Reengineering


Reengineering

The best strategy is not one that tries to divine the future, but one that creates the ability to respond rapidly to the present.

—Michael Hammer, 1993

In 1993, fast on the heels of Deming's TQM movement of the 1980s, Michael Hammer published Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto and launched the systems reengineering movement of the 1990s. Reengineering, in Hammer's words, is "the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to bring about dramatic improvements in performance." The five main objectives of reengineering are:

  1. Boost growth

  2. Build market share

  3. Improve competitive stance

  4. Improve financial results

  5. Promote teamwork

Reengineering's Vision

The twenty-first century company, according to Hammer, will be organized around processes rather than functions. Managers will coach and design rather than supervise and control. Employees will be processor-performers rather than task-workers, and they will have a broad understanding of their company. The company itself will be a dynamic, flexible organization, filled with entrepreneurial zeal and focused sharply on customer needs, an organization where every employee is important. People will be treated as assets and not as expenses.

The organization of the future will no longer cling to traditional hierarchical structures and bureaucratic systems. The future will belong to the processed-centered organization, in which self-directed performers will be focused on creating customer value rather than performing as mere industrial-era drones. "We have institutionalized the ad hoc and enshrined the temporary," states Hammer, suggesting that corporate hierarchies should be eliminated, and replaced with streamlined "process" teams made up of marketing, manufacturing, sales, and service personnel that use computers to combine tasks and therefore can work with less supervision.

Hammer states that the real point of reengineering is not getting rid of people but "getting more out of people, targeting strategic long-term growth on the revenue side." However, the all-out techno-fervor of reengineering tends to overlook the "people factor" in performance, as well as the downsizings that impair performance as much as improve it. Still, much of reengineering, when applied in a people-centered performance system, remains absolutely valid.

See also Total Quality Management

Fastpaths

1990

Michael Hammer: "Reengineering Work: Don't Automate, Obliterate" Harvard Business Review (August 1990).

1993

Michael Hammer and J. Champy: Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution.

1993

Richard Pascale and others: "The Reinvention Roller Coaster," Harvard Business Review (November–December 1993). Urges reengineering to move beyond incrementalism toward quantum reinvention of companies.

1995

Michael Hammer and S. Stanton: The Reengineering Revolution: A Handbook. Largely a follow-on work to the earlier Reengineering of 1993.

1996

Michael Hammer: Beyond Reengineering: How the Process-Centered Organization Is Changing Our Work and Our Lives. Hammer shifts from promoting pure reenginering to promoting the customer-driven organization. Very valuable insights.

1996

Joseph White: "Reengineering Gurus Take Steps to Remodel Their Stalling Vehicles: Mike Hammer and Others Broaden Their Offerings, Push Growth Strategies" (Wall Street Journal, November 26, 1996). Reengineering confesses its shortcomings, that it "forgot the people part of processes," and mends its ways.

2001

Michael Hammer: The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade. Hammer continues his shift from a focus on pure systems to one promoting the customer-driven organization, advancing the notion of a webbased Enterprise System "open to the customer." Extremely useful ideas, as Hammer is a good systems thinker and an exceptionally clear writer.