BUSINESS CLASSIC: Reengineering the Corporation

'Downsizing' might be standard business jargon now, but this 1993 classic was instrumental in establishing radical restructuring as standard corporate practice.

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 02 May 2014

Reengineering the Corporation - a manifesto for business revolution
Michael Hammer and James Champy
Harper Business, 1993

Here is an ironic classic. We have lived so long with phrases such as 'downsizing' or 'rightsizing' that it's possible to think they have been around for ever. But Hammer and Champy's bestseller from 1993 was instrumental in establishing the radical corporate restructure as standard practice. It was held up as a key text for years until a reassessment took place.

The recession of the early 1990s encouraged these authors to think daring thoughts, which in turn emboldened executives such as GE's 'Neutron Jack' Welch to take severe action. Why not rip things up and start again? Begin anew from first principles. How many people would you really need to employ then?

There was more to 'business process re-engineering' (BPR) than that. And fresh thinking is always useful. But beware the TLA (three-letter acronym) - usually a sign that management has stopped thinking. Hammer himself before his death regretted that his book had been used as justification for excessive cutting back. So even if you do have an idea for a brilliant business bestseller of your own, be careful what you may end up unleashing.

Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern.

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