Home / News / SWANA Blog / SWANA Post

Challenge Drives Change. Disruption Drives Decisions.

January 25, 2021

By: John Morris, WM EVP & COO

I remember thinking “It’s snowing and I am on the back of a garbage truck! How did that happen?”

My introduction to the business started on the rear end of a rear loader in New Jersey during my senior year in high school. From there, I learned to drive and that was a skill that would serve me very well as I worked my way through college on my way to a degree from Rutgers University.

With 30 years in the industry and over 20 years at WM, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some of the finest people in the industry – in fact – in any industry! I can tell you I have learned something from every single stop of my professional career.

Today, I am honored to help lead a team of 50,000 of those same great people as WM’s Chief Operating Officer. The operating leadership team covers our collection, landfill, transfer, recycling, organics and renewable energy business.

2020 didn’t create disruption, but it redefined it. Despite a challenging backdrop, our team remained focused on our employees and the fundamentals of providing safe, reliable and efficient service to our customers. Every roadblock brought a lesson to help pave a path forward.

“Necessity is the mother of invention” and COVID certainly necessitated the need to change -literally overnight!

When things get crazy, lead calmly.

In the face of unprecedented change, it’s common for things to get loud. Rather than adding to the noise, it’s more effective to rise above and listen as others uncover solutions.

Challenge drives change.

Pressure to be nimbler pushed us to recreate business processes overnight, essentially optimizing our work and encouraging us to engender proactive thinking.  

Disruption drives decisions.

After moving thousands of team members to a work-from-home environment in a week, we gained the confidence to be more ambitious. So, we accelerated our Customer Service Digitalization efforts and will continue to evolve programs across the enterprise.  

Leadership oftentimes revolves around teaching, but the real moments happen when you’re learning. We learned a number of lessons that taught us how to be more nimble. With that said, the credit goes to our people, the ones who executed and delivered in unprecedented times.

I’m looking forward to discussing how WM stayed resilient in the face of change. Join me at 2:00 p.m. ET on January 26 as I join SWANA CEO, David Biderman for a virtual keynote at WASTECON


About the Author

As executive vice president and chief operating officer (COO) for Waste Management, John Morris has responsibility for all field operations which includes oversight of collections, disposal, recycling, and landfills. He is a member of the Company’s senior leadership team and reports to Jim Fish, president and chief executive officer.

Morris has held several positions in his 20-plus years with the company including market area general manager of NYC, area vice president of Greater Mid-Atlantic Area, chief strategy officer, and most recently senior vice president, field operations.

John is a graduate of Rutgers University.


Load more comments
New code