ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - January 2001


Surviving in The New Economy: From virtual workplaces to technology overload, this special feature takes an in-depth look at the changing demands of our workplaces and world.

  In This Issue...

Celebrating the Power of People
Tricks of the Trade—Unique Tranining Ideas
Views For A Change
Pageturners: Flawless Consulting Fieldbook

 One From Column B —
I Will Survive

 Peter Block explains why the new economy is just an economy, and why our relationships and our senses promise survival .

  Surviving In The New   Economy:

Working In A Virtual World
Defining The New Economy
Penny Sanchez- Burruss and Barry Johson, Ph.D

The 24/7 Work Invasion
Info, Info, Everywhere!
Brief Cases
Tips: It's About Time and Finding Time


Return to NFC Index

  Special Feature: Surviving In The New Economy

Insights: In the Face of Change, Values Stay the Same

Penny Sanchez-Burruss is at the forefront of technology. Vice president of customer satisfaction and loyalty at Xerox in Rochester, NY, she has had a front-row seat to witness the changes in the new economy.
With the speed and rapid technological advancements so prevalent in today's workforce, Sanchez-Burruss believes balance is the key to success, and explains how Xerox has embraced the concept.

How has the new economy affected Xerox?
  Xerox, like a lot of companies, is in a transition to really maximize the opportunities in the new economy. And that basically is just new ways of working, new ways of achieving revenue and profit.

How has Xerox used this new technology?
 We're looking into optional customer satisfaction surveys by using the Internet, for example, to expand the customer experience with Xerox. We're making sure that we have a vehicle that the customer can use any time they want. They can go on our Web page and click a button to give us their opinion. Customers want to interact with us in a variety of ways and as a company we need to be prepared to respond to them via the Web, phone, in person, etc.

What challenges have you experienced?
  The challenge is speed. If you're not one of the early adapters, you can learn from others and then you don't have to make the same mistakes-you can improve on their experiences. Therefore, if you're not first, at least learn from others to be more successful than competitors.

  Electronic communication has increased. We just communicated with a lot of our customers about a month ago and most of it was done electronically. Customers responded well because they are used to communicating that way within their businesses.

How do you cater to customers who aren't so technically advanced?
  In the communications we did a month ago, approximately 90 percent were electronic. For the other 10-15 percent we sent hard copies. So we do realize that there are people at all stages of technology. We try to be flexible to meet all of our customers' needs.

How has such a large corporation dealt with so many rapid technological changes?
  One of the keys to the new economy is people. The technological changes are great. Xerox is becoming a digital company, so the fact that technology is changing is going to help our business. I would say that the key to dealing with this rapid technology is leadership that's open to change.

What about people who are not receptive to change?
  The only thing you can do is role model and explain to them the value and the benefits of the changes. The challenge comes when change affects them personally. I think that's always hard and it's an unfortunate reality in today's business environment. You should repeat over and over, "Change is good."

With our tendency to rely on e-mail and the Internet, how do you feel the lack of "face time" has affected business relationships?
  You need a balanced approach. Relationships are very important, and yes, I do think you can have a relationship via e-mail or voice mail. But you do need to have face-to-face time as well. When the customer has a problem, they want to know that you've heard them. They want to know that you care. I do think it's a little harder, but you can communicate via e-mail. I think that there's a place for e-mail, Internet and voice mail, but there's also a place for face-to-face relationship building as well.

How do you express this personal relationship with your customers?
  I'm a voice mail person. I would much rather receive a voice mail if something is urgent. But not everyone's the same. I think it's important that if you're dealing with a customer that you're trying to build a relationship with, you should find out how they want you to communicate with them.

Have Xerox's values changed in the new economy?
 Values and principles are things that should withstand the test of time. We have some very good core values at Xerox that have been consistent. Values such as:

We succeed through satisfied customer.s
We value and empower employees.
We deliver quality and excellence in all we do.

All employees are committed to these shared values and Xerox will be successful in the new economy by staying true to our values and using new technology to implement them.

Insights: Balance is the Key to Managing Change in the New Economy

Barry Johnson, Ph.D., president of Polarity Management Associates, Middleville, Mich., knows a thing or two about balancing the risks and opportunities of the new economy. He has helped businesses recognize the importance of managing interdependent opposites, or polarities, to achieve outstanding success. The key to survival? Not getting too far ahead or too far behind technology.
Johnson is the author of "Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems."

What does the new economy mean to you?
  The central dimension of the new economy is the heightened experience and intensity of interdependence. The three areas in which I think it shows up most dramatically are technology, finance and environment.

  The new technology enables us to increase the speed with which we connect with other people and we've also increased the range of our ability to connect. At one time I can make a connection with all the people who are in a significant group interested in polarity management as a concept, and I can just type one e-mail and hit one button and all of them get it around the world relatively quickly.

