Book Shelf -- Action Steps

Coping in the customer economy.

Michael Hammer calls his latest book "part of my atonement" for an unintentional consequence of his previous work, Reengineering the Corporation. That 1993 book, coauthored with James Champy, "unleashed on an unsuspecting world a flood of 'big idea' business books," he acknowledges. Rather than one big idea, The Agenda (2001, Crown Business) sets forth nine principles for managing in the new millennium, which, he points out, began with radical changes in the fortunes of many corporations. "Businesspeople's smugness has given way to anxiety," Hammer observes. "They can no longer take growth for granted or assume that this year will be better than last." Hammer's agenda starts with a seemingly simple imperative: Make it easy for your customers to do business with you. His six action steps for implementing that agenda item, however, may not be so simple for companies that have made doing business with them complex, problematic, and fatiguing. The author's prescription: Present a single face to your customers; work in different ways for different classes of customers; know what your customers will ask for before they do; make your customers' experience a seamless one; let customers do more for themselves; and measure the things that customers really care about. Like his eight other agenda items, this one sprang from Hammer's observations of the ways that innovative and well-managed companies are coping with the challenges of the customer economy. In particular, he says, he learned the most from "mature companies in mature industries." Other subjects that Hammer's agenda and action steps address include processes, measurements, organizational structure, distribution channels, Web-enabled collaboration, and the extended enterprise. Examples of success are included in anecdotes about companies including Johnson & Johnson, Trane Co., Progressive Corp., IBM Corp., and Kawasaki Motors Corp.

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