Faster Cheaper Better: A book review by Bob Morris

Faster Cheaper Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done
Michael Hammer and Lisa Hershman
Crown Business (2010)

 

How to create a more logical and more efficient network of processes for getting work done
Michael Hammer’s death two years ago at age 60 was a tragic loss to his family members, friends, and associates; it was also a significant loss to thought leadership of the very highest quality. Credit Lisa Hershman with helping to ensure that Hammer’s initial draft was eventually developed and then published.

Questions are much easier to ask than to answer. For example, why is it so difficult for most companies that have all the resources they need (including talented, skilled, intelligent, and energetic people) to achieve and then sustain continuous improvement of performance? According to Hershman, here is what Hammer’s research has revealed. “It’s simply the way companies today are organized and operated makes it impossible for them to get the dramatic performance improvements they need even if they were staffed by supermen and superwomen. The only option is deep and fundamental change to how they do the work. Providing the road map to doing so is the mission of this book.”

More specifically, what Hammer and Hershman offer in this book are five process enablers (i.e. the process design, appropriate metrics, performers who do the work, a process owner, and an effective infrastructure) that comprise the aforementioned road map for “transforming a process and creating breakthrough performance.” However, important as this map is, it is insufficient because so many companies seem to know what to do but just can’t get it done. In many instances, their leaders have developed what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton characterize as a “knowing-doing gap.” Companies that have been able to follow Hammer’s road map “did so because they have four enterprise capabilities in place – overarching characteristics that equipped them to undertake fundamental transformation: leadership; culture; governance; and expertise.”

To me, the most valuable material in the book is provided in the final chapter but only because Hammer and Hershman have used the previous chapters to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for the Process and Enterprise Maturity Model (PEMM) based on the nine critical high-level organizing principles “that can transform a mediocre company into a high-performance organization.” It is important to keep in mind that PEMM does not specify what any particular process should look like. Those involving the improvement of cycle time or first-pass yield, for example, will differ – sometimes significantly — from one company to the next; indeed, they can differ – sometimes significantly – in the same company from one department to the next.

As Hammer and Hershman explain, PEMM identifies the characteristics that any company should have to succeed in implementing process transformation. “A company can apply PEMM to all its processes and can develop processes unique to its own needs…It is a model designed to measure how well the organization is adopting the nine principles of process. ” After working their way through the book to the final chapter, readers may ask, “How mature are the processes in my organization?” Hammer and Hershman conclude their book with a five-page detailed audit by which each reader can answer that question. The grid lists the nine organizing principles vertically and four levels of maturity horizontally. Annotations illuminate the evaluation process.

 

 

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