Creating a high-performance culture and an active program of continuous improvement results in better quality, efficiency, and a competitive advantage that’s hard to match. It can also earn you a 2014 Managing for Improvement Award. For Western Graphics, a 50-employee commercial printing company in St. Paul, Minnesota, and its CEO and owner, Timothy Keran, performance excellence is never an afterthought. Its constant striving to get better is what has allowed the company to prosper.

An innovator who has spearheaded his company’s successful CI efforts, Keran was recently honored as the 2013 recipient of Printing Industries of America’s Managing for Improvement Award for creating real and lasting improvements for Western Graphics. 

How can executives lead their companies to higher performance levels? Here are the three core beliefs that Keran has instilled at Western:personal continuous improvement, engagement,andgoals and values.

1.     Look first at your personal continuous improvement efforts.

Keran knows that accomplishing continuous improvement is more than just collecting plaques on your wall. Successful leadership starts from within. He focused on developing himself over the last 20 years in the industry. Then, turning his concentration to his employees and his company values, Keran was able to create a strong culture that incubates positivity and drives the company’s continuous improvement initiatives. For these reasons, Keran was selected as the 2013 Managing for Improvement Award recipient.  

2.     Make sure your employees are engaged.

Western’s employees are motivated to help clients reach their goals and objectives because Keran has ensured they have an active voice in the company. Employees are expected to submit improvement ideas to which management listens carefully. The company wants to know what employees are thinking and keeps them focused on improvement—they receive brief daily performance reviews and quarterly one-on-one coaching conversations with management. For these reasons, if you work for Western Graphics, chances are you enjoy your work and will go above your requirements to truly “own” each project and delight your customers.

3.     Make sure your corporate mission, goals, and values are clear.

Defining your company’s mission and values tells your employees and your customers who you are and what they can expect from you. It can empower employees who can be given more decision-making freedom with the caveat that they make decisions consistent with the corporate values.

Western Graphics clearly articulates its responsibilities to its customers:

1) Help them reduce their print spend
2) Lower their time spent on managing print
3) Improve their print effectiveness

These goals have focused Western’s improvement efforts. The application of Lean management practices has helped the company drive wasted time and resources out of its processes.  

The results? Because of their improvements in the last five years, Western Graphics has completed more than 2,000 employee-initiated projects and demonstrated striking improvements in rework, lost-time accidents, and sales per employee.  

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2014 Managing for Improvement Award. The deadline is February 7, 2014. Visit the website to learn more about the award and 2013 winner Timothy Keran, CEO and owner, Western Graphics. The winner will be recognized at the 2014 Continuous Improvement Conference, March 30–April 2, in Dallas, TX.