  The second area is in terms of finance. Technology allows us the awareness of financial interdependence. There is a much greater awareness of what is going on in other parts of the world and how that affects us economically allowing us to make adjustments accordingly.

  The final area of interdependence heightened in the new economy has to do with the environment. It's the whole notion that what we do in one part of the world impacts us in another part of the world. For example, we know the depleting rainforests in Brazil will eventually affect us everywhere.

What have been your greatest challenges in the new economy?
  Not getting ahead or behind technology as a resource. When we created our interactive program, we anticipated companies would be able to introduce polarity management throughout their organization through an Internet communication system. Most of them didn't have it at the time and we had to oversimplify our computer program in order to make sure it would work well with the technology available in a broad base of companies. If the company wanted to use it they had to have the capacity to use it. And at that time, not everyone had a computer at their desk. We had to make sure that the art looked good in black and white and in color because many of the computers were just in black and white. With all that effort we ended up being a little bit ahead of companies with the technologies we introduced using the computer program. At this point, our computer program is now behind the technology and we need to upgrade it using what we've learned in the last five years about the phenomenon of polarities and interdependent opposites and the new technological advances for Internet communication.

  Another important challenge is keeping focused. Because there is so much opportunity generated by the new economy, it's easy to lose focus and chase a number of different opportunities. What we think will help in this area is to pay attention to what our values are and what our passion is. And we need to manage both the long term and the short term. The new economy tends to focus on the short term.

  The new economy also focuses on task efficiency. We need to make sure we're paying attention to task and focusing on the other pole, relationship. We can pay attention to the long term and tap the benefits of short cycle time and short-term efficiency simultaneously.

Have you seen more internal changes occur (employee attitude and involvement, culture, etc.) or external changes (customer satisfaction,
marketing, etc.)?
  I've certainly seen changes in both. We've been doing quite a bit in the area of health care and education and what we're finding is a loss of joy in the work. And I think the reason that this shows up so dramatically there is because people tend to enter those two professions because they enjoy the work itself. The joy is in being driven by the work, not by the desire to retire early or to make a lot of money. And increasingly we are finding people under the pressures of the new economy that the pleasures are going out of their work and they're not really getting the richness of pursuing their calling that they had thought.

  There's another thing that's happening and I'm not quite sure how to deal with the phenomenon. Work has become, for some people, a part of life that you cleverly get through in order to have the freedom to do what you really want to do. My daughter, for example, has a number of friends in San Francisco who are planning to retire at that time. A couple of the questions that raises for me are: Will they overtolerate an unsatisfactory lifestyle and working condition until they're 40 with the hope that they can put it all behind them at 40? Will that lead to unhealthy workplaces because they are seen as just a transition phase? When they do get through, will they then look at what would be a healthy life for themselves and will that include thinking beyond themselves? It's a very self-centered notion that if you work 80 hours a week you can retire early-you won't have time to take care of other things, your children, your community, etc. because you're busy working towards retirement. What happens if you don't get that retirement at 40? You've given the early years of your children's lives and you've given central years of your life to the dream of early retirement.

It seems everything is moving at an extremely fast pace. What are some of the drawbacks to this?
  I think it provides wonderful opportunities and it just needs its opposite in order to be useful over time. And the opposite is slowing down, taking a deep breath and paying attention to the long haul. Speed tends to focus on efficiency in the short term so we need to focus on relationships in the long term as well. We need to be willing to do things quickly, and intentionally do things that slow us down. Whether these are personal vacations or retreats or free time, we need to shift into that other pole as well. It's not trying to slow down the speed mechanisms as much as it is incorporating in combination with increasing speed and efficiency issues. There was a lot of excitement and energy focused on the dot-coms but they didn't have adequate grounding and couldn't pay attention to the long term. That initial excitement over time was unsustainable and turned into anxiety.

With the increase in technology and our tendency to rely on e-mail and the Internet, do you feel that the lack of "face time" and personal communication and interaction will hurt business relationships?
  Yes, I think so. It's a two-edged sword. We have the possibility of communicating from our heart as well as our head through e-mail, but it's less likely. We need to learn to create settings in which people can tap their heart and get the work done. I call this the head and heart polarity, and it's key to retaining employees to sustain productivity and loyalty.

Do you think organizations that are set in their old ways have a chance of surviving in this economy?
  I believe they have as great a chance as those who are rejecting the old, comfortable ways. The stability change polarity becomes very important. The myth is that those who are holding onto their old comfortable ways are vulnerable and those who are moving into changing everything are likely to succeed. I think that's a half-truth, that you need a combination of the two.

January 2001Homepage

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