Michael Hammer

American academic

Michael Martin Hammer (13 April 1948 – 3 Sept 2008) was an American engineer, management author, and a former professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), known as one of the founders of the management theory of Business process reengineering (BPR).


  • To succeed at reengineering, you have to be a missionary, a motivator, and a leg breaker.
    • Michael Hammer in: Fortune, August 1993. Quoted in: QFINANCE: The Ultimate Resource, 4th edition. Bloomsbury Publishing - 2013.

Beyond reengineering, 1990


Michael Hammer, Beyond reengineering: How the process-centered organization is changing our work and our lives.

  • Reengineering has captured the imagination of managers and shareholders alike, sending corporations on journeys of radical business redesign that have already begun to transfigure global industry. Yet aside from earning them improvements in their business performance, the shift into more-process-centered organizations is causing fundamental changes in the corporate world, changes that business leaders are only now beginning to understand. What will the revolutions final legacy be?
    • Book abstract.
  • THIS BOOK is not about reengineering; it is about reengineering’s consequences, about its aftermath and its abiding legacy.
    • p. i. Preface

"Reengineering work: don't automate, obliterate," 1990


Michael Hammer, "Reengineering work: don't automate, obliterate." Harvard business review 68.4 (1990): 104-112.

  • Despite a decade or more of restructuring and downsizing, many U.S. companies are still unprepared to operate in the 1990s. In a time of rapidly changing technologies and ever-shorter product life cycles, product development often proceeds at a glacial pace. In an age of the customer, order fulfillment has high error rates and customer inquiries go unanswered for weeks. In a period when asset utilization is critical, inventory levels exceed many months of demand.
The usual methods for boosting performance — process rationalization and automation — haven’t yielded the dramatic improvements companies need. In particular, heavy investments in information technology have delivered disappointing results — largely because companies tend to use technology to mechanize old ways of doing business. They leave the existing processes intact and use computers simply to speed them up.
p. 104; The two lead paragraphs
  • It is time to stop paving the cow paths. Instead of embedding outdated processes in silicon and software, we should obliterate them and start over. We should “reengineer” our businesses: use the power of modern information technology to radically redesign our business processes in order to achieve dramatic improvements in their performance.
    • p. 104
  • Reengineering cannot be planned meticulously and accomplished in small and cautious steps. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition with an uncertain result.
    • p. 105

Reengineering the Corporation, 1993


Michael Hammer, James A. Champy. Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution. HarperCollins, 1993; 2009.

  • Business reengineering isn't about fixing anything. Business reengineering means starting all over, starting from scratch. Business reengineering means putting aside much of the received wisdom of two hundred years of industrial management,... How people and companies did things yesterday doesn't matter to the business reengineer.
    • p. 2
  • The genesis of reengineering lies in a phrase one of us coined in the late 1980s: “Automating a mess yields an automated mess.” Unless an organization reconceptualized its operations, overlaying new technology on these operations accomplished little.
Today, that slogan has been updated: ““Putting a Web site in front of lousy business processes merely advertises how lousy they are.” In the absence of robust, reengineered processes, electronic commerce is a nightmare, not a dream.
  • p. 7
  • Reengineering posits a radical new principle: that the design of work must be based not on hierarchical management and the specialization of labor but on end-to-end processes and the creation of value for the customer.
    • p. 11
  • America's business problem is that it is entering the twenty-first century with companies designed during the nineteenth century to work well in the twentieth. We need something entirely different
    • p. 30; cited in: Huey B. Long (1995), New Dimensions in Self-Directed Learning, p. 323
  • Reengineering is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance such as cost, quality, service and speed.
    • p. 32
  • A business process is a collection of activities that takes one or more kinds of input and creates an output that is of value to the customer. A business process has a goal and is affected by events occurring in the external world or in other processes.
    • p. 35
  • Observing and performing the process is the best way to develop insight into it. However, the team must be vigilant about avoiding the temptation to overstudy. The goal must be to move quickly to redesign. Before concluding we should comment on another tool that is available to reengineering teams, namely benchmarking. Essentially, benchmarking means looking for the companies that are doing something best and learning how they do it in order to emulate them... Used this way, benchmarking is just a tool for catching up, not for jumping way ahead. Benchmarking can, however, spark ideas in the team—especially if teams use as their benchmarks companies from outside their own industries.
    • p. 132
  • Sadly, we must report that despite the success stories described in previous chapters, many companies that begin reengineering don’t succeed at it... Our unscientific estimate is that as many as 50 to 70 percent of the organizations that undertake a reengineering effort do not achieve the dramatic results they intended.
    • p. 200

See also

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