whether to continue on with a storyboard as is, or even at all, was a very significant decision in Disney’s field fore it was his unique stories and execution that distinguished himself and his company from other Hollywood and television producers . Some who worked with Disney exclaim that “he lived, he ate, he drank, [and] whatever else there is, about animation” (Engel). His enthusiasm was infectious.

This is how Walt inspired his employees and more importantly enthused the talented people he had enlisted to partake, in whatever size role, in the decision making process. In essence, this was Disney’s creative twist to the quintessential inquiry process. Notably, in making all decisions, he stuck one principle: the company must never compromise business values to increase profits (Linetsky). Disney measured profitability using a “longer-term, more integrated approach,” which sometimes created conflict with his brother, Roy, who thought on a more short term basis (Linetsky).

Disney was calculated and thorough when it came to making a decision. Of course, while Disney promoted “let[ting] creativity work for you,” which some would say was necessary to his successes, Disney also believed that creativity required harnessing—“freewheeling creativity without imposed structure has little value” (Linetsky). Disney required research, sketches, models and thorough preparation before he approved the go-ahead on a project. This very much reflects Disney’s desire to consider decision from all directions.

As a result, many projects were developed for years, during which Disney constantly reworked his ideas (Linetsky). However, to balance out Walt’s unique process and his thorough consideration of all new projects, Disney was also fostered a risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit. In his Mickey cartoon, Disney was the “first to add a music and effects track to a cartoon” and “the first Hollywood mogul to embrace television” (Schickel). He also incorporated Technicolor earlier than many others in his field.

Most notably, Disney changed the rules of the game when he developed Fantasia—a film that “stretch[ed] technique to the limits” and created his new theme park Disneyland (Schickel). Overall, it was Disney’s decision making and his ability to recognize a successful venture that drove Disney’s early success. In fact, Disney’s keen eye led to the company-wide employee mantra, “What would Walt do? ” (Kirkman). However, while Disney’s method was effective for his company, Disney’s method promoted a somewhat isolated decision making technique.

Many animators, such as Jules Engle, who worked with Walt, remember his decisive nature. Disney would have a specific vision that would rarely change due to input from others (Engel). Whether others’ input would have added to or diminished the company’s overall success, however, will remain unknown. Works Cited Brady, Chris. Chris Brady, Bestselling Author. 16 October 2007. 6 December 2010 . Engel, Jules. Animator to Walt Disney Bill Moritz and Tamara Tracz. April 2003. Garvin, David A. and Michael A.

Roberto. “What You Don’t Know About Making Decision. ” Harvard Business Review (2001): 108-116. Kirkman, Christoper. Strategy Analysis of The Walt Disney Company. Academic Analysis. New Haven: Yale School of Management, 2001. Linetsky, Barry. “Think Like an Iconoclast: The Principles of Walt Disney’s Success. ” Rotman Magazine Spring 2009: 108-110. Schickel, Richard. “Walt Disney: Ruler of The Magic Kingdom. ” Time Magazine 07 December 1998: 1-3. The Disney Strategy. Aston Business School. 2009.

Cite this Walt Disney: a Decision Maker and Leader

Walt Disney: a Decision Maker and Leader. (2019, May 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/walt-disney-a-decision-maker-and-leader/

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