Lean Manufacturing via Business Process Reengineering 



Change Management

One of the common reasons for reengineering failures is caused by the inability of the organization to manage change effectively. There will be tremendous resistance to change from key people at all levels who will be affected by it. These people are usually worried about losing their power base or even their jobs, uncomfortable with the ambiguity of the new ways of doing business, and cynical from past failures. Good ideas do not implement them­selves. To overcome organizational resistance and inertia, managers of reengineering need to meticulously plan the organizational change campaign. To make reengineering happen, the "soft" human resource issues need to become hard—with clear goals, steps, measurements and out­comes.5 To be successful at reengineering, the organization must anticipate the resistance beforehand, and know how to defuse it by gaining the trust and backing of key individuals who will play major roles in the new process. These change management activities must run in parallel through all phases of the reengineering effort.

Managing Stakeholder Resistance

Stakeholders include people affected by the radical change in the business process—the CEO, senior management teams, middle management, and the "owners" of the pro­cess to be reengineered. Early activities for managing stakeholders include mapping the roles of all affected players in the organization. Executives must respond to sources of resistance that emerge at various phases.

During the mobilization and diagnosis phases, skepticism and fear occurs at all levels of the organization. Resistance usually takes the form of dismissal and denial. Frequent communication with the stakeholders is mandatory to address such natural concerns.

During the redesign phase, resistance becomes more in­tense as the new processes are being designed. Middle management shows a greater deal of resistance at this stage because their jobs are being threatened by new management structures and empowerment to front-line work­ers. During this stage, resistance takes the form of rejection.

During the transition phase, resistance comes from all levels. By this time the organization may be losing the steam to complete the effort. Several roadblocks will be thrown to abort the effort from various levels. Senior executives' role at this time is very critical. Since reengineering activities cut across organizational and func­tional boundaries, accountability for development, testing and implementation must be clearly defined.

The Role of Communications

One cannot over communicate during reengineering; it requires constant communication at all levels. Communi­cations campaign must be designed early in the reengineering process. Specific company events have to be leveraged, such as employee quarterly meetings, staff meetings, executive briefing sessions etc. Communica­tions must come from the top. Several companies have successfully published reengineering newsletters. Many companies see this as a "make it, or break it" program that is of strategic importance to the enterprise.

Communication breakdowns occur for many reasons. One of the more common reasons is that the need for change is unknown. Executives tend to overestimate the capacity of the organization to understand and accept the need to change.


Reengineering is here to stay. Age old practices are not applicable anymore in today's world which is getting in­creasingly "connected" with powerful information tech­nology en abler s. Companies will have to undertake serious reengineering to reap the hard work they have put in over the past decade with continuous improvement initiatives within manufacturing. These companies realize that there is greater potential in integrating various processes to deliver their products and services effectively and profit­ably to the ultimate customer. Reengineering, however, is very painful. Organizational stamina and focus backed by strong will and executive leadership is a necessary ingre­dient. By understanding what reengineering entails and getting prepared and organized for the venture, we can ensure a higher probability of success.


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