Mail-Well: Workforce Key To Success Of Reorganization Plan
Press release from the issuing company
ENGLEWOOD, Colo., March 3, 2004 – At Mail-Well Inc., a customer-focused reorganization is being driven by a remarkable transformation of employee attitudes from one end of the company’s 86-location network to the other.
As Mail-Well – one of North America’s leading providers of visual communications – redeploys its resources and rededicates its sales effort, it is drawing upon internal talent for leadership and employee-directed initiatives for inspiration. Company executives speak of an enthusiastic buy-in to this approach by Mail-Well’s 10,000-strong work force, and they say that customers are already reaping the benefits.
The personnel story is only one element of a broad reorganization effort that aims to make Mail-Well a less complex, more efficient, and relentlessly customer-driven operation. In other phases of the plan, the company has reorganized its operating structure into two segments, adopted a simpler geographic profile, and refocused its sales strategy on coordinated cross-selling. The reorganization is an outgrowth of an ongoing initiative called SOAR – the initials of the strategy that exhorts Mail-Well employees to achieve “Superior operations; Operate as one company; Align with market demand; and Replicate success.”
Mail-Well has made corresponding adjustments on the management side, creating new sales and marketing positions, updating reporting responsibilities, and taking other steps to assure that the $1.7 billion provider of e-services, envelopes, offset and digital printing, and printed office products functions as one company. It is noteworthy, executives say, that the changes seldom meant recruiting people from anywhere but Mail-Well’s existing talent pool.
“The good news is that Mail-Well was able to fill all senior management positions from within,” said Bob Brundage, Senior Vice President-Sales & Marketing of Mail-Well’s Commercial segment, which includes print and envelopes. Brundage himself is an example of internal promotion driven by the reorganization, having served as the head of sales for the former Envelope segment. The new slot of Executive Vice President-Sales for the Commercial segment is held by another Mail-Well veteran, Keith Larson, once the CFO of the former Print Group and a Regional Vice President and Facility President before that. James Cozart, formerly the Director of Marketing for the Envelope Group, has expanded his role to that of Vice President-Sales, Marketing & Technology for the Commercial segment, another new position.
A few hand-picked newcomers have been brought aboard to assist the veterans. For example, Gordon Griffiths, President of the Commercial segment, recently announced the hire of a Senior Vice President, Bob Clark, whose role will be to turn the findings of Mail-Well’s employee-directed charter teams into policies intended to make the company, in Griffiths’ words, “seamless to the customer.”
Clark’s mandate for the charter teams is emblematic of Mail-Well’s approach to the nuts-and-bolts implementation of its strategic plan. Whenever possible, the company looks to its work force for ideas about where and how to change procedures in ways that will improve the customer’s experience of doing business with Mail-Well. Known as mobilization, the philosophy is being spread throughout the company by MFAST (Mobilization Facilitation and Support Team) personnel who use town hall meetings and other motivational techniques to seek and channel employee input.
Mobilization, according to Griffiths, is “a culture shift in our company” that has a direct bearing on the quality of “the bread-and-butter part our business, line operations.” Cozart credited the MFAST groups with fostering “the atmosphere of trust in which ideas can be exchanged.”
The most prominent feature of mobilization at Mail-Well is the charter team concept, a program that brings front-line employees and managers together in groups to address specific issues and offer solutions. According to Larson, charter team volunteers come “from all across the platform” to study a problem, develop a plan, and propose a timetable for carrying it out. When a charter team’s work is done, it celebrates and disbands.
Larson said that Mail-Well now has seven charter teams active in areas including continuous improvement, sales development and training, and “super integration” – a one-company study under the personal direction of Griffiths.
Brundage said that many aspects of Mail-Well’s reorganization were consistent with the recommendations of a Total Customer Solutions charter team made up of more than a dozen people from all levels of the company. The team’s primary task was to drive home the Mail-Well value proposition: a commitment to understanding customers’ visual communications needs and to connecting them with resources for delivering customized messages and solutions. At Mail-Well, providing “visual communications” is seen as a powerful competitive advantage that encompasses all steps in the process of delivering a message from sender to receiver – from planning and prepress to production, fulfillment, and distribution.
It was also noted that because the need to become one company also had been identified as a priority in the town hall meetings, employee input could be seen as an important driver of Mail-Well’s decision to reorganize. In this sense, said Cozart, the decision “was one of the most visible and tangible results of the feedback we received from employees.”
Mail-Well also uses internal surveys to draw insight and opinion from the people on its front lines. Its first, conducted last year, helped the company to fine-tune its reorganization plan. Griffiths said that he was evaluating the results of a recent follow-up survey that asked employees to comment on the quality of management communications and on their own understanding of company policies, among other issues.
A keynote of communications at Mail-Well is “barrier removal” – identifying and eliminating obstacles to superior performance. This objective, according to Brundage, “is being ingrained into our culture” through an ongoing series of “barrier meetings” aimed at bringing problem areas to light. “We want employees to bring it to our attention before we bring it to theirs,” Brundage said.
Mail-Well University, an education and training program for all employees, serves as yet another vehicle for spreading the word about mobilization and barrier removal. Executives said that two-way communications fostered by these programs helped to prepare employees for the reorganization when it was announced to them last October.
The news was well received as a result, they said, and may not even have come as much of a surprise.
The reaction was “very positive overall,” according to Brundage, who said that the most common reaction was, “Our customers have been waiting for this.” Cozart, likewise, said that employees either told him, “It’s about time we did it,” or asked him, “Why did we wait so long?”
Cozart also predicted that as the reorganization made employees more aware of Mail-Well’s full range of capabilities, products, and services, they would begin to generate sales leads based upon their special knowledge of customers’ needs. Griffiths said that the changes would stimulate an atmosphere of “spirited customer service” at Mail-Well, enabling everyone to share the excitement of increasing market share.
Griffiths noted that employee support was one reason why he was so confident in the success of the reorganization. “You know you’re right when your people tell you that we should have done this two years ago,” he said.
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