Magazine article Academe

Reappraising Reengineering

Magazine article Academe

Reappraising Reengineering

Article excerpt

IN 1993 THE PEW FOUNDATION initiated a project to restructure higher education. Adopting the rhetoric of the day, the conveners of the Pew Higher Education Roundtable proclaimed that "a five- to seven-year process designed to reengineer operations can yield a 25 percent reduction in the number of fulltime employees an institution requires." The knights of this roundtable have mostly gone on to tilt at other windmills-especially tenure. Yet the underlying assumption of reengineering-that quantitative and qualitative staff reductions can occur without loss of organizational effectiveness-persists. Is there anything we can learn from industry's experience with reengineering?

According to John Koenig, in "Gurus Leave a Trail of Cliches, Victims," (Orlando Sentinel 1 February 1998, sec. HI), reengineering is just one of the failed fads propelling a profitable consulting industry. "Five years later, 'reengineering' is a dirty word," he says. One survey of corporate executives by the Arthur D. Little consulting firm found that only 16 percent were satisfied with the results of reengineering their companies; 68 percent had run into unexpected problems. In higher education, where faculty have a voice in governance, and where many faculty members have used that voice to condemn reengineering, no one need be surprised. In fact, as early as fall 1993, the AAUP's publication Footnotes reviewed the Pew roundtable arguments for reengineering and concluded that "restructuring is one more in the line of managerial fads, like program budgeting and strategic management, which seek to infuse the academy with managerial values as a remedy for fiscal stress. …

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