- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (Oct. 9 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0609609661
- ISBN-13: 978-0609609668
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.5 x 24.2 cm
- Shipping Weight: 544 g
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #716,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade Hardcover – Oct 9 2001
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"Suddenly," writes Michael Hammer in the opening to his confidently but aptly named new book The Agenda, "business is not so easy anymore." He then sets out an ambitious plan for righting what many businesses are doing wrong, much as he did a decade ago in his bestselling Reengineering the Corporation. This time, however, he retreats from the overarching "big idea" promulgated in his earlier book to present a system that incorporates nine ideas geared for an environment where customers really do rule. Hammer unveils these aligned-but-individual ideas, which relate to process and customer orientation, along with measurement, management, connecting via the Net, and eventual positioning as "components of virtually extended enterprises" rather than "self-contained wholes." He goes on to explain why they represent improvements over past procedures and cites examples of them in practice. (While discussing measurement, for instance, he shows why most companies use their carefully compiled statistics for little more than affirming what has already happened; he then tells how one firm matched fixed goals in customer retention, employee retention, and product distribution with actual performance requirements that could be tracked and changed.) The final two chapters offer specific implementation suggestions, all filtered through the eyes of an engineer who never went to business school and peppers his writing with references to the Grateful Dead and the Jack Palance character in City Slickers. In all, another provocative and practical tract that will surely attract old fans as well as new believers. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
While suppliers once dominated their customers because the latter were competing for scarce goods, now, with the late 20th-century's increase in production capacity, "sellers have become supplicants for scarce buyers." In his fourth book, Hammer (Reengineering the Corporation) heralds the arrival of the new "customer economy," exhorting corporations everywhere to prepare for it by implementing his agenda. Each of the nine chapters devoted to business innovation principles diagnoses a corporate disease, offers a cure, provides brief case histories of companies undergoing treatment and summarizes what the reader should remember when attempting to remedy his own company. But this quick and occasionally entertaining read is often superficial: a chapter describing the power of the Internet to break down intercorporate barriers fails to answer basic questions about vulnerabilities assumed by companies outsourcing essential business functions or sharing information. His broad subjects require corporate case studies to provide needed detail; instead, the reader is offered anecdotes. And exhortations like "to create a customer-centered company, everyone... will have to work extra hard, learn new skills, cope with unfamiliar problems, and in general rise to the occasion" are unhelpful. Nor are Hammer's assumptions always realistic: constructing powerful computer interfaces to help customers help themselves is not the low-cost, complete customer service panacea Hammer claims it to be. After all, readers familiar with automated phone-navigation systems or customer service links replaced by FAQ links on Web sites may wonder where the "customer economy" concept really exists in practice.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product description
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1. Make yourself easy to do business with you (ETDBW)
2. Add more value for your customers (deliver MVA)
3. Create a process enterprise (make high performance possible)
4. Tame the beast of chaos with the power of process (systematize creativity)
5. Base managing on measuring (make managing part of management, not accounting)
Hammer: "The purpose of measuring is not to know how the business is performing but to enable it to perform better....A good measure must be accurate, actually capturing the condition it is supposed to describe. It must be objective, not subject to debate and dispute. It must be comprehensible, easily communicated and understood. It must be inexpensive and convenient to compute. It must be timely -- that is, not requiring a long delay between the occurrence of the condition and the availability of the data."
6. Loosen up your organizational structure (profit from the power of ambiguity)
7. Sell through, not to, your distribution channels (turn distribution chains into distribution communities)
8. Push past your boundaries in pursuit of efficiency (collaborate whenever and wherever you can)
9. Lose your identity in an extended enterprise (integrate virtually, not vertically)
At the end of each chapter, Hammer provides a brief but precise summary of recommended guidelines and action steps based on key points. Hammer proposes a full "agenda" of items and relevant issues which, obviously, decision-makers in each organization must modify to accommodate their own organization's specific needs, interests, issues, problems, resources, and opportunities.
How to plan and then implement a program once an agenda has been formulated? Hammer responds to this question in Chapter 11. He suggests several strategies for integrating efforts with sharp focus. He explains why it is so important to devote much more attention to "people issues." He offers what he calls a "20/60/20" formula for managing different constituencies differently. He explains why committed executive leadership must constantly be evident. He also shares some ideas about effective communication. And finally, he emphasizes the importance of achieving verifiable improvement throughout each phase of the implementation process. I have learned from my own experience that it is highly desirable to pick the "low hanging fruit" as quickly as possible.
In the 12th and final chapter, Hammer shifts his attention to helping the reader to prepare for an uncertain future. In no particular order, he cites seven causes of severe "headaches" which many companies experienced in 1999: The Euro, the Asian economic crisis, major mergers and acquisitions, deregulation, ERP implementation, supply chain integration, and the Internet. He then offers three specific suggestions (create an early warning system, become proficient at responding to change, and create a supportive organizational structure), concluding his book with an especially relevant quotation from the Talmud: "You are not called upon to complete the work, nor are you free to evade it."
