Mickey's Ten Commandments

I was recently reminded of the time (nigh on 15 years ago) when our audit department took on brainstorming sessions. We needed some changes, we needed to shake some things up, and we needed to have a better understanding of what our customers needed. So, the theme of the brainstorming sessions (held in ten different locations) was “How can we make the audit experience more like going to Disneyland?”

I mention this because I’m about to go off on another Disney tangent. And, much like that brainstorming session, this may require you to stretch your creative and analogy-making muscles a little more than they may normally be stretched.
Marty Sklar is a very important Imagineer. “What is an Imagineer?” you might ask. They are the creative geniuses who imagine/design/create/engineer/build/imagineer all those great attractions you visit when you go to Disney properties. (I still have the life ambition of becoming an Imagineer. If one of you is out there, feel free to contact me.)
You may then ask the follow up question “How important is Marty Sklar?” He joined Disney the month before Disneyland opened, and a great portion of his career has been in Imagineering – working closely with Walt and then helping drive many of the successes you see in the parks today. Although he is now retired, at one point he was Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering. 
Marty Sklar is a big deal.
Marty came up with “Mickey’s Ten Commandments: Ten Things You Can’t Forget When You Design a Theme Park”. For those of you who have been asking all the questions, you are probably now asking “What does designing a theme park have to do with internal audit?” Ah, that is where you have to stretch your analogy-making and creative muscles. Internal audit can learn lessons from any other discipline – you just have to be willing to dig for those answers – and there is no where better to learn lessons than from Disney.
With that in mind, I present those Ten Commandments.
1. Know your audience - Don't bore people, talk down to them, or lose them by assuming that they know what you know.

2. Wear your guest's shoes - Insist that designers, staff, and your board members experience your facility as visitors as often as possible.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas - Use good story telling techniques, tell good stories not lectures, lay out your exhibit with a clear logic.

4. Create a weenie - Lead visitors from one area to another by creating visual magnets and giving visitors rewards for making the journey

5. Communicate with visual literacy - Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication - color, shape, form, texture.

6. Avoid overload - Resist the temptation to tell too much, to have too many objects, don't force people to swallow more than they can digest, try to stimulate and provide guidance to those who want more.

7. Tell one story at a time - If you have a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories, people can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical.

8. Avoid contradiction - Clear institutional identity helps give you the competitive edge. Public needs to know who you are and what differentiates you from other institutions they may have seen.

9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of fun - How do you woo people from all other temptations? Give people plenty of opportunity to enjoy themselves by emphasizing ways that let people participate in the experience and by making your environment rich and appealing to all senses.

10. Keep it up - Never underestimate the importance of cleanliness and routine maintenance, people expect to get a good show every time, people will comment more on broken and dirty stuff.
I’ll be back later with my thoughts on how some of these might apply – but I’d be real interested in your thoughts. How does this apply to internal audit? And, more importantly, what lessons are there in these that can make help drive each of our departments and the profession?

Posted on Oct 29, 2012 by Mike Jacka

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  1. Thanks MJ.  Great use of the Disney philosophy!  Yes, we can indeed learn from Walt and the gang.  The lessons I take from your inspiring article are: (1) Don't only look to experienced auditors for inspiration, look at how other industries excel; (2) Hire passionate people [The bookkeepers who were rejected by the accounting profession as being too boring, may not make good internal auditors]; (3) Maintain the core business of auditing, but innovate and stretch out of the old, perceived constraints.


  1. Thaks for sharing, love it!
  1. These 10 commandments describe very well my approach to data analytics and the results reported from them.  The data certainly tells the story but how it's told is equally critical.  I could tell the same story with a lot of MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) producing black & white verbiage or I can use interactive graphics or a combination as befits the intended audience.  Answering questions before they're asked is also a goal.  How do you know this?  Where did this come from?  Is it complete, accurate, valid, repeatable?   When the object of our internal audit becomes actively involved in using the results to improve their area of the business I am satisfied that we are providing value beyond being the police.  

  1.  Mike - I'm absolutely convinced that Disney personally had, and the company still has, a well crafted method to the madness of Imagineering.  Walt said it was that they were curious, always improving, and never satisfied.  Add to that a blend of art and science and you have a very similar formula to that which drove Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci and others, to success and even greatness.  Although they all used different verbal metaphors to describe their craft, the points of focus are very similar. Consistently high standards, intense attention to the details, optimism, a constant spiral of improvement and intimate knowldge of the customer.  Ollie Johnston said there were three Walts; the Dreamer, the Realist and the Critic, between them the ideas were created, vetted and executed and everyone learned to follow that developmental path.  It seems quite simple on the surface, but it required a deep personal faith in himself and others and a willigness to endure that is still a rare and inspiring thing.  Imagineers can also be said "Imagine Ears", those, plus courage, makes magic happen, IMO.

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