In 1993, Michael Hammer and James Champy published Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution (Harper Collins). The central idea of the book was that companies must radically reinvent how they carried out work.
Their proposal was the outcome of their analysis of the experience of several leading companies and the identification of patterns of action that led to success. The set of procedures recommended by the authors was called Business Reengineering.
Reengineering can be understood as the “fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to generate dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service and speed.”
The concept of Reengineering can be better understood from Figure 1.
A number of “reengineering specialists” quickly emerged in Brazil, ready to implement reengineering in Brazilian companies, even though they did not adequately understand the authors’ proposals.
The result was that the adoption of reengineering in Brazilian companies turned out to be a resounding failure. Moreover, it ended up provoking a real corporate “anorexia.” Many confused reengineering with downsizing, an administrative restructuring with the aim potentializing the activities of a given organization by eliminating bureaucratic processes and unnecessary hierarchical levels.
Simply reducing hierarchical levels and eliminating processes without rethinking the way work is carried out is unlikely to produce the desired results.
From a more comprehensive perspective, reengineering can be defined as the search for a new way of performing a process, given a new information technology reality, so as to maximize performance through the use of the new information technology. In this way, reengineering can be understood as something cyclical, repeated from time to time.
Reengineering is much more than a new approach to process redesign, as many have believed and still believe. When Hammer proposed the concept of reengineering in the 1990 article “Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate,” he clarified some of the seemingly chaotic changes that were occurring in the corporate world. For Hammer, the rationale for reengineering is that the advances in available information technology require new structures, or organizations, to generate results in a comprehensive way. Such structures will certainly differ from those followed by the companies before the advent of the new technologies.
According to Hammer and Champy, business reengineering does not involve repairing anything; rather, it means starting from scratch, discarding the legacy of two centuries of industrial management. It means ignoring how activities were carried out and replacing them with new forms of organizing and executing work.