It is important, indeed imperative to point out (on Hammer's behalf) that none of his "Agenda Items", observations, and suggestions should be considered a "silver bullet" because there is no one grand design, no one technique or single idea (e.g. reengineering) that -- all by itself -- can bring salvation and success. This is an important and especially timely book as organizations throughout the world (regardless of their size or nature) struggle to formulate an "agenda" which is appropriate to their current and imminent circumstances while being able to accommodate whatever may (and may not) happen later. Any such agenda is (literally) a work in progress. Michael Hammer is correct when asserting that no single source can fully assist that difficult process of planning and implementation. My own opinion is that this book should be included among any sources consulted. Indeed, Hammer's guidance is essential.
The Agenda is structured as follows:
It makes the case that business is "not so easy any more."
Then Dr. Hammer describes 9 ways that companies have been and could continue to improve. Become easy to do business with. Make what you provide more valuable to customers. Focus on improving processes. Where you have no processes, make some. Put in processes for all of your innovation. Use measurements to improve processes in ways that help customers. Tear down functional and business unit walls. Look beyond immediate customers to the ultimate end user, and partner with distributors to be more effective. Lower barriers between your company, customers, and suppliers. Do less, and electronically connect yourself with outsourced partners. Think of all this as the left-brained approach to whole brain problems.
Then in two final chapters, you are given tools for implementing this agenda. These include watching out for new trends and making your organization more nimble in adapting to new conditions. You are also encouraged to focus your leadership on taking a series of coordinated steps forward in putting these many new processes in place. He predicts it will be "a trying experience." Since this agenda is much more extensive than reeengineering was, that may be an understatement. Most people found reengineering to be pretty trying.
Is there a single new idea in the book? I'm not sure I found one. Is any idea explained better than in some other book? I don't think so. As a result, the mini-essays become very short statements of what are book-length problems. As a result, these sections are not enough to guide you. You will need to seek out other books that have more specialized material. For example, you should read the books about the balanced scorecard to really understand the point about measurements.
Essentially, what is happening here is that Dr. Hammer first saw that fixing broken processes needed to be done (Reengineering the Corporation). Then, he saw that corporations needed to become process centered to fix lots of processes. So he shifted to talking about organizational development. But if you fixed unimportant processes, you still had a problem. So The Agenda shifts to the idea of picking important processes to build or rebuild.
On the other hand, the book's key strength is found a number of detailed examples that I have not read about before in the business press about establishing or improving business processes. As a source of interesting case histories is the only purpose this book serves.
Basically, this book calls for becoming the most efficient version of what you are today that you can be.
I think that's totally backward based on my research with the most successful CEOs in growing their companies. In the beginning, Dr. Hammer says that success "is not about having the right business model." I parted company with him there, and the gap just kept widening. If Sears had made its business model more and more efficient, would it have outperformed Wal-Mart's business model? Would the most efficient version of American Airlines outperform Southwest Airlines?
The other problem with this book is that Dr. Hammer has a very large sense of self importance. Many will find it grating to read his description of his historical importance to world business, and how Professor Drucker's ideas no longer apply.
I'm not sure I will read his next book. Inevitably, it will be on how to create processes to tie all individuals, businesses, and governments together to make us all one big enterprise.
Why do these books sell so well? I don't know. My guess is that they appeal to all of the engineers out there because the books rely on metaphors that make sense to engineers. I know they appeal to consultants because they create billions of dollars in annual consulting revenues. For companies, these books have over promised what can be accomplished. That makes it possible for the ideas to take hold temporarily until someone catches on. For the financial people, there's always the little wink in the material that says "this is another way to get costs down."
To whom can Dr. Hammer point as a sterling example of all the items on the agenda. It looked like no one. So perhaps this is really The Dream.
How can you create improved business models that leap past those who need so many new processes to make their obsolete business models work a little better?
Information technology, the mid-wife of the new economy, has equipped customers with the tools to comparison shop and shortened product life cycles. Customers now rule the marketplace.
"Suddenly," writes Michael Hammer in the opening to his fourth book, "business is not so easy anymore." He then presents an ambitious nine-point plan to right what many businesses are doing wrong, much as he did a decade ago in his bestselling book, Reengineering the Corporation.
Although there is little new in his plan, it is comprehensive and revolutionary for business owners and managers:
1. Run your business for your customers.
2. Add value for your customers by solving problems, not just selling products.
3. Ensure your processes create value for your customers.
4. Creativity thrives in disciplined, coordinated environments.
5. Use data collection to improve, not for accounting.
6. Loosen organizational structures.
7. Remember your distribution channels are not your customer; the end user is.
8. Press your boundaries in pursuit of efficiency.
9. Lose your identity to the extended enterprise.
These may not be new ideas. However, the author's detailed case studies provide a reasonable justification for purchasing and reading this book. They are pointed and unique, a road map to improving any business organization.
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