“The talent is here. We just need to remove the barriers.” – Ed Catmull
I confess, I am very sentimental. At all hands, sendoffs and celebrations, I love to show photos to reminisce about events, people, places and days gone by. The photo storage platforms I use all know this about me and are always offering me “on this day a year ago…” teasers which I can’t refuse. I love those. As we wrapped up January, the AI wizards began sending me reminders of our 2020 and 2019 Cloud Summits. First of all, I was shocked to realize it has been a year since that pre-pandemic in-person gathering and streaming event in 2020. Second, I was reminded of the great 2019 event and particularly our special keynote guest, Dr. Ed Catmull. The talk from this incredibly brilliant technology leader and the prior discussion over dinner was a highlight of a lifetime. I want to share the impression he made on me by giving you a glimpse into his story
Shortly after the acquisition of Pixar, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter were given the charge by Bob Iger to reboot the Walt Disney Animation Studios, which had been suffering a string of box office flops. Pixar was delivering blockbuster movies that leveraged innovative technology to deliver compelling and connecting stories to the big screen. Walt Disney Animation Studios on the other hand was not. Ed tells how he dreaded but was expected to clean house and start over, hiring Pixar level talent to reboot the studio. To his surprise, as he began to spend time there, he discovered that the problem wasn’t the talent. The problem was the management and the debilitating processes and culture. They began to change the management, removing obstacles that were blocking the creative process and unleashing the team to be able to deliver results. That same team that had delivered a series of flops in the past, suddenly were able to deliver blockbuster hits like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen. Ed observed, the talent was there, we just needed to remove the barriers.
I know what you are all thinking. Sounds great, but Jason, the lesson here is that we need management to remove barriers for us! Yes, that is true. Leaders must take on the challenge of empowering people and removing blockers. Our job is to unleash potential, give opportunity with responsibility, not control people. But that’s not all, nor does it fall to managers only. If we want to unleash the generative potential of our organization, we all must be laser focused on removing constraints that slow down the delivery of value to our guests and to our company. That job falls to all of us. You are all capable of helping build platforms, tools and processes that empower our cast members to deliver magic, better, faster, safer and happier. We just need to do it!
This week, I challenge you to look for opportunities to remove barriers. Devise plans to make it better and raise those with your leadership. We can swarm, align and drive the change. Let’s remove barriers and unleash the incredible potential of our talent to do amazing things.