Vox pop is the inner voice for Na ncy K.M. Rees, senior vice-president, Xerox Lean Six Sigma, Xerox Corp. And her inner voice has never let her down. As the worldwide head of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology, Rees has tried to inculcate a culture of being sensitive to the needs of customers with statistical acumen. The approach has resulted in significant contribution to the net income of the $16 billion (Rs65,600 crore) document-management technology and services company. LSS combines the speed and efficiency of Lean, reflected in the performance of Toyota Motor Corp. and Dell Inc., and the precision of Six Sigma, which catapulted General Electric Co. into the big league. Rees is now helping clients such as Lloyds TSB, FG Wilson Engineering Ltd and North America Finance to bolster growth. In an interview with Mint, Rees says that in the future, speed and a sharp focus on quality in addressing customer needs will be key to the growth of businesses. Excerpts:
From a net income of $91 million in 2002 to $1.2 billion in 2006, Xerox has clearly got over the impact of the two scandals in 2002 that the company was involved in—the bribery incident concerning its Indian subsidiary and the $2 billion accounting error in its revenue statement. What’s the contribution of the LSS programme in Xerox’s comeback?
We introduced the LSS programme in 2002-03 in all our offices worldwide. It helped us achieve significant cost and lead-time reductions. It has contributed millions of dollars to the company’s bottom line through cost savings, productivity and revenue growth. Internal financial targets have been met or exceeded every year since the launch of the programme. Apart from improving business results, the programme has helped change the way the leadership functions. The entire culture of Xerox has become skewed towards the customer and decision-making based on facts.
How can companies improve profitability and drive growth?
Time and quality are the most important metrics in improving any company’s production and profit. To achieve this, besides tracking results, one needs to look at the strategy and the gaps in it, and work on them accordingly. The objective should be to achieve a high output with low effort, optimize costs and resolve customer complaints quickly and satisfactorily.
What are the challenges faced by companies?
Executing strategies the right way is perhaps the biggest challenge a company faces today. The challenge is how to support a creative, often born out of chaos, develop it and quickly get it into the market. Innovation without discipline is much ado about nothing. The key is to combine innovation with discipline and bring the product into the market before your competitors do.
Companies also have to get out of the traditional thinking mode of “I have this. Therefore, this is what you want”. Companies need to remain connected to their customers and strategies have to be developed around the needs of the customers, not the other way round.
What are your plans for India and across the world?
Our goal in India is to gain a strong foothold and expand our market share in the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment, which has been identified as the fastest-growing segment by IDC, a provider of technology intelligence and market data. Last year, Xerox India earmarked Rs17 crore for brand building and product marketing. Out of this, Rs12 crore has been assigned towards demand generation and market development in the SME segment.
Globally, our aim is to be a leader in consulting services and colour products. We are also betting big on our Smarter Document Management product, which improves productivity and optimizes use of people, processes and infrastructure, resulting in 30-40% savings for a company.