Business Process Reengineering (BPR) has been abused, misused, and demonized. Sadly, there are many managers and leadership teams that have missed the point of the original concept of business reengineering as put forth by Michael Hammer and James Champy in their 1993 book Reengineering the Corporation (Michael Hammer and James Champy, 1993, ISBN 0-88730-640-3)
Today, neither one of the authors will use the term without a caveat. The problem is, BPR has become synonymous with “downsizing,” or “lay-offs,” or selling-off parts of the business. It’s too bad that this misuse of the concept has struck fear into the hearts of people because the term should be useful.
Business Model Improvement
To my way of thinking, we now have to look at BPR as being continuous business model innovation so that we get away from the stigma of the “right sizing” activities that are a result of the normal shift in jobs from a manufacturing economy to an information and service based economy. Technology too gets an unfair rap in this process. Yet the difficulty lies with individuals keeping up with the changes going on around them. Mr. William Ellermeyer teaches that “You are the Enterprise.” Just as we update the skills needed in an enterprise to stay competitive in the world markets, so must we as individuals manage our own skills and niche markets to make sure we continue to add value. Otherwise, we too become obsolete or overpriced.
All of this means that we need to look at the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and How Much” for our product or service to determine what the business model is now. Then we need to aggressively pursue information about our customer, our customer’s customer, etc., all the way to the end user in order to determine how to improve the use of our product or service to the end consumer. This will force innovation of our business model. This process is as important for individuals as it is for corporations of all sizes, assuming one wishes to be successful in business (profit or non-profit business). Even those of us in supposedly lower levels of the organization can and must add to this process by always being cognizant that continuous process and business model improvement is required to survive in today’s world economy.
Embrace the Chaos
To the organization, this means that chaos will reign; never ending change is the order of the day. To the individual this means that at no time will we be able to sit back and get a handle on our job; it will always be changing at one level or another. For everyone, it means getting used to employment being a series of short term (18 to 24 month) projects rather than the hope of lifetime employment. There will no longer be many jobs that are similar to what I grew up with—ten or more years in the company, or perhaps even retire from the company you joined out of high school or college.
So BPR, by whatever name you wish to call it, is a way of life for the organization and for the individual. We need to learn how to deal with constant change for the purpose of process and business model improvement as well as product or service innovation. While this seems logical and clear to most people, when they are faced with actually doing something different or becoming a different person, they fall back to their old protective ways. They evaluate their willingness to participate based on their perception of how the changes will enhance or diminish their power, sense of control, or status in the eyes of their peers. Sadly, not being positive about and part of furthering organizational change only ensures the demise of the company, department and/or employee’s job. Today the word is; “Change or die.”