Case Study: Disney’s Workforce of the Future

Facing aggressive growth targets coupled with a need to significantly increase its workforce, Walt Disney International (WDI) decided to launch an effort to prepare for the future.

Walt Disney International spearheaded a foresight effort, specifically following the Natural Foresight® Framework, that included fifteen Futures Teams established in 10 geographic regions. Through this multi-year engagement, hundreds of new futurists were trained and dozens of advanced practitioners were identified to lead the integration of sustainable foresight across its markets. Some of tangible outcomes resulting from this organization-wide competency development include:

• More than 500 leaders around the globe were trained in the Natural Foresight® approach and immediately began applying the standard toolkit.

• Traditional strategic planning processes have been revamped to include futures intelligence and scenario planning, and the organization has pursued specific business strategies as a direct result of its foresight efforts.

• To support change management efforts, advanced practitioners were selected to receive additional training and became foresight trainers.

• Broader company leadership has taken notice, declaring Strategic Foresight as one of the top enterprise-wide leadership competencies.

Recently, TFSX founders Yvette Montero Salvatico and Frank Spencer authored the chapter “Disney’s Workforce of the Future: From HR Initiative to Organizational Culture” in Palgrave Macmillan’s Futures Thinking and Organizational Policy: Case Studies for Managing Rapid Change in Technology, Globalization and Workforce Diversity

The chapter’s abstract details the framework, structure, and successes of this global, multi-year foresight engagement: 

“Faced with ambitious growth targets and a challenging global labor market, The Walt Disney Company turned to a field initiative, Strategic Foresight, to create a more adaptive, resilient and transformative organizational culture. Over the course of four years, Walt Disney International (a segment of the company) established a culture of future thinkers through a multi-phased change management effort. This effort included recurring learning and development programs based on the Natural Foresight® Framework, the establishment of regional Futures Teams across the globe, and a dedicated project management lead. As a result of the effort, the following three organizational outcomes were realized: (a) organizational processes have been updated to include Strategic Foresight; (b) revenue-leading futures intelligence has led to innovative new product offerings; and (c) success within the International division has inspired other segments within the organization to follow suit. Recognizing the importance of Strategic Foresight, international leadership has declared futures thinking to be one of the organization’s top leadership competencies.”

The entire chapter and/or textbook is available for purchase here with the entire book serving as an excellent resource for additional organizational futures thinking case studies and best practices. 

Here’s more about the textbook:

“This book proposes that organizational policies are what ensure the institutionalization and sustainability of futures thinking in organizations. It presents several case studies from corporations and other institutions that describe effective use of foresight methods and internal policies to respond to rapid change. The case studies address changing trends in technology, globalization and/or workforce diversity, and the impact on the economic and political well-being of the organization. The editors also develop an organizational capability maturity model for futures thinking as well as providing questions for discussion that promote critical review of each case chapter. This book will inform scholars and organizational leaders how best to utilize foresight methodologies and organizational policies to sustain successful management strategies within futures thinking organizations.”

Read the chapter here.

Chapter Reference:

Salvatico Y.M., Spencer IV F.W. (2019) Disney’s Workforce of the Future: From HR Initiative to Organizational Culture. In: Schreiber D., Berge Z. (eds) Futures Thinking and Organizational Policy. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham