philadelphiaskyline

Philadelphia’s leadership needs to adopt a culture of continuous improvement

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on August 19, 2019

The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article on August 12 by columnist Pranshu
Verma headlined, “Each night, Philly jails release scores of inmates without
returning their IDs, cash or phones.” Verma shows the statistics that in the year
ending April 15, 2018, 16,800 inmates – 73% of the total released from the six
Philadelphia prisons, were during the hours that the prison cashier’s office was
closed, delaying inmate’s access to their personal possessions.

Identification, cash and cell phones are critical enablers to these released inmates
to allow them to successfully reenter the community. Verma’s article quotes Tom
Innes, director of prison services for the Defender Association of Philadelphia,
saying, “You’re almost begging them to get into some kind of trouble.” Ann Jacobs,
the director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at the John Jay College of Criminal
Justice said, “This is a humanitarian disaster. You’re screaming to them they don’t
matter, you don’t care, and you just expect to have them come back anyway.” According to Shawn Hawes of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons,
“We cannot legally hold anyone beyond a court-ordered release.”

The obvious solution is to keep the cashier’s office open 24 hours a day as is done at
Rikers Island prison in New York City.

So, why has no one who works within the Philadelphia prison system suggested this
intuitively obvious solution? Why does it take a newspaper article to effect change?
After the Inquirer article was published, the bureau of prisons announced that it
would extend the hours of the cashier’s office until 7 pm. This would only make a
negligible improvement.

Companies would not remain in business very long if its leadership and employees
didn’t exercise common sense and good critical judgment and embrace continuous
improvement. Why is this so rare within segments of the public sector? In many
cases, it just is not part of their mind-set or organizational culture. Public sector
organizations face no competition, so earning a return on investment or survival of
the organization is not a driving force.

Many public employees go to work each day with the mentality to do the best job
they can do. Unfortunately, in too many cases, public sector managers and
employees are not held accountable for continuous improvement.

Philadelphia’s leadership needs to use the example of the prison system failing the
needs of released inmates to initiate a change in mentality. The incentive to
continuously improve and establish a culture where management welcomes
improvement initiatives should be driven by an innate personal desire to do so, and
the personal satisfaction one receives from making life better for Philadelphia’s
citizens.

Anything less, the taxpayers of Philadelphia and those receiving services from the
city get short-changed.


Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker,
advisor and nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and
corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in
chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an
alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.
He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Follow Silverman on
LinkedIn here and on Twitter, @StanSilverman.

Adopt a culture of continuous improvement. Companies that do not continually improve will be left behind.

How Continuous Improvement Can Help You Achieve Preferred Provider Status

Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on January 8, 2019

One of the most important objectives that a company can adopt is to achieve preferred provider status for products and services to its market — the company that customers and clients preferentially go to first before going to the competition.

This is the Holy Grail of any company.

In August 2014, I wrote an article headlined, “A culture of continuous improvement is no management fad … In fact, it could be the Holy Grail.” However, I no longer consider it to be the Holy Grail. It’s an enabler — it helps companies to be a lower-cost provider of products or services, which builds competitive advantage and enables a company to achieve preferred-provider status —the Holy Grail of any firm.

Given the importance of continuous improvement to building competitive advantage, I would like to offer an update to the August 2014 article on continuous improvement.

Over the years, many corporate initiatives have been proposed by consultants such as Six Sigma, Baldrige Quality Award and Kaizen. Many of these initiatives are not sustainable without significant time and effort by management. Today, some are rarely practiced.

At PQ Corporation, we found that the one initiative that generated results and was sustainable over time was the culture of continuous quality improvement, or CQI.

How was CQI different than other improvement initiatives? It was the way in which we implemented it.

We had employees get directly involved in the effort. Instinctively, most employees realize that continuous improvement is needed to grow the company and build competitive advantage. To not continually improve means that you fall behind. No other initiative has this innate imperative.

Even though CQI at PQ was led by the CEO and other senior leaders, it was driven by the employees at every level within the company. The senior leadership of the company was charged with creating an environment where employees developed a sense of ownership in that part of the business in which they work.

This cultural change put power and responsibility into the hands of employees, not managers, to initiate and drive improvement projects. Each of the production unit teams within our manufacturing plants was given $50,000 to spend on projects chosen by the team to improve their manufacturing processes.

Creation of a CQI culture required training of all managers to be coaches and counselors to their staff, empowering them to develop and implement their own improvement ideas. Training was needed to help employees analyze data to determine the root cause of issues, so proper solutions could be identified.

By adopting CQI, my company saved millions of dollars from ideas generated and implemented by our employees.

By relying on our employees to identify and execute these projects, it brought out the creativity in our people, encouraged them to be more proactive, and showed them in a tangible way that they mattered to the success of the company. This helped us be more competitive, and provided funds to reinvest in and grow our business.

