If you know me at all personally, you know I’m a HUGE Disney fan.

My family and I watch the movies. We visit the parks. We listen to the podcasts. 

Yes, I truly love the Mouse.

I also think Disney is run by extremely smart people and has a lot to teach us about business.

That fateful white board…

This past summer, my family was lucky enough to take a trip to Disney’s Aulani resort in Oahu, Hawaii.

I was walking by the pool area on the way to our room, and I noticed an open door leading to the kitchen of the poolside restaurant.

(If you know Disney well, you know how rare this opportunity is. They are extremely buttoned up, and open doors like this one are very uncharacteristic.)

What I saw inside that open door was simple. There was a regular white board posted on the wall.

On the board, two words:

Dropped plates

And underneath that, a series of slash marks (I don’t remember how many).

III

That’s all it said.

And THAT is what makes Disney brilliant.

Why “dropped plates” tells you everything you need to know

Disney’s dropped plates is a powerful example of measuring what matters. It’s incredibly simple. But it says so much.

I speculate that my friends at Aulani were having a problem with plates getting dropped between the kitchen and the poolside restaurant.

What happens when a plate gets dropped?

  • That’s wasted food, which costs money.
  • That’s a noisy disruption, which diminishes the customer experience.
  • That breaks the performance and detracts from the Disney brand—where everyone is a cast member and everything is part of the show.

Dropped plates is an issue in and of itself. But it could also be a leading indicator for a bigger problem, such as not providing guests with the signature Disney service they expect.

The power of KPIs

What Disney did with its dropped plates is exactly what we help entrepreneurs do when we set up their company scorecard.

  • We determine the measurables that are leading indicators of the health of the business
  • We track them consistently
  • And we do it in such a way that everyone is held accountable

If you’re a Disney cast member, you don’t want to be responsible for adding another slash mark on the board.

That negative feedback loop seems harsh, but in an operational setting, it’s often the most effective approach.

So, what can you learn from Disney’s approach?

Keep it simple. Disney has the resources to track infinite performance indicators—and they probably do.

But here, they chose to focus on just one activity. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about metrics, or a scorecard, follow their lead. 

Pick just one thing that matters and start tracking it.

You probably won’t hit on your “dropped plates” the first few times. But you’ll build the habit of tracking your activity. Keep iterating until you find the thing that sticks.

And if you’d like help digging into your KPIs or putting together a scorecard, reach out to our consulting team. The title “friendliest place on earth” is already taken, but we will help you however we can. 😉