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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ursula M. Burns- Xerox President - Shares Six Lessons Learned

She helped Xerox rebound, now shares six lessons learned, in the face of new challenges.

Burns climbed the ladder after joining the "X" in 1980.

And when Xerox was going through it's "troubles" back in the beginning of the decade - she negotiated with unions to reduce thousands of jobs. Not an easy task.

-"Right when you think you're set ... you get snafued," said Burns, who rose to the No. 2 spot at the iconic company in 2007. "You can hardly ever relax."-

Here are six lessons she learned from earlier troubles at Xerox.

Communicate. "Whenever you're in a crisis you have to talk," she said. And that doesn't mean dumbing down the challenges the company faces. Workers respond when executives are truthful.

Know the culture. Xerox has worked to build diversity of all kinds to gain a wide array of perspectives. That's a key part of its success, Burns said.

But it also has been bureaucratic and slow to change. Burns said navigating tough times requires embracing the best of the corporate culture and stripping away those parts that can hurt growth.

Have a vision. Xerox was beat up by the press amid its financial struggles. So, Xerox wrote a pretend front-page story that showed how it should be portrayed in the best of times.

"That was our aspirational vision," Burns said.

People matter. The best strategy devised by legions of consultants is worthless without a work force willing to adapt.

"When you're really in trouble, the people are what saves you."

Customers matter, too. "The customer is the center of the universe," Burns said. Xerox used to develop technology and expect customers to adjust. That didn't work. Customers aren't always right, she said, "but you can't tell them they're wrong."

Leadership is key. A bad leader will quickly destroy any progress. Good leaders are humble, focused and human. They "put the enterprise before themselves," she said.

Nov 11, 2008 (The News & Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)


  1. Here, here the customer is the center of the universe!

  2. I noticed that too - very interesting - ""... Xerox used to develop technology and expect customers to adjust. That didn't work..."

    Seems that is how IBM use to make PCs(PS/2, Microchannel, OS/2)and how some manufactures operate today.

    "...if you build it, they will come..."


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