I am mission success: Kenny Steward

  • Posted: Monday, November 20, 2023, 1:23 pm

Kenny Steward, Pantex deputy site manager

Anyone who has ever played football will tell you that it takes a big team, and an even bigger effort, to get the “W” when the clock hits zero.

While every member of the team plays an important role in its success, few players garner more attention than the quarterback (unless you happen to be dating a worldwide pop music sensation). While fans typically focus on a team’s starting quarterback during normal circumstances, the spotlight can quickly shift to the backup when the starter isn’t able to play. Dallas Cowboys fans saw that last season when backup Cooper Rush led the team to a 4-1 record after starter Dak Prescott suffered an injury.

If Pantex were a football team, its backup quarterback would be Kenny Steward. As the deputy site manager, Steward, who has served at the plant for more than 30 years, works alongside site manager Colby Yeary to run the everyday operation here.

Their close teamwork is evidenced the plant’s bottom line, which saw goals met and exceeded across the facility last year.

Steward says he is incredibly proud of the members of the Pantex team of employees, who all stepped up to the challenge and served the mission.

“The team improved our production, project, and maintenance performance,” he said. “It is exciting to watch the team challenge themselves, accomplish their goals, and then establish a new goal as they continue to have a ‘persistent discontent with the status quo.’”

What CNS principle drives you to be successful?
Continuous Improvement. I remember having a conversation with a fellow employee after I assumed a new position. He told me the story of the physician, the coroner, and the mortician, and that story has stuck with me throughout my time with CNS.

He said, sometimes you’re just going to have to play the role of coroner – the person has passed, and it’s your job to figure out what went wrong. But to succeed in my role, I needed to be the physician – to look ahead, to heal that patient before the problem gets unfixable. And finally, you never want to be the mortician – all they’re trying to do is make an unfortunate situation pretty.

I internalized many of the things he said to me that day. “Quality is more than completing the checklist – you should find ways to drive improvement and consistency in our products and processes.”

I like to use a phrase he also used: That we should have a “persistent discontent with the status quo.” The principle of Continuous Improvement should drive us to never be content with the process as-is and to look for ways to remove frustration, improve cycle time, and improve our overall performance. Never be fine with just showing up – always look to improve yourself, or the process.

What is one thing your coworkers would be surprised to know about you?
I am a pretty open book. Most of my coworkers know a lot about me. They might be surprised to know that I am a Liverpool Football Club fan. I record all of Liverpool’s games and watch them at night or on the weekend if I have some downtime. I had the opportunity to see them several years ago with David Graham at Fenway Park in Boston. It was so cool to see football (soccer) played in a historic baseball stadium.