How is Business Process Reengineering Different From Other Process Improvement Methodologies?

First, what is Business Process Reengineering?

Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is a management strategy that focuses on analyzing and redesigning workflows and business processes within an organization to rethink how they work to improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become world-class competitors.

BPR was popularized in the 1993 book, “Reengineering the Corporation,” by Michael Hammer and James Champy. They argued that the incremental improvements or “band-aid” solutions that businesses applied to their operations were insufficient in the face of modern challenges and opportunities. Instead, organizations needed to fundamentally rethink their processes.

Key points related to Business Process Reengineering

BPR aims for radical or fundamental changes. Other approaches focus on incremental changes or tweaks to existing processes,

Often, BPR involves starting from a “clean slate,” disregarding the current processes and procedures to create new ones.

The primary goal is to increase customer value, often by restructuring operations to improve end-customer satisfaction.

BPR often leverages new technologies to improve processes. Many companies have reengineered their business processes to incorporate digital, web, and Internet of Things technologies.

BPR emphasizes organizing business processes around outcomes and not tasks. This could require breaking down silos in an organization and focusing on end-to-end processes.

BPR can be disruptive. If not appropriately managed, the radical nature of changes may lead to employee resistance, loss of morale, or even business disruptions.

Due to potential disruptions, effective change management is a critical component of BPR. This involves preparing and supporting employees to understand, commit to, accept, and embrace changes in their current business environment.

While BPR can lead to significant improvements and competitive advantages, its radical nature is only suitable for some organizations or situations. Proper assessment, planning, and implementation are crucial for its success.

Differences between BPR and other process improvement methodologies

BPR and other methodologies share the goal of enhancing organizational performance by:

  • Streamlining operations.
  • Improving efficiency.
  • Delivering value to customers.

However, their approaches, philosophies, scope, and applications differ. Here are some distinctions between BPR and other popular process improvement methodologies:

Origin and History

  • BPR emerged from the need for businesses to adapt to changing environments in the late 20th century, especially with the rise of information technology.
  • Many other methodologies have their roots in manufacturing. For example, the roots of applying Kanban principles to manage factory floor inventory go back to Toyota Automotive in the 1940s. 

Philosophy and Approach

  • BPR emphasizes a radical, fundamental redesign of processes, typically involves starting from a clean slate, and often requires massive changes to achieve breakthrough improvements.
  • Other methodologies usually focus on incremental improvements, aiming to refine and optimize existing processes by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies.


  • BPR looks at end-to-end processes and often cuts across functions. The focus is on entirely reimagining processes.
  • Other methodologies emphasize waste elimination, value stream mapping, and efficient flow. For example, Six Sigma focuses on reducing process variation and improving quality.

Scope of Change

  • BPR seeks holistic, enterprise-wide changes, often with large-scale implications for structure, culture, and employees.
  • Other methodologies typically focus on specific organizational processes or areas, seeking to improve them step-by-step.

Time Horizon and Results

  • BPR generally has a longer time horizon for implementation due to the scale of change. Results, when successful, can be transformative.
  • Other methodologies often focus on shorter-term, continuous improvements, typically incremental and accumulating over time.

Technology Integration

  • BPR is often linked to significant technological change or adoption, leveraging new technologies to facilitate radical process redesigns.
  • Other methodologies do not necessarily rely on new technology adoption as a core principle – even when they may employ technology to improve processes.

Risk and Disruption

  • BPR can be more risky and disruptive and may lead to significant organizational restructuring, layoffs, and cultural shifts.
  • Other methodologies are usually less disruptive, emphasizing steady, continuous improvements.

While these are generalized distinctions, the lines can blur in real-world applications. Organizations often integrate principles from multiple approaches to meet their unique needs and challenges. The choice between BPR and other methodologies should be based on the organization’s specific circumstances, goals, and challenges.

Process Improvement is part of everything we do at Thurman Co.

In addition to an in-house culture that thrives on ownership and responsibility throughout our team, we help businesses manage projects to significantly impact their success and growth, often including analyzing and improving processes.

When you’re ready to put your project in the hands of a trusted professional organization, contact us to learn more about working together.

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