Skip to main content

The constant drive of process improvement is the key to a successful organization. Many organizations fail to succeed because they place this accountability on leaders instead of people actually doing the work. As a company, we need to build the culture of continuous improvement bottom up, from the most valuable areas of the organization – where the valuable processes are occurring. Empowering ALL team members within an organization to continuously seek opportunities for improvement is what will lead to strength within a company.

FISH! Philosophy and a Culture of Continuous Improvement at Cerasis

continuous improvement and cultureCerasis recently held another FISH! Philosophy session with our newest round of employees and some employees who have been at Cerasis for a number of years. FISH! is a culture program many companies use to establish and foster culture within a company. Below you can find out more about FISH! and the 4 pillars which represent the program, as well as a photo slideshow of the good times we had playing our own version of “Family Feud”, which our technology team built to customize for Cerasis, called “Cerasis Feud.”

The reason why we implemented FISH! Philosophy was to uphold our core values and truly create a place where employees want to work and thrive. In this way it seeps out in our service to our customers.

At Cerasis, our core values are as follows:

  • Innovative – Open and creative to customer and employee solutions
  • Quality – Providing value in all that we do
  • Continuous improvement of our people and services
  • Respect of individuals and their contribution to the team

It would be impossible for us to uphold these core values established by both employees and leadership without having a fantastic internal culture. For Continuous improvement to succeed long term, one must understand the role of culture. If you re read the above core values, what will stand out to you is that in order for them to actually happen, you must invest in your people. A great culture will beget an innovative and creative environment as it is backed by trust. Quality can only happen if you believe in what you are doing and put in all you have to the products and services you are delivering. Continuous improvement, of both our people, services, and systems, can only happen if there is desire to do so from the top down. And lastly, Respect for others can ONLY happen when there is a playful, respectful, and trusting environment where relationships thrive.

Understand the Culture of the Organization

First, before we tell you how we at Cerasis creates and then fosters a great culture through the FISH! Philosophy program, let’s talk about understanding the culture of an organization.

Psychologically, humans do not like change. Change requires our brain to surpass the fear of new things and puts us in unfamiliar situations. No matter how exciting the change is and how competent people are, we must expect senses of loss, confusion, and ambiguity. Because of these reasons, we should involve employees in identifying problems and work with them to solve the problems.

For example, say you have worn a blue shirt everyday for five years and are all of a sudden told that you must now wear a red shirt, how would you respond? Now, say you have worn a blue shirt every day for five years and are all of a sudden asked to assist in choosing a new shirt color to improve the company image, how would you respond in that case? There is a significant difference in the human response when one actually has been involved in making a final decision that affects oneself. It’s important to attempt to anticipate the probable reactions in order to change and sympathize with the situation. So, when you understand that change and culture is NOT telling someone what to do, but working WITH them to collaborate on the desired outcome, you can start to implement programs that increase culture within your organization.

Culture and Continuous Improvement Start From The Top

Leaders are crucial to empower and integrate a wide range of employees into the changing of an organization. Leaders do not need a managerial title, but must be a team player with:

  • Effective communication
  • Commitment to the role and organization
  • Social understanding of leadership styles and group dynamics
  • Passion for improvement, empowerment, and motivation
  • Process discipline

These are the people in the organization who believe in the values of a continuous improvement culture and not only talk the talk, but walk the talk. They are the doers that know the work to be improved and communicate with facts instead of opinions. They also understand and respect the goals and strategies of the company and direct improvement projects in the right direction. This is why there is also a FISH! for leaders program where “leaders” are chosen to facilitate the FISH! meetings with employees and “walk the talk.”

The Benefits of a Culture of Continuous Improvement

The culture of continuous improvement is a balanced culture between the company and the people. The company relies heavily on the people to problem solve, stop defects, and fix processes, while the people rely on the company for job security and a safe work environment. The difference between the benefits earned by the people and the benefits earned by the company are soft versus hard.

The company earns hard benefits like improved customer satisfaction, improved quality, improved yields, flow, and profit. On the other hand, aside from a pay check and benefits, the people earn more soft benefits that they may not see right-away such as improved skills, career development, job security, and a safe work environment. Thus, it is often a successful approach to reward hard benefits to the people like luncheons, cash rewards, or even something as simple as a public publication of specific improvements. Treat people as internal customers and get their voice of customer (VOC) on what they will like to receive for improvements and proactive problem solving. Recognize employee contributions – no matter how big or small they may be. Cerasis accomplishes rewarding folks by each person having a fish bowl, and when one is recognized they earn more “fish.”  We also plan to hold quarterly events honoring the stories we collect throughout to showcase the hard work of our employees.  So, let’s talk more about the FISH! program!

Cerasis Uses the FISH! Philosophy Program to Create Great Culture and Foster Continuous Improvement

As a third party logistics services provider, our goal is to offer logistics solutions by way of our logistics technology solutions and managed transportation services. Over time, to offer long term value, and as the industry changes, the onus is on us to guide our shippers on how to continue to gain both hard and soft cost savings by partnering with Cerasis. We do this by always looking at how we can make our transportation management system better, or introduce a new service, such as eCommerce logistics as the industry changes. However, in order to make these changes, our employees need to feel like they are a part of these solutions together, not as dictated by management. We decided to use FISH! as a way to help get everyone on the same page and for ongoing culture training.

So what is FISH! Philosophy?

FISH-logo1The FISH! Philosophy is a set of work/life practices created by ChartHouse Learning, commonly used to improve what is referred to as the “culture” of an organization. The concepts were inspired by observing the work culture at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market.

The FISH! Philosophy includes four simple, interconnected practices:

Be There: When people need you, they need all of you. Setting aside distractions and judgments to be fully present is a sign of respect. It improves communication and strengthens relationships.

Play: You can be serious about your work without taking yourself so seriously. Play is a mindset more than a specific activity. It allows you to throw yourself with enthusiasm and creativity into whatever you are doing, in a way that is natural, not forced. “Playing” with ideas helps you find solutions to everyday challenges.

Make Their Day: Simple gestures of thoughtfulness, thanks and recognition make people feel appreciated and valued. When you make someone else feel good, you feel good too.

Choose Your Attitude: To actually choose how you respond to life, not just react, you must be intentional. When you get up, decide who you want to “be” today. Moment-to-moment awareness is key. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What is my attitude right now? Is it helping the people who depend on me? Is it helping me to be most effective?”

Through The FISH! Philosophy, we build stronger relationships with the team members we work with, the customers we serve, the students we teach and the people we love. In this way, we build a culture that is set up for continuous improvement.

FISH! Session 2014 Pictures

[prime_gallery width=”596″ height=”320″ desktop=”4″ tablet=”4″ mobile=”2″ autoresize=”true”]


How do you increase culture in YOUR organization? What are some great benefits you have seen? Let us know in the comments section below!