Volume 2, Number 9 - September 7, 2004

On a recent vacation through the great northwest, one of our last stops was the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville Oregon, home to the famous Spruce Goose. While many remember the Goose as a weird invention of an even weirder recluse, Howard Hughes, the plane was in fact successful. It was developed in response to the loss of over 800,000 tons of supply ships to German U-boats. The US government contracted with Hughes and Henry Kaiser to develop and build a flying boat. The Spruce Goose, called that because the plane was made of wood, was the result.

The plane flew despite the constraints Hughes was given. Number 1: He could not use any materials critical to the current war effort, like steel or aluminum. Number 2: He could not use any craftsmen skilled in aircraft design or manufacture, as they too were needed for the primary war effort. So, he couldn’t
have the materials that were known to be successful in aircraft design, and he couldn’t have any
personnel with relevant experience. And the flying boat had to be much larger than anything ever known to fly. And he had to cough up millions of his own money. What a deal!

The Spruce Goose flew. The Apollo 13 astronauts were brought safely back to Earth. Lance Armstrong recovered from cancer to win the Tour de France, and not just once. The Iraqi soccer team won matches at the Olympics. None had the ideal set of resources or operating conditions, but all had a driving commitment to a clearly defined success.

Clear goals make a difference. Creativity and drive make a difference. Take a few minutes to verify that your operations personnel understand a clear strategy that they believe in. With that, even without the ideal set of resources, they can make amazing things happen.

The folks at Superior Tool led a fun and successful United Way drive for the second straight year. This year’s event was so successful United Way featured the story on their web page. The folks at Superior, many of who work through “Solutions at Work” (SAW), enjoy helping others, and again donated time and energy to prove it.

Train them, they’ll leave; don’t, they’ll stay. That’s the common argument both for and against investing in employees. But you really don’t have any choice. Train them. Educate them. Help them help you. The world is changing quickly. Whether you measure the rate of information growth by new patents, books published, advanced degrees awarded, or some other metric, we all know its growing fast. But is the knowledge of your employees growing? How can you expect them to help you and your company grow if you don’t enable them to grow? Invest in them. The worst that happens is that they leave. The best is that they stay. And they’ll have more reason to do that if you invest in them. As with quality, education and training can be free.

Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.
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