Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ursula vs. Anne

I've been accused in the past of swooning over Xerox's previous CEO Anne Mulcahy. People have asked what I think about our new President & CEO Ursula Burns. I've spent a half day with her when she was in the role as President of Xerox.  She's a tough, very direct woman who leads from who she is with her own style. Anne Mulcahy came up through Sales and HR and had the kind of polish that came from those worlds.  Ursula came up through the company through the engineering and operations side of things and leads with a different kind of toughness.  Anne led our company through very difficult times, out of two near bankruptcies.  Ursula is leading our company through what I would argue is one of the ballsiest moves Xerox has ever made: the Acquisition of ACS.

The New York Times Article had an interesting article about Ursula Burns.
 There were two things that I loved about it:

When she was asked what surprised her about her job, I love the humility in her response::
“The accolades that I get for doing absolutely nothing are amazing — I’ve been named to every list, literally, since I became the C.E.O.,” Ms. Burns says. Apart from working on the Affiliated Computer acquisition, she asks, “What have I done? In the first 30 days, I was named to a list of the most impressive XYZ. The accolades are good for five minutes, but then it takes kind of a shine off the real story. The real story is not Ursula Burns. I just happen to be the person standing up at this point representing Xerox.”
The other message was for the employees of Xerox to stop pretending to be a family, and act like a real family:
She wants its 130,000 employees to get over the past, take more initiative, become more fearless and be more frank and impatient with one another to ratchet up performance.
“Terminal niceness,” is how she describes an aspect of Xerox’s culture, during her all-hands speech. “We are really, really, really nice.
Maybe the “Xerox family,” she says, should act a bit more like a real family.
“When we’re in the family, you don’t have to be as nice as when you’re outside of the family,” she says. “I want us to stay civil and kind, but we have to be frank — and the reason we can be frank is because we are all in the same family.”
Out of necessity, Anne came in and had the job to save us.  That's her legacy.  Ursula on the other hand, is her change us.  She's going all-in with the ACS acquisition, and I think it's genius.

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