Asking employees to embrace BPR akin to persuading turkeys to vote for Christmas?

19 Nov

In my last blog I spoke about the importance of the people behind the processes, in this seasonally entitled blog I want to continue in this vein and look at the challenges posed for management to get employees on board when implementing Business Process Re-engineering.

What is clear, from the literature and from previous blogs on BPR, is that BPR creates drastic change and in turn massive upheaval , however what is not clear from the literature is how management will convince employees that this upheaval will not negatively affect their own future within the organisation.

In 1996, Davenport wrote an article entitled ‘Why Re-engineering  failed: the Fad that Forgot People’, he suggests that the high failure rate at that time was due to the focus on process design and the failure to give any attention to the implementation of those new processes, but is it that simple, to change the focus and give employees more input into the changes that are being proposed?

As discussed in a paper from Marie-Claude Boudreau and Daniel Robey, ‘Coping with contradictions in business process re-engineering ‘, how does an organisation convince employees to support & implement process changes when the automation of those processes they are implementing could mean the loss of their job -“People will not sensibly commit time and effort into major programmes of change that eliminate their own roles in organizational success”(Boudreau & Robey) and Wilmott (1995)is quoted as saying it is akin to “persuading turkeys to vote for Christmas”.

The literature I have quoted is from the late 90’s, I believe that the focus of BPR is no longer on downsizing but that a legacy of fear exists amongst employees when confronted with the proposition of BPR & it is managements role to ensure that this fear does not lead to the failure of the project by communicating clearly the true purpose of BPR.

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One Response to “Asking employees to embrace BPR akin to persuading turkeys to vote for Christmas?”

  1. aplusk22 November 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Very interesting analogy. I agree with you that BPR has been associated with and focused on downsizing in the past. In many respects, it was used incorrectly as excuse for managers to justify downsizing actions. I think organisations have grown to understand that BPR is an operational strategy that, if implemented properly, will provide a new dimension to competing.

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