Business Transformation at Xerox and Other Musings


    I attended IQPC’s Lean Six Sigma conference last week in Las Vegas and picked up some gold nuggets I’d like to offer you from various sessions.

    First, Bill Steenburgh, Sr. VP for Xerox in the services management business, shared how his company "lost site of the fact that the customer was pretty important… we became so focused on our measurements." Something had to change, Steenburgh said. "We were losing 50 cents on the dollar every time we signed a contract for outsourcing services."

    So, for the last year and a half, Xerox has been on a journey to rebuild value in the company. It has turned to Lean Six Sigma to strengthen its business results, leadership development and culture change.

    What does it look like in action? A short video shared a recent example about Sir Speedy, the franchise printing/copy shop company. A single franchiser — which owned a number of Sir Speedy shops — worked with Xerox people to tighten processes, from moving functional areas around in the physical space to tweaking the steps in each duplication process. This didn’t help Xerox sell or lease more equipment; but it bonded the client to the company in a major way. After taking a hit the first year, profits generated through that client went up. The client itself experienced record profitability.

    Second, Ellen Domb, editor for The TRIZ Journal, provided an introduction to "theory of solving inventive problems." (Note that the solving isn’t necessarily inventive; the problems themselves are.)

    She shared two TRIZ concepts:

    1. Somebody someplace has already solved your problem, or one similar. Creativity is finding that solution and modifying it to fit your circumstances. As Domb explained, "Take the jargon out of the problem." As an example she cited the dilemma of a coop in Southern California that needed to find a way to reduce the energy required to make packaged fertilizer out of cow manure, of which it had ample supplies. The solution lay in the process used for extracting liquid from oranges being used by orange juice packagers. Different industry, different jargon; same process.

    2. Don’t accept compromises. Remove the source of the problem. Tradeoffs are bad, she explained, because although "something gets better, something else gets worse."

    More on TRIZ at a later date!

    Third, I sat through a panel that discussed, "How To Change Your Culture — the Second Time Around." That "second time around" aspect is important. Staff has a tendency to become a mite cynical if they believe you’re introducing yet another "management technique of the month."

    A couple of points that I found valuable:

    Put together a communication plan that defines what forms of communication you’ll use to get the word out about coming changes and how often. One company had "lunch and learn" sessions, where it served lunch and gave people the chance to "come and vent." Sometimes it was monthly, sometimes quarterly. It also used newsletters that actually addressed real issues and concerns (something the company wasn’t good at before, according to this person).

    Also, don’t look at each change initiative as a new endeavor. Position it as a continuation of the previous efforts. That prevents the cynics from rolling their eyes and, if communicated well, educates people on the broader push being made by the organization.

    Michael Marx provides more blogging from the conference as well as photos on our sister site,


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