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The quest for quality at Xerox is the tale of two journeys, which began in 1983 with CEO David

T. Kearns long-range, comprehensive quality strategy coined, Leadership Through Quality. (Evans & Lindsay, 2011) This effort culminated in being recognized with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1989. A new impetus in the late 1990s drove the formal adoption of Lean Six Sigma in 2003. Leadership Through Quality was defined by the Voice of the Business and sought to attain customer satisfaction as a key outcome. The early tools and philosophies were focused on improving business processes through identifying process benchmarks to drive business results. Xerox leveraged external organizations with process best practices and then aligned efforts internally to meet or exceed the established benchmarks. Examples include using Proctor & Gamble for their established standards in marketing and L.L. Bean for their best in class distribution operation. (Anderson, 1993) Leader modeled behaviors and extensive training were pillars of Xeroxs initial quality efforts. James Sierk, the Vice President who led the Baldrige effort notes, One of the keys to success of the quality process is the cascading of Leadership Through Quality program from top down. (Anderson, 1993) Quality behaviors exhibited and reinforced by leadership is a cornerstone for success. Success however, can breed complacency and Xeroxs journey demonstrates this lesson; losing focus even for a moment can harvest significant negative consequences. Xerox was ill prepared for the fluxes in technology and consumer demands that stifled the organizations growth. Xerox now faced rework (a form of waste) in reigniting the pursuit of quality. New management cemented this commitment to excellence by instituting a new infrastructure reinforced with dedicated resources to focus on key business initiatives. (Fornari & Maszle, 2004) A key element of the deployment of Lean Six Sigma is communicating it as a vital enabler of quality improvements. The integration of Lean Six Sigma capitalized on the existing culture to shift from the prior hierarchical quality model to an iterative quality model where at the center was Customer Focus. This framework developed guiding principles and practices for Xerox associates to focus on customer value to drive business results. (Dahlgaard-Park & Dahlgaard, 2006) A new priority for Xerox was to empower associates to participate and own quality improvements aimed at increasing customer value. Alignment between

associates and organizational goals and objectives was established for the first time in their history. Education and training were again at the forefront of this journey, but the motivation here was to raise intellectual capital and groom tomorrows leaders. The accomplishments of Xeroxs quest for quality demonstrate the ability to benchmark formulas of success (i.e. Motorola and GE). Xerox studied the creation of Six Sigma by Motorola and GEs philosophy of dedicated resources to create a deployment strategy fit for purpose. Achieving sustained quality throughout an organizations value chain is an exercise in discipline, determination, and patience. Successful journeys yield incremental gains over a period of time, building on each successive improvement. Heraclitus a Greek philosopher once wrote, Change is the only constant. Former CEO Kearns observed a world in constant flux and his organizations need to adapt and evolve to remain relevant in the market place. External and uncontrollable variables alter the landscape redefining quality along the way. Kearns reflects on these experiences stating, Quality is a race without a finish line. The true message is that quality is not simply void of a finish line, but instead filled with infinite and ever shifting destinations. This slogan has recently been revived by management, acknowledging its ever present relevance. A relentless and unwavering participation in the evolution of quality and the fortitude to progress is paramount to success. Agility is a welcomed byproduct of a prosperous journey in quality. Leading the change rather than managing it is a position of strength and control. Xerox was on the brink of bankruptcy when Kearns said, We are determined to change significantly the way we do have been doing business. (Dahlgaard-Park & Dahlgaard, 2006) Since this declaration Xerox has enjoyed a position of strength and world recognition for their quality service and products. The success of Leadership Through Quality was a key enabler for the adoption of a more robust Lean Six Sigma initiative. The outer iterative cycle of Xeroxs new framework drives home the message that People providing Customer Value leads to Business Results. (Dahlgaard-Park & Dahlgaard, 2006) Xerox has recently developed a new training program geared towards embedding Lean Six Sigma into every aspect of daily business. The evidence supporting this change is rooted in their complete understanding that they must continue to evolve to sustain quality.


Arthur Fornari, & George Maszle. (2004, August). Lean Six Sigma Leads Xerox. ASQ Six Sigma Forum Magazine, 3(4), 11-16. Retrieved September 21, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 694542051).


Eric Anderson (1993, September). A tale of two companies. Business Credit, 95(8), 22. Retrieved September 21, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 271978).


James R. Evans, & William M. Linsay. (2011). Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence (8th Edition). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.


S.M. Dahlgaard-Park, & J.J. Dahlgaard. (2006), In Search of Excellence Past, Present and Future, in: H. Schnauber (ed.), Kreativ und Konsequent Herbert Masing, Hanser Verlag, Mnchen, Wien