Xerox Corp. recently underwent a complete transformation to respond to a changing marketplace and work force. The company's program, dubbed Xerox 2000, set out to change Xerox's emphasis on doing things better, faster, and cheaper to what should be done fundamentally differently--or not done at all.

It All Starts at the Top The need for change became evident in the early 1980s to then-CEO David Kearns. As he took questions at an annual meeting, assembly-line worker Frank Enos stepped up to the microphone to ask about the recently discontinued 3300 copier--a machine notoriously low in quality and reliability. Enos said, "We all knew the 3300 was a piece of junk. We could've told you. Why didn't you ask us?" Not only was Kearns embarrassed, he had no good answer.

Kearns' solution was to institute an extensive training program, starting with the company's top executives. Says worker Lou Marth, "The difference with this quality program was that it was top-down.... It started with David Kearns. He taught his family, the people who worked for him. Then they taught those who worked for them, and it cascaded down."

By the time the process was complete a year and a half later, more than 100,000 employees worldwide had attended quality training sessions, at a cost to Xerox of $125 million. But the work paid off. And when Xerox received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1989, Kearns invited Frank Enos to the ceremony as his special guest.

The Tradition Continues The present chairman and CEO of Xerox, Paul A. Allaire, plans to continue unleashing the power and creativity of Xerox employees by

1. removing layers of management; streamlining processes; and pushing decision making, responsibility, and accountability down to the employees closest to the problems.

2. leveraging diversity of race, religion, gender, genius, ideas, and innovation and turning this into a competitive advantage.

3. building "communities of practice"--small, self-managing, entrepreneurial units where employees and teams have the freedom to act, the security to be bold, the motivation to succeed, and the opportunity to contribute.

4. creating an organization in which learning is pervasive, failures are considered learning opportunities, successes are reviewed for possible improvements, and new ideas are nurtured and implemented.

5. enhancing the use of information technology to get employees information at the right time.

In a sense, the company has put its success in its employees' hands. Many employees set their own schedules and manage themselves. Says assembler and tester Edith Page, "We are on the trust system. We're being treated like people who are responsible, do their jobs well, and then go home."

Tips to Take Away 1. The longest journey begins with the first step--What does your company need to do to remain competitive? Make that your priority.

2. Leadership is a participation sport--Change works best when it starts from the top. If you lead by example, you'll have a faster and more lasting impact than you will if you just direct others.

3. To gain commitment, involve people--Involvement equals commitment. If you want your efforts to have impact, include employees in discussions and goal setting.