By David Murphy, Vice President of Innovation
and Business Optimization
In last month’s column, I gave you an update on our progress toward transforming Waste Management in 2013.
Now that the new year is here, let’s talk about where we’re headed.
I get asked frequently: “Murph, when will we know we have been successful in transforming the company?”
Well, there are a couple of ways to answer that question. First, the obvious answer is, “when our financial
results begin to show significant improvement.” The great news is that our financials are already starting
to look good and, with continued effort around all the things we do, they likely will continue to improve. While
numbers are generally better in most locations, in places that have some of our key new processes – like SDO,
centralized routing, centralized dispatch or mining – our financial results are dramatically better, and they
will only continue to improve.
But, there is also a second and less obvious answer. To me, I will know that we are “successful” when we invent
an idea at a local District or Area, try it out, prove it works and then within a very short period of time implement
What I am describing is called “bottoms up innovation” and “knowledge sharing” and it is two things that we are
not especially good at as a company. While we do have a reasonably good track record of having our local
businesses invent new and profitable ways to serve our customers, improve services, and improve profit, we are
really quite poor at scaling that idea across the company.
Well, often we have had a “not invented here” mentality that keeps us from implementing a proven new idea or
process quickly. Other times it is simply a matter of prioritization and resources that prevents adoption. Still
other times it is a matter of management focus.
How do I know this to be true? Because I have personally done all of the above and, because of my actions, the
new ideas have withered. My guess is that many of our managers have done it too.
The good news is that I can feel things already changing. We as managers and employees seem far more open
to the adoption of new ideas than we ever have been. That’s good. But we need to keep at it. We need to continue
to find ways to roll out new ideas – big and small – across the company quickly. When we can, we will truly turn
WM into an unstoppable force.
Imagine what happens when a new idea to save $500 per route per month is invented and tried somewhere in the
Midwest and rolled out nationwide in a matter of a couple of weeks. While at the same time, a proven idea to
improve customer service is invented in Florida and rolled out within a month everywhere.
So, what should you do if you have a new idea to improve operations or customer service? Well, first talk to your
managers about it and get them to try it out. If it works, try it out at the Area level. If that works too, tell me about it.
Shoot me an email and I will do my best to get it deployed around the company quickly.
When that begins to happen, WM will be unstoppable. Our competition simply will not be able to react quick enough.
We win. They lose. Game over. That’s Transformation!