The book: Faster, Cheaper, Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done, by Michael Hammer and Lisa W. Hershman; Crown Business.
The big idea: Companies must take a chain saw to inefficient processes, then build better ones.
The backstory: In 1993, Hammer's Reengineering the Corporation galvanized companies to rethink every aspect of operations. Hammer died in 2008. Hershman, CEO of his consulting firm, completed this book.
Reengineering redux: Hammer repeats lessons from Reengineering -- focus on end-to-end processes, shed tasks that don't add value, let workers make decisions. But Faster, Cheaper, Better gives a more structured approach to achieving goals.
If you read nothing else: The chapter "Measure for Measure" offers a fine study in collecting useful metrics. For example, a budget-conscious retailer wanted to know what percentage of shoppers made a purchase. Instead of using radio-frequency ID tags, the company hired students to count those who left with packages.
Right from the start: Faster, Cheaper, Better targets corporations struggling to untangle nasty procedural hairballs. But the book is equally valuable for growth companies erecting systems for the first time.
Rigor rating: 8 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great) Hammer spent more than a decade studying many of these companies and describes in great detail both successes and failures.