Recovering the fumbles and organizing for the future, Xerox integrates R&D into corporate strategy with pioneering research and restructures to become a learning organization--with lessons for military acquisition

by Wayne Walker

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This case study of Xerox provides an analogy of the problems facing the military acquisition system and what must be done to repair it. Many of Xerox's competitive problems originated with the phased program planning and reviews Xerox introduced when it hired executives from Ford to cope with its nova-like growth during the 1960s. Similar controls were imposed on the military acquisition system (by executives from the same source, Ford) leading to comparable inefficiencies. The study explores how Xerox "fumbled" the computer innovations developed at its PARC research center and the subsequent bold organizational steps Xerox has taken to integrate its research and development into its overall corporate effort, in effect, to recover the fumble. The failures and organizational changes at Xerox are examined in the context of four organizational learning frameworks: (1) learning in practice versus the culture of acquisition, (2) three models of innovation--linear, cyclical, and network, (3) the Chris Argyris Model I and Model II patterns of organizational behavior, and (4) resonant organizational learning determinants and conditions. Finally, the case study draws lessons form the Xerox experience for the military acquisition system. These include eliminating the linear model of R&D and the phased program milestone process and establishing an integrated acquisition process. In addition, military suppliers should also be encouraged to adopt the learning paradigm.

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