Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Remembering Michael Hammer: Father of Reengineering

The late Dr. Michael Hammer

The man at the front of the Reengineering movement passed away suddenly last week.

It is difficult to overstate the impact that he has had on the way the modern corporation operates or the way businesspeople think about their responsibilities. His central premise, that organizations should reconsider not only their business processes but also their fundamental architectures, resonated with leaders who found themselves trying to manage organizations that had evolved from 19th century models or, worse, had been cobbled together by merger and acquisition.

In a new world of more abundant capital, deregulated markets, freer trade and, most especially, inexpensive computing and communication, economies of scale and scope were being redefined. Hammer saw that yesterday's competitive yardsticks were no longer meaningful and that businesses needed to start managing themselves relative to their new potential, not just against their historical performance.

Many consultants have defined new terms, and "reengineering" may not have been either the most provocative nor the most descriptive of the kind of change he envisioned. However, those of us who had the privilege of working on some of the projects that he spawned recognize that his vision went well beyond that of the typical slogan-monger. Rather, his genius was that he could understand the problems in a general way while describing them with sufficient specificity to be credible. His prescriptions for change, neither simplistic nor simple, were accompanied by logical method, complete with milestones, metrics and other controls.

I am grateful for his life and work.

The following tribute was posted by Anand Raman, one of his publishers, The Harvard Business Review.
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See also the obituary from the New York Times, published Sept. 5, 2008. It is the source of the photo in this article.

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