Business Process Reengineering

AuthorMildred Pryor

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Process reengineering is redesigning or reinventing how we perform our daily work, and it is a concept that is applicable to all industries regardless of size, type, and location.

While selected elements of process reengineering are well documented in the late 1800s and early 1900s, process reengineering as a body of knowledge or as an improvement initiative, takes the best of the historical management and improvement principles and combines them with more recent philosophies and principles, which make all people in an organization function as process owners and reinvent processes. It is this combination of the old and the new as well as the emphasis on dramatic, rapid reinvention that makes process reengineering an exciting concept. The differences between continuous process improvement and process reengineering are outlined in Figure 1.

The first question in process reengineering is: "Why are we doing this at all?" Answering this question is the beginning of the immediate, dramatic change and the application of supporting technical and behavioral concepts and tools that are necessary to implement process reengineering. To accomplish this, organizations must foster an environment that encourages quantum leaps in improvement by throwing out existing systems and processes and inventing new ones.

The intent of process reengineering is to make organizations significantly more flexible, responsive, efficient, and effective for their customers, employees and other stakeholders. According to field experts Michael Hammer and James Champy, process reengineering requires 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."

If process reengineering is to work, a business's priorities must change in the following ways: (1) from boss to customer focus; (2) from controlled workers to empowered, involved process owners and decision makers; (3) from activity-based work to a results orientation; (4) from scorekeeping to leading and teaching so that people measure their own results; (5) from functional (vertical) to process (horizontal or cross functional) orientation; (6) from serial to concurrent operations; (7) from complex to simple, streamlined processes; (8) from empire building and guarding the status quo to inventing new systems and processes and looking toward the future (i.e., from the caretaker mentality to visionary leadership).

As organizational priorities change, the culture will change as well. As people understand the vision for a better culture with better capabilities and results,

Figure 1

Source: Mildred Golden Pryor and William Donald Pryor, Process Reengineering, Center for Excellence, A Partnership between Texas A&M University-Commerce and Raytheon-E-Systems, 1994.

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they will be able-individually and as members of...

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