Extending Lean Six Sigma Across the Business - Interview with Mark Stewart from Xerox

Add bookmark

Helen Winsor

We have more tools to analyse problems than to make change happen, says Mark Stewart, Lean Six Sigma Deployment Leader at Xerox Europe. In this PEX Network interview, Stewart discusses the imperatives for rolling Lean culture out across the business and extending Lean Six Sigma beyond the normal boundaries of belts and projects.

PEX Network: As a company that has been deploying both Lean and Six Sigma for a number of years, why is Lean currently front of mind? And what value is it driving for the business?

M Stewart: Our first and foremost challenge is growth – we need to grow more rapidly, defining and delivering industry leading products and services. We must transform our infrastructure into a world class platform for operational excellence. To meet these challenges we must go beyond training belts and conducting projects – our future focus will be on transforming our business processes and our culture to achieve process excellence through 1) Focussing on our Customers 2) Creating Innovative Value 3) Thinking End to End 4) Reducing complexity and 5) Increasing Velocity. We feel that Change Management is required and not just improvement. For these reasons Lean is currently front of mind. Lean thinking helps us more with acceleration, speed, response and simplicity.

PEX Network: It’s recognised that Lean needs to be tailored to fit with the organisational structure and culture. What approach have you taken to Lean deployment to fit with the 'Xerox' culture?

M Stewart: We recognise that after 8 years of Lean Six Sigma deployment globally, we have more tools to analyse problems than to make change happen. We also realise that after all this time and investment Lean Six Sigma has only really involved 25% of employees – those that have been trained or are on projects – to make LSS truly part of our culture we need to involve all employees and hence we have invented a simple form of Lean Six Sigma called QwikSolver TM that we are rolling out to all employees over the next 30 months. Xerox has had good success in the past with a ‘problem solving process’ directed to all employees and we are bringing this back strongly. QwikSolver is more about Lean than Six Sigma and among its benefits is that it gives rapid results.


PEX Network: Often companies that have driven Process Excellence for a number of year find it hard to sustain the gains. What has your experience of this been? And what advice would you have for those looking to capture that next one percent?

M Stewart: Xerox has bought in a new Lean Six Sigma Leader who has given us fresh ideas, built upon our current strengths and with our most senior leaders is putting even more emphasis on driving Lean Six Sigma truly as part of our culture and are firmly committed to fully leveraging its power to meet the many challenges we face today.

My advice would be to refresh your approach with creative new ideas, continue to build upon the best that you have achieved and keep driving it hard from the top level. Never stop that or else it will die.

PEX Network: One of the things you have been focusing on in Xerox is engaging the entire business in Lean. Why do you think traditionally this is so difficult? And is 100% engagement actually realistic?

M Stewart: Traditionally, and when Xerox was first ‘sold’ Lean Six Sigma, it was about Black Belts and Green Belts and projects for improvement, we now realise that there is a piece above this and below this. The piece above is pervasive use of LSS by senior management for delivering their strategies and tactics and below is to harness the power by getting all employees involved with Lean Six Sigma. We firmly believe 100% engagement is realistic.

PEX Network: On a personal level - what one piece of advice would you give to other lean Leaders if you were to start the journey all over again?

M Stewart: Strongly think and have plans for the Change Management – to engage any employees at any level to make the initiative work, you must drive for ‘behaviour change’. Those who do this best will get the best results.

Transcript based the podcast How to Create a Culture of Lean Process Improvement.