Home / Profile / Improving how things work

Improving how things work

As a child, Douglas Burgess was fascinated with how things work, so much so that he often took them apart.
“I was always tinkering with stuff,” Burgess says. “It was even to the point where my dad would yell because he’d find things around the house that had been taken apart.”
Burgess, 51, says it was in those early years that he developed a mechanical personality.
“When you’re a kid and people ask what you want to be, I never said a police officer or fireman,” Burgess says. “I wanted to be some type of engineer.”
Burgess’ professional role has evolved to a management level. He has been senior vice president of Xerox Corp.’s Corporate Lean Six Sigma Operations since August.
Lean Six Sigma focuses on improving quality, efficiency and speed in all aspects of the business. Burgess is responsible for Xerox’s Lean Six Sigma and Design for Lean Six Sigma strategy, deployment, training and business process improvement programs.
Burgess directly oversees a staff of 26 people, all but one locally based. In addition to his direct staff, Burgess and his group work with several hundred Six Sigma “black belts” and “master black belts” across the company. He oversees a budget of several million dollars annually.
Since the program began in early 2003, it has recognized hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and productivity savings and its return on investment is greater than 300 percent, Burgess says.
While Burgess spends the majority of his time behind the scenes at the company, working with employees, he says his primary focus is the customer.
“Lean Six Sigma is all about the customer,” Burgess says. “How are we improving our processes that will influence customers’ decisions? Everything we do focuses on ‘How do we improve the business for them?'”
While Burgess is relatively new to his current position, he is no stranger to Xerox. He celebrated his 30th anniversary with the company in April.
A graduate of Eastridge High School in Irondequoit, Burgess received an associate’s degree in mechanical engineering from Monroe Community College in 1978 and took his first job after graduation with Xerox as a quality technician.
Xerox was a family affair for the first few years he worked there. Burgess’ father, Gene, worked in a manufacturing job at the company, and the two would carpool to work when the younger Burgess was starting out.
Since joining Xerox in 1979, Burgess has held various positions in quality, engineering and management for the company’s manufacturing and supply chain operations. In 1997, he was appointed as the executive assistant to the vice president of worldwide manufacturing operations. In 2000, he was named vice president of the equipment supply chain for original equipment manufacturers products.
Prior to his current assignment, Burgess was vice president of the Western Hemisphere equipment supply chain, responsible for supply operations supporting the direct and indirect channels in North and South America. He also was responsible for all aspects of equipment delivery, including forecasting, purchasing, supply planning and delivery of finished products to customers.
Burgess also continued with his education. He received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1984 and a master’s degree in manufacturing systems from Clarkson University in 1994.