There is nothing like having employees throughout the organization, hourly and non-hourly alike, develop and execute their improvement projects so they could develop a sense of ownership in what they do.

So, if you are looking for a way to build competitive advantage to help achieve the Holy Grail — becoming the preferred provider of products or services to the market — adopt a culture of continuous improvement. Companies that do not continually improve will be left behind. Those that do will win the competitive race in the long run.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership, and is the former CEO of PQ Corporation. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.

Build Competitive Advantage Through Servant Leadership & Continuous Improvement

Build a Competitive Advantage Through Servant Leadership & Continuous Improvement

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on October 16, 2018

CEOs are always looking for ways to differentiate their business from competition to build a competitive advantage. One of the ways to achieve this differentiation is through a servant leadership environment and a continuous improvement culture.

In an April 2013 article in The Washington Post headlined, “Servant leadership, a path to high performance,” Edward D. Hess at the University of Virginia wrote that his research found that “leaders [of high performing companies] were servants in the best sense of the word. They were people-centric, valued service to others and believed they had a duty of stewardship. Nearly all were humble and passionate operators who were deeply involved in the details of the business. … They had not forgotten what it was like to be a line employee.

“They believed that every employee should be treated with respect and have the opportunity to do meaningful work. They led by example, lived the ‘Golden Rule,’ and understood that good intentions are not enough — behaviors count. These leaders serve the organization and its multiple stakeholders. They are servant leaders.”

What Hess found is very similar to the research of Jim Collinsas presented in his iconic book “Good to Great,” in which Collins describes “Level 5 leaders [as those] who display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will.” Level 5 leaders are not the “larger than life” imperial leaders many of us are so familiar with.

Don’t think that servant leaders and Level 5 leaders hold their organizations accountable to only easily achievable goals. They set tough goals and have high-performance expectations for their employees, empower them to achieve those expectations and hold them accountable for results.

In May 2016 I wrote an article headlined, “Saxbys coffee: How treating your people right can lead to success,” in which I described Nick Bayer, founder and CEO of Saxbys, as an ardent believer in servant leadership. Bayer feels that Saxbys’ culture is the most important determinant of his company’s success.

I asked Bayer, “How do you differentiate Saxbys – why do customers come to your cafés and buy coffee?” He said, “We compete on people, not on product. Most people think that we are in the product business – we are actually in the people business. I realized that I can compete [with other companies] on people and on hospitality. People are at the core of what we do – our team members and guests.”

Bayer and his senior leadership team give significant support to their café managers. He said, “I personally am an absolute zealot of the mentality of ‘servant leadership.’ Organizations work best when they are upside down. Our café managers are the CEOs (café executive officers) of their businesses. All the people at headquarters exist to serve our café managers and their teams. We are here to help them to be better at their jobs. My expectation of them is to be servant leaders to the members of their teams. Their job is to make life better for their guests every single day.”

On the subject of empowerment, Bayer said, “We hire people with good critical judgment and empower them to make decisions. Other employers take power away from their employees. I don’t want to get in the way. I want my people making decisions. I hire people who will develop a sense of ownership in their business.”

A servant leader environment is perfect for establishing a culture of continuous improvement. In August 2014 I wrote an article headlined, “A culture of continuous improvement is no management fad …” and as the then CEO of PQ Corporation, how I used that culture to build competitive advantage.

At PQ, we dubbed our continuous improvement culture “continuous quality improvement,” or CQI. CQI was led by me and the other members of the senior leadership team, but was driven by the employees at every level within the company.

The senior leadership of the company were charged with creating an environment where employees developed a sense of ownership in that part of the business in which they worked. This cultural shift put power and responsibility into the hands of employees to initiate improvement projects, without getting upper management’s approval, which fit a servant leadership model. If an improvement idea was beyond their authority level, employees were empowered to present the idea to the individual who has the authority to approve it.

Creation of a CQI culture required training of all managers to be coaches and counselors to their staff, encouraging them to develop and implement their own improvement ideas. Training was also provided to help employees analyze data to determine the root cause of issues, so proper solutions could be identified.

By adopting CQI, PQ saved millions of dollars from ideas generated and implemented, many by the hourly workforce within our plants, using capital project funds that they themselves could spend on projects of their choosing.

Granting funds to hourly employees to be spent on capital projects brought out their creativity, encouraged them to be more proactive, and showed them in a tangible way that they mattered to the success of the company. This helped us be more competitive, and provided funds to reinvest in and grow our business.

Create an environment of servant leadership and a culture of continuous improvement to build competitive advantage. Companies who do not continually improve will be left behind. Those that do will win the competitive race in the long run.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Follow Silverman on LinkedIn here and on Twitter, @StanSilverman.