"Suddenly," writes Michael Hammer in the opening to his confidently but aptly named new book The Agenda
, "business is not so easy anymore." He then sets out an ambitious plan for righting what many businesses are doing wrong, much as he did a decade ago in his bestselling Reengineering the Corporation
. This time, however, he retreats from the overarching "big idea" promulgated in his earlier book to present a system that incorporates nine ideas geared for an environment where customers really do rule. Hammer unveils these aligned-but-individual ideas, which relate to process and customer orientation, along with measurement, management, connecting via the Net, and eventual positioning as "components of virtually extended enterprises" rather than "self-contained wholes." He goes on to explain why they represent improvements over past procedures and cites examples of them in practice. (While discussing measurement, for instance, he shows why most companies use their carefully compiled statistics for little more than affirming what has already happened; he then tells how one firm matched fixed goals in customer retention, employee retention, and product distribution with actual performance requirements that could be tracked and changed.) The final two chapters offer specific implementation suggestions, all filtered through the eyes of an engineer who never went to business school and peppers his writing with references to the Grateful Dead and the Jack Palance character in City Slickers
. In all, another provocative and practical tract that will surely attract old fans as well as new believers. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
While suppliers once dominated their customers because the latter were competing for scarce goods, now, with the late 20th-century's increase in production capacity, "sellers have become supplicants for scarce buyers." In his fourth book, Hammer (Reengineering the Corporation) heralds the arrival of the new "customer economy," exhorting corporations everywhere to prepare for it by implementing his agenda. Each of the nine chapters devoted to business innovation principles diagnoses a corporate disease, offers a cure, provides brief case histories of companies undergoing treatment and summarizes what the reader should remember when attempting to remedy his own company. But this quick and occasionally entertaining read is often superficial: a chapter describing the power of the Internet to break down intercorporate barriers fails to answer basic questions about vulnerabilities assumed by companies outsourcing essential business functions or sharing information. His broad subjects require corporate case studies to provide needed detail; instead, the reader is offered anecdotes. And exhortations like "to create a customer-centered company, everyone... will have to work extra hard, learn new skills, cope with unfamiliar problems, and in general rise to the occasion" are unhelpful. Nor are Hammer's assumptions always realistic: constructing powerful computer interfaces to help customers help themselves is not the low-cost, complete customer service panacea Hammer claims it to be. After all, readers familiar with automated phone-navigation systems or customer service links replaced by FAQ links on Web sites may wonder where the "customer economy" concept really exists in practice.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.