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The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade by Michael Hammer


Recommendation: ēēē


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Youíve probably read Michael Hammerís 1993 book Reengineering the Corporation, which was billed as a manifesto for business revolution. Hammerís new book, The Agenda, wonít garner the same wide audience, and devoted followers, because The Agenda contains little breakthrough thinking or approaches. Itís worth spending a little time skimming through it, if only because competitors are likely to examine it, and thereís an idea or two that may be useful.

Hereís an excerpt from Hammerís summary of the agenda he proposes:

ď 1. Make yourself easy to do business with. Your customersí biggest gripes arenít about your products or services per se; they center on what a royal pain your products are to order, receive and pay for. Take a long hard look at yourself from your customersí point of view, and then redesign how you work to save them time, money and frustration.
2. Add more value for your customers. To avoid the trap of commoditization, in which you fight for a miniscule margin against a horde of look-alike competitors, you need to do more for your customers. Donít drop your product or service at the customerís door. Go through the door, see what the customer does next, and do it for him.
3. Obsess about your processes. Customers care only about results, and results come only from end-to-end processes. Manage them, improve them, appoint owners for them, and make everyone aware of them. Itís the only way to achieve the performance that customers demand.
4. Turn creative work into process work. Innovation doesnít have to be chaotic. Bring the power of discipline and structure to sales, product development, and other creative work. Make success in these areas the result of design and management, not luck; luck has a nasty habit of giving out when you need it most.
5. Use measurement for improving, not accounting. Most of your measurements are worthless; they tell you what has happened (sort of) but give you no clue as to what to do for the future. Create a model of your business that ties overall goals to things you control: measure the items that really make a different; and embed measurement in a serious program of managed improvement.
6. Loosen up your organizational structure. The days of the proudly independent manager running a sharply defined unit are over. Collaboration and teamwork are now as necessary in the executive suite as on the front lines. Teach your managers how to work together for the good of the enterprise rather than stab each other in the back for narrow gain.
7. Sell through, not to, your distribution channels. Donít let your distribution channels blind you to your final customer, the one who pays everyoneís salaries. Change distribution from a series of resellers into a community that works together to serve the final customer. Be ready to redefine the roles of everyone involved in order to achieve that end.
8. Push past your boundaries in pursuit of efficiency. The last vestiges of overhead lurk, not deep in your company, but at its edges. Exploit the real power of the Internet to streamline the processes that connect you with customers and suppliers. Collaborate with everyone you can to drive out cost and overhead.
9. Lose your identity in an extended enterprise. Get past the idea of being a self-contained company that delivers a complete product. Get used to the notion that you can achieve something only when you virtually integrate with others. Focus on what you do best, get rid of the rest, and encourage others to do the same.Ē

While Hammer lays out what he things you should do, he doesnít comment often about how to do this. He offers a framework:

ďThese then are the six critical ingredients for successfully implementing the agenda: Focus your efforts under a single umbrella theme; concentrate on people issues; recognize that different people will react differently and so need to be managed differently; display committed executive leadership; learn to communicate effectively; and structure to deliver early payback. If you follow these steps diligently, your success, if not guaranteed, becomes highly likely.Ē

While much of the content seems familiar, readers are reminded of things that may have been forgotten. Examples call attention to corporate changes that may have been overlooked. Were you aware that UPS delivers autos from Ford factories to dealers? Did you know that General Mills shares truck space with unrelated companies who deliver goods to the same supermarkets? They are now collaborating to send unified bills to make it easier for the supermarkets to interact with the suppliers.

If you need a refresher on process, be sure to read The Agenda.

Steve Hopkins, November 7, 2001


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