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The Xerox Profile: Best-practices in Organizational Improvement

  • ID: 42686
  • Report
  • November 2003
  • 64 pages
  • American Productivity & Quality Center, APQC
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Progressive organizations, like Xerox, know that an unfaltering focus on continuous improvement is the key to achieving and sustaining success. Xerox is a global leader in technology innovation, with $1 billion spent annually on research and development. You’ll find R&D touched on often throughout the chapters of this report, in many different contexts. Consequently, a key element of Xerox improvement initiatives is innovation. Anne M. Mulcahy, chairperson and CEO of Xerox, has written that research and development is a continuing priority. Research at Xerox has spanned so many bases, from mechanical engineering to social science and psychology. In 2002 Xerox reported the largest new offering year in history and a ranking of ninth in U.S. patents awarded among American-based corporations.

Xerox reported in 2003 that its “research into concepts, tools, practices, and technologies of knowledge sharing has taken place over decades, but it intensified over the last several years as we recognized knowledge management as a mainstream business discipline. Since the 1970s, for example, researchers at [Palo Alto Research Center] have studied the way people work, how people use technology, and how we collaborate with each other while using technology.” (“Knowledge Sharing,” Xerox.com)

Indeed, these themes of research and development, knowledge management, new product development, and response to customer needs is evidenced throughout the sections of this profile. Herve Gallaire, chief technology officer at Xerox, recently wrote that a key challenge for R&D organizations is how to connect activities to the market in order to develop products and services that customers need, while also fostering innovation (“Managing and Leveraging Innovation,” Xerox.com). In response, the company is pushing forward with three
approaches.

1. Reinvent its machines—create higher quality, faster, and more cost effective products and services.

2. Rethink how it works—examine how technology is altering the creative process.

3. Redefine the document—make the transfer of information from one media to another transparent.

Gallaire stated, “The generation of new business is at once the most attractive and most challenging aspect of any research program. Opportunities can arise because of technical advances or through emerging market requirements, but very often it takes a combination of the two. As with so much in life, timing is everything.” Xerox has regularly used timing to its competitive advantage through numerous perf o rmance-based and process-based improvement efforts. Since 1995, APQC has had the opportunity to examine critical aspects of “the Document Company’s” improvement initiatives. These research eff o rts began with the benchmarking report Internal Communications.
Since then, Xerox has also been a best-practice partner in the following studies:
- Measuring Call Center Performance (1996),
- Strategic Planning (1996),
- Competitive and Business Intelligence: Leveraging Information for Action (1997),
- Baldrige-based Self-assessments (1999),
- First-contact Resolution (2000),
- Successfully Implementing Knowledge Management (2000),
- B-to-B Branding: Building the Brand Powerhouse (2000),
- The Customer-centric Contact Center: A New Model (2001),
- New Product Development: Gaining and Using Market Insight (2001),
- Building and Sustaining Communities of Practice (2001), and
- Retaining Valuable Knowledge: Proactive Strategies to Deal with a Shifting Work Force (2002).

Articles include: “Xerox Creates a Knowledge-sharing Culture Through
Grassroots Efforts,” “Question and Answer with Robert Camp” (then-manager of benchmarking competency at Xerox), and “Owens Corning and Xerox Structure Benchmarking as Partner with Competitive Intelligence.” Best practices found during those studies and interviews are captured in this report in an effort to illustrate how Xerox has progressed. It is interesting to review what Xerox reveals about certain activities, such as measures and communication, in the context of different initiatives. Far from being isolated organizational
improvement efforts, these initiatives progress in a symbiotic manner so that Xerox can achieve both process and performance excellence.

In fact, the success of many of its efforts are demonstrated by the company’s history of first implementing a initiative internally, perfecting the process, and then approaching its customers to help them in their implementation efforts. For instance, not only does Xerox showcase internal best practices in knowledge management, but also assists customers in adapting Xerox KM best practices. Xerox is an excellent example of an organization that systematically improves and then capitalizes on those improvements to gain strength in the marketplace.

In fact, Xerox has been recognized as a best-practice organization in 12 consortium benchmarking efforts over the past decade. The continuous improvement initiatives have focused on: knowledge management, new product development, market insight, customer service and customer contact centers, branding, competitive intelligence, knowledge retention, facilities management, quality, communications, performance measurement, strategic planning, and benchmarking. It is interesting to review what Xerox reveals about certain activities, such as measures and communication, in the context of different initiatives. Far from being isolated organizational improvement efforts, these initiatives progress in a symbiotic manner so that Xerox can achieve both process and performance excellence.

The Xerox Profile: Best Practices in Organizational Improvement is the second report in a series of publications that compiles years of benchmarking research and tells the story of an organization’s continuous improvement efforts. Unlike a report that simply indicates an organization’s current perspective, this series details research from the early days of improvement efforts through to the organization’s mature outlook as it experiences
successes.

Readers have an opportunity to examine how an organization began an improvement
effort, how its focus evolved, and what challenges it has faced. This is an excellent way to compare your own organization’s improvement efforts. An unlike a focused benchmarking report, this series illustrates how organizations make improvement efforts in a variety of ways that often intentionally or inadvertently have a synergistic effect. The result is a powerful momentum in gaining management and financial support, as well as applying past lessons learned to new improvement efforts and seeing quicker results.

Each year, Xerox continues to provide valuable lessons in performance and process improvement, which does much to explain the corporation’s enduring presence in the marketplace. As Xerox itself asserts, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable advantage.”
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Preface 5
Introduction 7
Xerox Corporation and Organizational Improvement 9
Competitive Intelligence and Market Insight 13
Customer Service 22
Facilities Management 41
Internal Communications 42
Knowledge Management 47
Knowledge Management for the Customer Service Function 57
Communities of Practice 67
Case Study: Xerox Connect 87
Self-assessment 104
About the American Productivity & Quality Center 107
Benchmarking Methodology 112
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