Last week was jam-packed with great opportunities to interact with our clients. Saturday night, the North Hudson Sewerage Authority in New Jersey celebrated its 25th anniversary with a charity event on the Hudson River. CH2M HILL has been with them every step of the way as their operations and engineering partner. Together we have witnessed the revitalization of a great American waterfront, in large part thanks to the now-clean river. It was also another opportunity to celebrate the heroes of Hurricane Sandy. Kudos to our team and a tip of the hat to our wonderful clients, especially Fred Pocci and Dr. Richard Wolff.

Then it was on to Ohio and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) conference. Many US wastewater agencies send their leaders to this conference to share information, learn about best practices in the industry and celebrate excellence in protecting our nation’s waterways from pollution. Our own Scott Haskins delivered a talk at the conference, providing insights into utility finance and new research that can help managers find support for their capital and operating needs. Congratulations to one of my personal heroes, Julius Ciaccia, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, on his ascension to the Presidency of NACWA.

During the conference, our Global Leadership Team traveled to Marysville, OH to visit with our clients at Honda. In addition to a very productive partnering session, our clients graciously provided a tour of their ginormous manufacturing facility, where 4400 workers and a bunch of really cool robots turn out 1900 Accords and Acura TLs a day. My own CR-V was born just down the road at their East Liberty facility, and I can personally attest to Honda’s obsession with quality. We were also really impressed by their safety culture, and learned a few Japanese business concepts that are very much in line with our Baldridge Award-winning culture. We learned about concepts like “genba”, or getting input from the workers on the factory floor, and “y-gaya”, an open dialogue where expertise, not title, rules. They talked about “turning mistakes into knowledge” and fostering a culture where people are recognized and rewarded for taking a proactive approach (like our “paid to think” culture), rather than just for being a hero under trying circumstances. Sounds a lot like Everyday Excellence to me.

Most of all, we were impressed by the pride, not just of the executives and managers we met but of the associates on the factory floor. “The uniform is not just something we put on in the morning,” our client told us, “it’s part of who we are.”