The primary focus of TQM is on continuous improvement or ongoing incremental change. There is a constant search for achieving things in a better way. However, many organizations operate in a dynamic environment characterized by rapid and constant change. The problem with continuous process improvements is that it may create a false sense of security. Managers may begin to think that what they are doing is positive. This may be true in a majority of cases. But where an organization requires a drastic quantum change in order to survive in a fiercely competitive market, managers have to search for solutions elsewhere.

Reengineering versus total quality management:


1) Looks for quantum leaps in performance
2) Driven by top management. When it is complete workplace is self managed. To complete the process, however, management has to follow autocratic methods, you either get on the train or we will be over you with the train.

Total quality Management (TQM)

1) Seeks incremental improvements.
2) Relies on bottom up, participative decision making in both the planning of a TQM program and its execution.

The term reengineering (referring to radical, quantum change in an organization) comes from the historical process of taking apart an electronics product and designing a better version. Michael Hammer coined the term for organizations. When he found companies using computers simply to automated outdated processes rather than finding fundamentally better ways of doing things, he realized the same principles could be used in business as well. Actually reengineering takes place when more than 70 per cent of the work processes in an organization are evaluated and altered. It demands organizational members to rethink what work should be done, how it is to be done and how best to implement these decisions. The focus is on simplifying the operations and making them more efficient and more customer focused.

Key elements

According to Michael Hammer and James Champy, reengineering involves a significant reassessment of what a particular organization is all about. They urge managers to ask a very fundamental question about what they do: If I were recreating this company today, given what I know and given current technology what would it look like? In other words managers should imagine that they are starting with a clean piece of paper!

Identify Distinctive Competencies:

The process of reengineering comprises of three important elements: Finding organization’s distinctive competencies, assessing core processes and reorganizing horizontally by processes. Initially the organization has to identify its distinctive competencies. These may include superior location (Gujarat Ambuja Cement using sea routes for transporting cement, as against its rivals like ACC, India cements )a more efficient distribution system (Bata, BPL, Godrej etc) a technically superior product (Gillette shaving systems, air conditioners from Carrier, Aircon etc) or a superior service network (Wipro Ltd in the computer industry). It is important to identify the core competencies of an organization because it guides decisions regarding what activities are crucial to the organization’s success.

HR’s Role in Reengineering Processes:

Reengineering, it must be remembered would yield fruitful results only when the company tunes its HR practices in line with its radically transformed business processes. HR can contribute to reengineering processes by its effect on building commitment to reengineering, team building, changing the nature of work and empowering jobs. HR plays a great role in improving commitment of employees by hiring competent people, offering the right incentives and installing effective two way communication practices. HR can hire people who can work in process oriented teams sharing their skills and expertise freely. It can also offer additional training to employees so as to improve their team related skills and make them capable of handling multiple cross functional enriched tasks in a competent way.

Excerpts from HRM VSP