Rat House Lesson No. 1 – Eliminate Ambiguity

Every day the Imagineers at Disney build a coalition of fun – and trust me, I gacked a hairball when I wrote that.

But it’s true.  They have to entertain hundreds of thousands of people (coalition members) who already buy into the idea that Disney is the happiest place in the world.  And at a minimum, they also have to make sure that grumpy husbands and other sore heads (allies of coalition members) aren’t griping, complaining and generally trying to drive a wedge between Disney, the true believers and the family bank account.

One important way they protect the experience is to make sure that there is no ambiguity or uncertainty in the Disney experience that might motivate or enable “allies” to sabotage the visit (by going elsewhere, spending less, staying home, etc.).

They do so in any number of ways.  It begins with clear signage about where you are, where you’re going and what you’ll find there.  Everywhere you turn there are  uniformly nice and knowledgeable personnel; And above all else, there is a consistent delivery on expectations in a way that might best be described as “predictably satisfying.”

Why is that important?  Allies who don’t want to be involved with an organization or initiative often attack it by seizing upon any lack of detail, inconsistent direction and the like.  Repetitive failure to deliver upon expectations further fuels criticism and rejection that, left unchecked, can spread to a coalition member (or at least drive the coalition member away just to get some peace).

So Disney in effect robs the “dragged along” of the bulk of their “crabbing” opportunities by eliminating the easiest lines of attack against it.

Any coalition builder can do the same by making sure that:

  1. Everyone – including those who influence the actual coalition participants – understands at all times what has happened and why, what’s going to happen next and when, and how it all inter-relates.
  2. People charged with shepherding the coalition building along are thoroughly and uniformly educated about the issues, goals, process and participants.
  3. All participants – coalition builders, members and allies – understand and share a common set of expectations about what’s going to happen.  Their respective expectations don’t have to be completely congruent.  But there does have to be some overlap in the Venn diagram from which they can measure common and individual experiences and successes.
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