A Xerox focus

When Burgess started his current job, he spent the first few months on what he calls a listening tour, traveling extensively to talk with Xerox senior managers-including Chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy and President Ursula Burns-as well as attending industry meetings to keep up to date on Lean Six Sigma practices.
Since 2003, Xerox people have been using Xerox Lean Six Sigma tools and methods in both internal projects and projects for customers. The projects focus on reducing waste and increasing effectiveness in business processes to bring measurable improvements in results for customers and the company.
Burgess says Xerox can use Lean Six Sigma in any of its business processes to improve customer satisfaction, cycle time and cash generation.
“It’s applicable to almost anything,” he says.
He is working to develop and implement a strategy that would take Lean Six Sigma a step farther, incorporating it across the company, rather than simply focusing on initiatives in individual departments and groups. The goal is an end-to-end process management, he says.
“If we really want to get to that next level of performance, it’s really about getting operational alignment across the enterprise,” he says.
To help, Burgess is working with business transformation managers, representing different Xerox groups, to help implement his vision of spreading Lean Six Sigma across the company.
Burgess says hard work is the way to bring the strategy to life.
“We must convince people this is the right way to go,” Burgess says. “We have to keep re-messaging and keep going out and talking to understand how these pieces can fit together.”
Burgess says his days are usually a mix of tactical and strategic moves; meeting with employees to discuss project reviews and working on implementing the strategy. He is often the first person in his building in Henrietta, turning on the lights by 6:30 a.m.
When it comes to leading, Burgess says he is approachable but driven.
“I tend not to waste time, which may be due to my operations background,” Burgess says, adding he is focused on getting a job done without putting things off. “I hate procrastination, and it’s a very easy thing to do, especially in a large firm, but I like to make a difference.”
Not surprisingly, Burgess says the best part of this job is the ability to make a difference and produce change. The worst is the time sometimes required for that change, he says.
Burgess says his drive is helped by his affection for the company and people who work there.
Those who work with Burgess describe him as hard-working, honest, driven and humble.
Ann Cassara, vice president of the Western Hemisphere equipment supply chain at Xerox, describes Burgess as a “sincere, compassionate, strategic thinker.”
“He leads by example and understands the business,” adds Albert Gallina, vice president for Western Hemisphere equipment logistics.
Gallina also calls Burgess a people person: “He understands the human element to business.”
Chuck Chada, vice president of strategic initiatives, Corporate Lean Six Sigma, says Burgess’ management style encourages participation and creates a base of support for initiatives.
“Doug has the ability to think strategically and translate required actions into operational initiatives and process changes,” Chada says. “He can be very pragmatic and knows how to balance short-term deliverables with longer-term investments. This balance is critical in business today.”
Burgess says his business style has come from traits of several role models. When he worked on the plant floor, Burgess remembers two managers who influenced his style. One had a knack for interacting with people; the other was superbly organized.
“I always thought if you could take both of those attributes from each one, you could be a pretty powerful person,” he says.
Another with a style Burgess admires is Mulcahy.
“She helped turn the company around by getting people rallied around her,” Burgess says. “She has this influencing style that made people want to make sure the company is successful.”

Off the job

When not working, Burgess spends most of his time with his family, especially cheering for his children at sporting events. He and his wife of 26 years, Mary, live in Penfield and have three children: David, 23, Amy, 20, and Derrick, 14.
Burgess is an honorary member of the Sea Breeze Fire Department, where he volunteered for 17 years, serving for part of that time as chief. It was through the department that Burgess met his wife, who volunteered in another firehouse.
Another love of Burgess’ life is his car-a 2005 Dodge Viper. Pictures of the vehicle hang in his office, along with family and co-worker photos.
Burgess also honed his interest in how things are made by serving as the general contractor for his house, which was built in 1996. Burgess admits to never having built anything before, but he says good subcontractors helped get the job done in a timely manner. He also worked hard, painting, laying hardwood floors, putting stone on the house’s exterior and running cable and phone lines.
He wants to continue to bring that same spirit and hard work to Xerox. Burgess says he will continue to weave the Six Sigma strategies and initiatives into the fabric of Xerox.
“It’s about balancing intuition with facts and data,” Burgess says. “Both are important when making business decisions.”
adeckert@rbj.net / 585-546-8303

Douglas Burgess
Position: Senior vice president of Xerox Corporate Lean Six Sigma Operations
Age: 51
Education: A.S. in mechanical technology from Monroe Community College, 1978; B.S. in mechanical engineering technology from Rochester Institute of Technology, 1984; and M.S. in manufacturing systems, Clarkson University, 1994
Family: Wife, Mary; sons David, 23, and Derrick, 14; daughter, Amy, 20
Residence: Penfield
Outside activities: Family, car enthusiast, former fire chief and honorary member of Sea Breeze Fire Department
Quote: “Lean Six Sigma is all about the customer. … Everything we do focuses on ‘How do we improve the business for them?'”

05/15/2009 (C) Rochester Business Journal


Check Also

Chris Mueller

Merrill Lynch names Chris Mueller to wealth management post (access required)

Merrill Lynch has named Chris Mueller as the bank's wealth management market executive for New York, a position spread across ...


Transcat acquires Canadian software firm (access required)

Transcat Inc. has acquired a Canadian calibration software firm for about $1.07 million. Mississauga, Ontario-based Infinite Integral Solutions Inc. is ...