Those who have read any of Michael Hammer's previous books (notably Reengineering the Corporation co-authored with James Champy and The Agenda) already know how clearly he thought and how eloquently he wrote when sharing his thoughts about how any organization (regardless of its size and nature) can develop processes by which to produce work faster and cheaper. His premature death two years ago at age 60 was a tragic loss to his family members, friends, and associates; it was also a significant loss to thought leadership of the very highest quality. Credit Lisa Hershman with helping to ensure that Hammer's draft was eventually published. Sadly, it proves to be his last book and, in my opinion, his most important work.
Questions are much easier to ask than to answer. For example, why is it so difficult for most companies that have all the resources they need (including talented, skilled, intelligent, and energetic people) to achieve and then sustain continuous improvement of performance? According to Hershman, here is what Hammer's research has revealed. "It's simply the way companies today are organized and operated makes it impossible for them to get the dramatic performance improvements they need even if they were staffed by supermen and superwomen. The only option is deep and fundamental change to how they do the work. Providing the road map to doing so is the mission of this book."
More specifically, what Hammer and Hershman offer in this book are five process enablers (i.e. the process design, appropriate metrics, performers who do the work, a process owner, and an effective infrastructure) that comprise the aforementioned road map for "transforming a process and creating breakthrough performance." However, important as this map is, it is insufficient because so many companies seem to know what to do but just can't get it done. In many instances, their leaders have developed what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton characterize as a "knowing-doing gap." Companies that have been able to follow Hammer's road map "did so because they have four enterprise capabilities in place - overarching characteristics that equipped them to undertake fundamental transformation: leadership; culture; governance; and expertise."
Readers will appreciate Hammer and Hershman's brilliant use of various devices, notably checklists such as those that identify Do's and Don'ts at the end of each of the first six chapters that comprise Part I:
Design (Pages 63-65)
Process Ownership (120)
Performers and Infrastructure (150-151)
Leadership and Culture (178-179)
Governance and Expertise (214)
There are dozens of other checklists throughout the narrative that also summarize key points. Reader-friendly devices such as these facilitate, indeed expedite periodic review of them.
Then in Part II, Hammer and Hershman help their reader to "pull it all together" (Chapter 7) before shifting their attention to five mini-case studies: Tetra Pak in Sweden (Chapter 8) and Gemesa in Mexico (Chapter 9) followed by three "of companies we're calling Four Aces, Hattaway, Inc., and Acme Specialties" that demonstrate what can happen when various mistakes "undermine the benefits that flow from a well-honed process organization." Although valuable lesson can be learned from what achieves success in a process, even more valuable lessons can be learned from what prevents it.
To me, the most valuable material in the book is provided in the final chapter but only because Hammer and Hershman have used the previous chapters to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for the Process and Enterprise Maturity Model (PEMM) based on the nine critical high-level organizing principles "that can transform a mediocre company into a high-performance organization." It is important to keep in mind that PEMM does not specify what any particular process should look like. Those involving the improvement of cycle time or first-pass yield, for example, will differ - sometimes significantly -- from one company to the next; indeed, they can differ - sometimes significantly - in the same company from one department to the next.
Hammer and Hershman explain, PEMM identifies the characteristics that any company should have to succeed in implementing process transformation." A company can apply PEMM to all its processes and can develop processes unique to its own needs...It is a model designed to measure how well the organization is adopting the nine principles of process. " After working their way through the book to the final chapter, readers may ask, "How mature are the processes in my organization?" Hammer and Hershman conclude their book with a five-page detailed audit by which each reader can answer that question. The grid lists the nine organizing principles vertically and four levels of maturity horizontally. Annotations illuminate the evaluation process.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Hammer's previously published books (notably the two aforementioned, Reengineering the Corporation co-authored with James Champy and The Agenda) and Enterprise Architecture as Strategy co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson as well as Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement.