Mickey Mouse Operation

There’s a culture of service within the Walt Disney Company. It’s called “The Disney Way.”

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

We’re on a mission in Auburn Hills to reinvent government.  It’s based on “the ethic of reciprocity,” which is most commonly known as the Golden Rule.  Simply put, you should treat others as you wish to be treated. 

For example, if you have ever been to Walt Disney World, think back to your experiences there.  You were their guest and someone important.  At that place, there’s a culture of excellence and committment to customer service at every level.  So, why can’t the City of Auburn Hills be like that?

I have heard many people describe government workers as bureaucratic, lazy, uncaring, worthless, disengaged, and just in the way.  Even my closest family members still tell me stories about their negatives experiences with different levels of government, which would leave any reasonable person shaking their head.  It’s frustrating to hear, because my workplace is guilty by association.   So, when I get a chance to talk – I take a deep breath and begin telling the Auburn Hills Story to anyone who will listen.

Here’s the deal.  Providing customer service at the governmental level can be hard for many agencies.  Laws are passed, procedures are made, and workers are trained to follow those rules.  In many cases, employees get in trouble if they problem solve or enter into shades of gray.  People want to keep their jobs.  If they get “zapped” for using common sense, they become scared and bureaucratic.

The City of Auburn Hills is very unique for a variety of reasons.  In a nutshell, as staff, we are trusted to use common sense and do our jobs.  We are allowed to be public servants – not only to the customer, but to each other.  Yes, help people.

This trust allows us to produce “magical moments” that make our citizens proud and our community attractive for business investment.  Whether it’s free festivals and concerts, safe and clean parks and trails, police presence in our neighborhoods, plowing the streets of snow in a timely fashion, or expediting a building permit based on a customer’s time lines and not ours … we are driven to provide a superb experience and exceed expectations.  It’s the culture of serving here that gives us purpose.

The Auburn Hills DPS is considered one of the best departments of its kind in the State of Michigan. Their committment to excellence does not happen by accident. Citizens rave about their snow plow service.

How does it work?  There is an “internal compass” set by the leaders of this community. This enables us the ability to provide those who come in contact with us a unique experience – a competitive advantage – that’s not easily duplicated by other municipalities. City employees are intentional in that we remember that each of us “are” the City of Auburn Hills to every person we encounter inside and outside of the workplace.  We love this town and are proud to serve it, thus don’t want to let the community down.

So, we take great pride in being like a “Mickey Mouse Operation” and doing things “The Disney Way.”   Serving others is in our DNA and our organizational culture.  Like those who work at Walt Disney World, we are given permission “to dream beyond the boundaries of today.”  We are encouraged to grow, because mediocrity is not an option. Thank goodness!

Note:  Stay tuned as we provide a “Best of Series” every day next week while I am on vacation.  Since our blog readership has increased over the months, there is a chance some folks may not have read these entries yet. 

Also, if you are interested in learning more about management secrets of the Walt Disney Company and other successful organizations – check out a book called “The Disney Way” by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson.  It’s an inspiring read.