Have you heard of the term assembly line? This is a manufacturing concept in which the tasks in completing a particular product is divided into different divisions and each division is handled only by one person or one team, and that particular person or team will only do that part of the process and nothing else. This is exactly the process that reengineering as an emerging term in the field of corporations would like to change.
The Reengineering the Corporations: A Manifesto for Business Revolution (1993) by Michael Hammer and James Champy is a book, more so of a guidebook, for business who wants to strive out of their losses or for companies who would want to perform better than what they are doing. And in doing so, they ask the primary question of “why do we do what we do at all?” Reengineering or business reengineering in its basic definition is starting all over again, looking at the foundations of how corporations do things and considering how these corporations can do it better. Technically, reengineering is “the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality service, and speed.
” (p.32) Given this definition, it emphasizes on four terms; fundamental, meaning, reengineering needs to focus not on what is being done, but on what should be done; radical, meaning, reengineering is starting from the root, from the very foundation and if change is needed, corporations should change all the way starting from the root or foundation; dramatic, meaning, reengineering should be applied only when drastic needs arise; and lastly, process, meaning, corporations should focus on how their product or service is produced or delivered and not on the individual tasks of people or team that do in the production. Corporations should look at it holistically. With these four component concepts, the book is trying to guide corporations on how to improve their productivity by looking at these fundamental aspects of their product, service, or even of the corporation or company.This book is an answer to the problem of Adam Smith’s concept of division of labor, which is alienation. With the process that Adam Smith introduced in The Wealth of Nations (1776), which probably inspired Karl Marx as well, he argued that if industries would divide the labor rather than everyone doing everything, it would make the production more efficient. The consequence of alienation of people of the concept of division of labor is the very argument that people who is against this concept is throwing.
They are arguing that if you divide labor and assign a person to do a particular task again and again, you are alienating that person from himself, from his community and from the creativity that that person could develop, which he could not do if he is boxed into doing the same task again and again. And the person cannot claim ownership of the product because technically, s/he produced only a part of it. Reengineering is arguing on the other hand that this is no longer the trend, division of labor, today, is not the only and most effective way of making companies more productive and efficient.
One of the main purposes of the book is to help companies and corporations to reinvent their processes and ways on doing things to make them more competitive, competitive in terms of quality of product and efficiency in producing and delivering it to the customers, especially in the context of today’s global market, where companies are in defense mode to make sure that their products and services are competitive enough in the global industry. The book indicates examples of companies who underwent reengineering. And narrating the companies’ stories shows how effective reengineering could be.The book argues that the term reengineering is not a new concept. In fact, it had been present a few decades before it was formally written. And it is exactly the weak point of the book.
The book was written and first published in 1993, and we are already in 2008. How sure are we that there are no other processes or techniques better than what the concept of reengineering is putting up to? How sure are we that the concept of reengineering is still effective and efficient in making companies more productive, that the behavior of people, their attitude and perceptions about production have not changed? Just like how the perceptions of people and corporations about Adam Smith’s concept of division of labor have changed through time.On a final note, what companies could probably do to keep their industries competitive and productive is to accept what reengineering is proposing in it’s simplicity, always try to reinvent your product and the service that you provide, make it answer the needs of the customers you are catering to, and make sure that they do not loose focus on the things that they have planned and worked for from the very start.
Micahel Hammer and James Champy (1993). Reengineering the Corporations: A Manifesto for Business Revolution. New York. HarperCollinsPublisher.