Methodology and guidance have significantly evolved since MIT Professor Michael Hammer published his first business process re-engineering article in the July-August, 1990, Harvard Business Review.
Back then, companies were struggling with downsizing, restructuring, and new technologies to boost performance in a competitive environment. Today businesses are struggling with issues like rural talent drain, workforce reductions as baby boomers retire, and COVID-19.
Companies that embraced the innovation in thinking and action transcended these difficulties for dramatic results of a 70-90% increase in performance. They radically redesigned core business processes like order fulfillment, supply chain, credit to collection, and customer service inquiry to resolution. They pulled the processes out of the traditional organizational silos and set them up as standalone end-to-end process solutions.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes used this methodology in two #1 company initiatives I worked on for designing and building airplanes as well as introducing 3D manufacturing and designing a remote manufacturing plant in China. Without these two company initiatives, Boeing could not have competed with Airbus. 75 years of evolving and embedded processes meant it had no ability to respond to the first company to challenge Boeing's dominance in the commercial airplane market effectively. Boeing had to rethink and radically redesign all design and build processes.
Large design and manufacturing firms are not the only businesses to reap significant rewards and reposition themselves through business process re-engineering. There are examples all around us in the gig economy. I've seen successful business process engineering stories at small manufacturers, restaurants, and even higher education.
While some companies have successfully embraced business process re-engineering, others have had difficulty in implementing the methods and changes in leadership that are required.
It is not easy – it takes intense commitment on the part of senior leadership, and it means embracing change well out of our typical comfort zones. But it is worth it.