In partnership with Waldorf Publishing, we are pleased to profile some of the greatest fiction and nonfiction authors of the 21st century. Our next profile is of Casey Williams.
Williams has recently published two books with Waldorf. The first is “So Your Plant Sucks! What Are You Going To Do About It?” As a full-time process improvement manager for Praxair Surface Technologies, the book was inspired by their attempt to turn around multiple plants without a proper guide. It’s a common sense guide, but also focuses on the leadership skills required. Through interviews and personal experience, it gives readers the motivation and tools they need to turn around their failing plant.
His second is a kids book titled, “The Cat Who Lost His Meow”. It’s an illustrated book based on the story of his cat, Perry, who passed away earlier this year. It deals with love, adoption, family, and death – kind of a modern Giving Tree crossed with the love of a very special cat.
How did you get your start in the literary world? “So Your Plant Sucks” is my second book, but I have been writing for newspapers and magazines as an automotive journalist since 1994. I also self-published “The Adoption of Little Miss Fancy Pants by Her Gay Dads” in 2017.
Can you tell us a little more about what you do? I work full-time as a process improvement manager, responsible for about ten plants. A couple of them have been in turn-around mode. I work with the plant leadership teams to put processes in place to surface improvement opportunities, improve the processes, and sustain the improvements. Turn-around plants are especially difficult because there’s immediate pressure to achieve profitability, putting the plant teams under intense stress. Providing stable leadership is key, then holding teams fairly accountable.
What is your favorite part about being an author? Having written auto reviews for so many years, it is familiar territory. I enjoy sharing topics that interest me and I know well, but it’s really about teaching and helping others – that’s the real joy.
How do you get your inspiration? Real life. The idea for So Your Plant Sucks came as co-workers and I were working to rescue yet another plant. We discussed how it would be great if we had a manual or book that we could give to struggling plant managers to help them get their thoughts together, organize their teams, and set the right priorities. Then, they should have enough basic tools and guidelines to “manage their mess”. These teams don’t need textbooks; they need practical advice. That was the inspiration.
The title came out of one of our hallway de-stressing sessions. We joked the book should be called, “So Your Plant Sucks! What Are You Going To Do About It?” Then, somebody pointed at me and said, “You should write it!” So, I did.
Of all the characters you’ve created, which one would you like to see come alive on the silver screen? While all of the “characters” in this book were based on real people (or traits of people I’ve known), there are some real characters. I think my former boss, Jerry Cook, who I quoted extensively in the Leadership 101 chapter deserves starring role. He’s pretty direct, but always has a good story to make his point. Let’s just say how he was quoted is the cleaned up version.
What is the funniest thing to happen to you in your career? I was a Product Marketing Specialist on Lennox’ cooling team at their R&D lab in Dallas. They were asking engineers if they would like to become Six Sigma Blackbelts. I knew what Six Sigma and Lean were from college, and from studying the auto industry for years. I wanted to go through the training, but I also knew they were not going to be thrilled about “the marketing guy” going. So, I took our director for a ride in a brand new Corvette I was testing, made sure he was in a good mood from stomping the throttle a few times, then asked him if I could go to training. He said, “What the heck, it’s only a few weeks. What do I have to lose?” He wasn’t convinced I would succeed. Of the four of us who went to training, including three engineers, I was the only one to get certified. It’s turned into a pretty good career.
Can you tell us a bit about your book? At the beginning, it’s a bit of a poke in the chest to wake up the reader and get them motivated to fix their failing manufacturing plant. Plant leadership teams tend to deny the obvious until it is too late. Most need a wake-up call. The rest of the book is a combination of Leadership 101 and practical Lean manufacturing tools. I interviewed several former operations managers who I respect and share their perspectives. I also wanted to address the support functions, so there are chapters dedicated to Safety and Quality plus discussion of how human resources can hurt and help. The mission was not to create an all-encompassing textbook, but rather to give the reader real world advice and the basics to build from.
What is your next big project? Funny enough, my next book is a children’s book titled, “The Cat Who Lost His Meow”. It’s a kitten-to-grave story based on the experiences of my own recently-departed gray cat, Perry. The end is sad, but sweet.
Anything else you’d like to add? I always feel like it is an honor when anybody reads what I’ve written. I have always enjoyed hearing from readers when I’ve written auto reviews for the Indianapolis Star, Chicago Tribune, or other outlets. As with my auto stories, I hope readers both enjoy the book and learn something useful –and I hope they tell me what they like and don’t like. Some have said the book is a bit of a point in the chest at the beginning. It is, but I lighten up as it progresses. There’s just no point in trying to turn around a plant if your heart isn’t in it. It’s not easy! Crying time is over – time to get moving. Success will come.
Several of the books published through Waldorf Press can be found at your local library. The Palm Beach County Library System has dozens of electronic books, printed books – both novels & non-fiction, audiobooks, and DVDs or Blu-ray discs to help you understand how powerful reading can be! Travel to your closest branch or find them on the web!