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The lure of process engineering is its promise to achieve a quantum leap in overall performance improvement.
Just when you thought it was safe to start wading into the quality management waters, along comes something new and different that promises to sweep the shores like some kind of tidal wave. That something is "reengineering" and if the business magazines have it right, it is now the private sector rage. An August Fortune cover article touts reengineering as "It's hot, It's happening, It's now!" and describes how many companies are rushing into the "radical redesign of business processes."(1) Further proof of the trend is the fact that Hammer and Champy's book, Reengineering the Corporation has been on the New York Times bestseller lists for the entire summer.(2)
This particular movement comes with its own warning labels. Even the Fortune article admits that various estimates put the failure rate of reengineering efforts at 50 to 70 percent. At numerous reengineering conferences being held around the country, even 80 percent failure rates are mentioned. So what exactly is reengineering and how does it tie into quality management? Can it be seen as the next stage of quality management that will, as this article's title suggests, break the quality barrier? Or is it just another consulting strategy that fits the current downsizing mood of the private sector?
Promise of Reengineering
The lure of process reengineering is its promise to organizations of significant new opportunities to cut processing time, operations costs, and organizational staffing levels--all to achieve a quantum leap in overall performance improvement. At its heart, reengineering is a system of redesign aimed at identifying the most critical internal operational processes of the organization. It focuses on customer requirements and on re-visioning, restructuring, and innovating the processes of production, service, and administration.
Process reengineering entails several major shifts of emphasis.
* It redesigns work processes according to the precept of "value-added." It demands that each step in the work process add value from the customer's perspective, that it promote access and contact with customers, that it "build in" or "design in" quality.
* It shifts the organization's managerial emphasis from managing highly specialized functions to managing product lines and processes. It keys much of its reform of process management so that work can be done in parallel rather than serial fashion.
* It refocuses the organizational innovation cycle from incremental improvement and streamlining within units ("doing it better" or "doing it with less") to strategic, optimal models ("how it ought to be done") that cut across organizational units.
To fully understand process reengineering, it is important to examine its relationship to quality management, how it is approached as a process and what methodologies its uses, and how it is implemented.
Reengineering and Quality
Reengineering builds on existing precepts of quality management but seeks to differ from conventional quality management in several ways. Quality improvement has always stressed continuous process improvement (CPI) as its major precept. CPI seeks …