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27 August 2005

Design for Quality and BPR

This week's Design for Quality class was on Business Process Re-engineering. I have worked on, in, around and under BPR for years and feel I am familiar with it as much as anything I know in the business world. So I guess now I can type a few words out and display my ignorance for the world.

My first port of call when learning about BPR was back in the early 90's when I was doing my bachelor of business and studying management 101. Names like Taylor (right), Mayo, Herzberg, Hammer and Deming were talked about. As an undergrad with no real work experience I wasn't paying that much attention. What I did pick up was that continuous improvement and BPR seemed to be popular and effective ways to improve performance.

At the time continuous Improvement, or TQM and BPR seemed like different aspects of the same thing. A few years later I was managing a BPR team and training business people about the difference between the two. I still think it's splitting hairs to define each process by the scale of the change they introduce. One company's continuous improvement is another's BPR.

I used to work at a phone company and manage a team of a dozen analysts and change agents who's job it was to manage changes into the business, and in their spare time identify opportunities for change and make it happen. The scale of some of the changes made affected whole teams in every way they worked. To the board this was business as usual, constantly improving operations. I am a director of a small business with less people working in it, and if we implemented changes of this scale the would be fundamental changes to the way the organization operates - BPR.

Anyway, sitting in the lecture I was recognizing all the attributes and diagrams (and noting that mine had been a bit more stylish) nodding away. My favorite resource if I want to get tools to help people understand the concepts is Prosci BPR. I think the site has a good range of free information that can help people learn about the topic.