- (Hammer, 1990) ⇒ Michael Hammer. (1990). “Reengineering Work: Don't Automate, Obliterate.” In: Harvard business review, 68(4).
- It can be also found at http://hbr.org/1990/07/reengineering-work-dont-automate-obliterate/ar/1
Despite a decade or more of restructuring and downsizing, many U.S. companies are still unprepared to operate in the 1990s. In a time of rapidly changing technologies and ever-shorter product life cycles, product development often proceeds at a glacial pace. In an age of the customer, order fulfillment has high error rates and customer inquiries go unanswered for weeks. In a period when asset utilization is critical, inventory levels exceed many months of demand.
The usual methods for boosting performance — process rationalization and automation — haven’t yielded the dramatic improvements companies need. In particular, heavy investments in information technology have delivered disappointing results — largely because companies tend to use technology to mechanize old ways of doing business. They leave the existing processes intact and use computers simply to speed them up.
But speeding up those processes cannot address their fundamental performance deficiencies. Many of our job designs, work flows, control mechanisms, and organizational structures came of age in a different competitive environment and before the advent of the computer. They are geared toward efficiency and control. Yet the watchwords of the new decade are innovation and speed, service and quality.
It is time to stop paving the cow paths. Instead of embedding outdated processes in silicon and software, we should obliterate them and start over. We should “reengineer” our businesses: use the power of modern information technology to radically redesign our business processes in order to achieve dramatic improvements in their performance.
Every company operates according to a great many unarticulated rules. “Credit decisions are made by the credit department.” “Local inventory is needed for good customer service.” “Forms must be filled in completely and in order.” Reengineering strives to break away from the old rules about how we organize and conduct business. It involves recognizing and rejecting some of them and then finding imaginative new ways to accomplish work. From our redesigned processes, new rules will emerge that fit the times. Only then can we hope to achieve quantum leaps in performance.
Reengineering cannot be planned meticulously and accomplished in small and cautious steps. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition with an uncertain result. Still, most companies have no choice but to muster the courage to do it. For many, reengineering is the only hope for breaking away from the antiquated processes that threaten to drag them down. Fortunately, managers are not without help. Enough businesses have successfully reengineered their processes to provide some rules of thumb for others.
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