Scale

Not for Everyone

The Disney Wonder

I recently met Zaldy, a man who was employed as a server in the restaurants onboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship.  The Disney Wonder and its sister the Disney Magic have been in operation since the late 90’s.  Disney Cruise Lines recently added the Dream and are launching the Fantasy to their line-up.  The two new ships are 40% larger and have numerous upgraded amenities.  Zaldy mentioned that two of his co-workers transferred to work on the new ship.  Both returned to the Wonder when their contracts renewed.  I inquired why and he said the Wonder had established a vibrant community of co-workers who resembled an at-sea family.  Most of the employees sign four to six month contracts and then re-commit for another contract after a couple months at-home.  Numerous crew members have families at home who rely heavily on the income generated via Disney Cruises.  The camaraderie and connections could not be manufactured instantly in the new ships.  And the scale of the ship created its own challenges.  One of Zaldy’s co-workers said that it took her 5-7 minutes to get to her post at the restaurant each day on the Wonder.  However, on the Dream the transfer time was twenty minutes.  Even at-sea, a commute can be a quality of life decision.


Perhaps the greatest lesson from my interaction with Zaldy was that newer, bigger, and flashier does not mean better.  A core group of crew member on the Disney Wonder have been there for years.  They have created a community and network.  You cannot instantly manifest a tribe from 1,500 new crew members on a ship no matter how magnificent.  It takes time to build a tribe, members come and go and through the process of rotation the core is defined.  


Make sure to celebrate the tribe and not get overly focused on the features and amenities.

Scale

McDonald’s Restaurant US Store Locations

If you think you can win on price or location, make sure you are measuring the right competition.  McDonald’s restaurant chain has better national coverage than most mobile phone providers.  If you are getting into the fast food business it is best to understand scale.  If you are so unique that people will come to your location then scale is significantly less important.  Think how Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream got its start.

Can You?

Can you do it first, fastest, best, most inexpensively, and with massive volume?  If so, you need a lot of followers.  This model is repeatable and hard to defend.  However, if you are willing to be precise and purposeful, you need fewer people in your tribe.  Actually, you may need just a few.  Artists have succeeded because just one person decided to start collecting their work.  That person’s passion brought a few more people.  In reality a dozen collectors created a market.


Are you seeking everybody or just a few?

Compared to the Worst

To make sense of scale, we use reference points.  Hurricane Irene was a less destructive force than Hurricane Katrina.  For some sections of the Eastern Seaboard, the storm was a heavy rainstorm.  Some criticized the precautions taken and the mandatory evacuations.  Yet the unexpected consequence of Irene may be the incredible flooding taking place in New England.  There is talk of 100-year flooding levels (yet another scale).


How does your enterprise use scale to communicate and provide perspective?