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How to Create the Corporate Reengineering Committee

December 1, 1993
Related Topics: Reengineering, Featured Article
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If there's one piece of the reengineering puzzle that is absolutely essential, it's creating and shaping the right team to map out and oversee the change. It's no simple task, however. Committee members require tremendous insight, creativity and fortitude. They must take huge risks, knowing that the future of the company rides on their shoulders. What can HR do to make sure the right people are chosen? How can it ensure that the dozen or so committee members make the best possible choices? Those who have been through reengineering say one of the keys is to provide expertise early on. That means helping design an effective interviewing process, sitting in on actual interviews, and creating a system to help determine who would best fit the requirements.

According to Bruce Carswell, senior vice president of human resources for Stamford, Connecticut-based GTE Corp., the main focus should be to get "change-agent types" involved. "These are the people who nobody in the organization wants to give up," says Carswell. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're all senior-level managers. At Minneapolis-based IDS Financial Services, people from all levels of the organization wound up on the reengineering committee. The company invited everyone in the organization to apply for one of 30 positions, and wound up with more than 750 applications.

Another important factor is pulling together people with diverse skills and knowledge. When Monterey, California-based CTB assembled its project team, Mary Layman, the company's vice president of human resources, recognized the importance of having people from various disciplines and approaches involved in the decision-making process. "We wanted divergent points of view so that we could grind out all the negativity in the committee. We weren't looking for people who simply wanted to go along with things," says Layman. That required people with a good deal of stamina. "You need people who remain committed to the vision when everyone around them is saying that it can't be done. There were moments of desperation when key people were ready to throw in the towel," she says.

Imbuing the committee members with the right philosophy is no less important. A month to six weeks of analytical and creative training—much of it handled by outside specialists—isn't unusual. "These aren't skills people are born with, they're skills that must be developed. There's a lot of unlearning that has to go on," says Chris Wells, director of human resources for Palo Alto, California-based Syntex Inc. The push to endure the process must continue unabated. Otherwise, at the first hint of political turmoil or after a few minor successes, the campaign will fizzle. In most cases, that means that reengineering must be led by someone with tremendous clout—a CEO, COO, or the equivalent at the business unit level. In the end—if all goes well—the committee reinvents the company. It finds ways to eliminate unnecessary work and boost productivity. But as Layman puts it, "It's a process that never comes easy. It's a constant test of your determination and abilities.

Personnel Journal, December 1993, Vol. 72, No.12 p. 48J.

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