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The Art of Queuing

During the Summer of 2017, I went to the famed land of theme parks and queuing that is Orlando. Of course, you can pay a little extra to avoid the wait — which also impacts the size of the queues. You find times where even this doesn’t help though or you’ve used up your allowance for the day. I was chatting to my wife who studied leisure and tourism and it seems that theme parks design queues to be as painless as they can possibly be. To entertain myself whilst in some of the longer queues, I started to observe the ways that the theme parks try to make queues less painful.

Here are some of the ways I spotted that they do this:

The Queue of Many Twists

This seems the most common. The queue has lots of strategically placed twists to hide how many people there are between you and the front of the queue. You can’t really see the entire queue at once, so you don’t know how long you are going to have to wait for your turn.

The Queue of Distracting Games

The most obvious example of this one is Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom. To entertain the people in the queue, Disney installed 43 games so people could play while they wait. It’s a way of getting people into flow when the queue isn’t flowing. Works well too!

The Queue of the Backstory

The theme parks do such a good job of entertaining, people will often join the queue even if they have a pass. For example, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in Islands of Adventure: those waiting in the queue get to experience the interior of Hogwarts. In fact, some people join the queue to experience this without wanting to do the ride! Another example is Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom. Not only are you immersed in the world of Pandora in the queue, the pre-ride show takes this up a notch too.

The Queue of the Star of the Show

Disney have this down to a fine art. If a queue gets too long, they will send in a cast member to entertain. Massive queue for Pirates of the Caribbean? Hey Presto! Here’s Jack Sparrow to entertain you.

It’s incredible the amount of detail that is put in to making your queue experience in theme parks more palatable. In some cases, the queue becomes an essential part of the experience, which must be the peak of queue artistry. They’ve nailed it…

So What?

The main reason for reflecting on this (apart from entertaining myself) was with reference to how we queue work. How many of these kinds of tactics do we deploy at work? Any look familiar? Are your stakeholders and customers able to tell how long it will be for their feature to appear just by looking? Or is your queue so twisting and turning that it’s impossible to tell? Do you engage your stakeholders in games which make you all feel busy whilst waiting to start the work properly? Must you nail the story to get it perfect before you start work? When the stakeholder starts to complain, do you wheel out the “star of your show” to distract them?

How much effort do you put into making your wait times more palatable? What can you do to reduce the wait time for work?

For some more theme park inspired queue thoughts — check out Andy Hiles’s Transparency in Queues post.

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