Reengineering the Corporation

Business reengineering requires looking at business processes from scratch: ignore the present corporate structure and procedures, focusing instead on how the work can best be done today, using today’s technologies. Hammer and Champy are convinced that only the companies willing to take on this difficult task will remain competitive in contemporary world markets.

Why is it necessary for corporations to reinvent themselves? Ever since the Industrial Revolution, industrial work has been broken down into its simplest and most basic tasks. But in the postindustrial age we are now entering, those tasks must be reunified into coherent business processes—which necessitates a total rethinking of how work is performed and how companies are organized.

A true reengineering effort involves the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic performance improvements (i.e., order-of-magnitude improvement, not 10 percent). It includes a process orientation (cutting across organizational boundaries), willingness to break with old corporate traditions, and creative use of information technology (which enables organizations to do old work in new ways).

As consultants, the authors are familiar with how the process actually works in the real world: in addition to numerous examples, there are four lengthy case studies (Hallmark, Taco Bell, Capital Holding, and Bell Atlantic). Hammer and Champy can be overzealous in selling reengineering’s differences from other business improvement techniques—quality movement programs like TQM can produce more than just the incremental changes that Hammer and Champy are willing to acknowledge, for example—but they document remarkable results gained by successful application of the approach, and generally make a clear, persuasive argument.