I've long hankered for a terrific book that would explain not only why businesses are under such enormous pressure to change but also what an intelligent, systematic approach to change might look like. I still haven't found such a book, but I've recently figured out how to create my own. You can, too.
Begin by reading chapters one through five of Peter Drucker's Post-Capitalist Society (HarperCollins, 1993). In 109 pages, the old master takes us on a tour of the 250-year history of capitalism, exploring the shift from a world in which the traditional "factors of production" -- land, labor, and capital -- were crucial, to one in which knowledge has become the critical resource. Along the way, he discusses the impact of that shift on the relationship between managers and owners, the role of the employee, the disappearance of the middle manager, and more. It's an illuminating journey, but it's also a bit frustrating because Drucker never explains how all this should affect the way you run your company.
Enter Reengineering the Corporation (HarperCollins, 1993). Authors Michael Hammer and James Champy are management consultants, but I liked this book anyway. It addresses the question left hanging by Drucker, namely, What happens when companies seek new ways of getting work done with the goal of producing qualitative change and improvement? (That's the definition of reengineering, by the way.) Particularly good are the chapters that explore the impact of corporate reinvention on work itself (grounds for advancement, systems of compensation, the substitution of education for training) and the enabling role of technology. I have only one quibble with the book: its title. Reengineering is consultant jargon. It promises what it can't deliver: rational, premeditated design and precise execution. Those of us who live in the real world know just how messy the process of change always is and has to be. I suspect Hammer and Champy know it as well.* * *