Harnessing The Rudolph Factor at Work

The Rudolph Factor looks at how Boeing rose from the ashes by tapping their workers' creative contributions.

I had Christmas envy as a kid.

Hearing friends tell me about their 20-minute orgy of opening presents seemed pretty good compared with our nightly haul of a single present for Hannukah-a feeling that was heightened by our annual receipt on the first night of tickets to see The Nutcracker and the trailing off by night six to the yearly gift of a Cross pen.

Christmas had it all over Hannukah when it came to music and television specials, too.

Although the Grinch terrified me to the point of tears the first time I saw him-we were public television kids, so one of my initial forays into commercial tv didn’t go well-and I didn’t love the Charlie Brown Christmas or Frosty the Snowman, at least there were options.

Hannukah in the mid-70s had nothing.

I did like the story of Rudolph and his journey from reindeer outcast to hero, though I did not completely understand the abominable snowman’s transformation from ogreish to amiable until I met an Italian gardener years later who talked about “il mio unico dento,” or his single tooth.

I also didn’t realize until last night that I may have had something in common with Rudolph at work.

That was when I read Cyndi Laurin and Craig Morningstar’s The Rudolph Factor: Finding the Bright Lights that Drive Innovation in Your Business.

Having read and written a number of books that laud Toyota’s business practices and mention Tiger Woods as a prime example of the relentless pursuit of excellence, I am wary these days of business books that highlight the practices of individual companies or people.

Nevertheless, Laurin and Morningstar examination of Boeing’s cultural transformation provoked thought and sparked some recognition within myself.

Although written primarily for managers, The Rudolph Factor has material for workers, too.  It explains that Boeing, and in particular its C-17 line, was performing poorly due to a combination of adversarial relationships with labor, a complacent managerial culture and a failure to engage and listen to its workers.

One of the authors’ central points is that engaging workers who think in unconventional ways yet are motivated by improving the company is central to its improvement.

A key part of this process comes from shifting a definition of leadership to being committed to the success of the people around you and creating a culture in which workers’ ideas are not just heard, but implemented.

Making this kind of shift is arduous, requires a clear vision and takes time (The authors write that Boeing’s six-year transition was a rapid one, given the company’s size.).

But it is necessary.

Like many business books, The Rudolph Factor has its key points embedded in numbers.  In this case, it is the Four Pillars of Organizational Greatness and Ten Rules, not commandments, for management.

I found the description of the Rudolphs most interesting.

Rudolphs are passionate about their work, not particularly motivated by status,  and spend a lot of time thinking about how to make the company better.  They tend to find their major sources of passion in projects outside of work, and some supervisors can consider them a threat.

Rather than relying on high-priced outside consultants, companies that can figure out how to tap these workers’ gifts are well positioned to improve.

Now in middle age, I’ve finally gotten over my Christmas envy.  The Christmas specials are a long way away, and, fortunately for this generation of Jewish kids, Hannukah television specials do exist.  But for me, the holiday season came a little early through this slender book about organizational change and certain individuals’ role in it.

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One response to “Harnessing The Rudolph Factor at Work

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Harnessing The Rudolph Factor at Work « Jeff Kelly Lowenstein..." On Santa Claus' 2010 List -- Topsy.com

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