September 6, 2008

News & Opinion: Remembering Michael Hammer

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:07 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

If the book of the 80's was In Search of Excellence by Peters and Waterman, then book of the 90's was Reengineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and Jim Champy.

We were saddened to hear Michael Hammer died this week at age 60.

The best way we can think of to acknowledge his impact is by announcing the inclusion of Reengineering The Corporation in our upcoming book. Here are the opening paragraphs to our review of Reengineering the Corporation, which give perspective to the work that Hammer and Champy started fifteen years ago:

"Reengineering became the magic managerial term of the 1990s. Cover stories in business magazines touted Michael Hammer and Jim Champy as the strategic gurus of the moment. Companies like Deere, Ford, and Duke Power all found huge success using the concepts. Even Lou Gerstner in his autobiography, Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?, calls out reengineering as having played a role in his turnaround of IBM. The trouble with every fad is the ridicule that follows.

In the 1990s, the term "reengineering" became an easy substitute for the prior decade's "reorganizing,""restructuring," "delayering," "downsizing." The popularity of the term gave embattled executives needed cover when faced with media scrutiny and stock market pressure. The mere mention of a new reengineering initiative acknowledged the severity of a problem and indicated to shareholders that proper steps were being taken. But the actual results varied widely, and business leaders and journalists were quickly off to find and report on the next silver bullet. What's left is general ambivalence for one of the most important business concepts in the second half of the 20th century."

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.