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Business Process Reengineering vs. Corporate Turnaround

James Proctor
James Proctor



I am often asked to differentiate Business Process Reengineering (BPR) from Corporate Turnaround work.  It's an important distinction - both concepts result in business transformation. 

Today’s business environment changes rapidly – change is continuous and at an increasing rate.  The gap between an organization’s business infrastructure (people, processes, technology, culture, etc.) necessary to complete and thrive in this environment and an organization’s status quo business infrastructure continues to widen until transformation occurs. 

Transformation occurs regardless of how an organization chooses to transform – proactively or reactively. Choosing to maintain the status quo is a decision as well.  The decision to maintain the status quo, however, is an extremely high-risk decision – often resulting in transformation via turnaround rather than via BPR.

BPR is a strategy based on aspiration.  BPR is about proactively working with an organization to change their business infrastructure (people, processes, technology, culture, etc.) to not only survive, but to thrive in today’s rapidly changing business space.  

BPR is typically driven by rapid growth (the need for scalability), mergers and acquisitions (integration of operations), pre/post IPO (transformation to an operating company) or restructuring to improve organizational effectiveness and operational efficiency.

Turnaround, however, is a strategy often driven by desperation. Turnaround is about working with an organization from a reactive perspective to change their business infrastructure to enable the organization to survive – long enough to enable a shift from desperation to aspiration. 

Options are limited in a turnaround situation.  Often the optimal course of action is to scale the organization down to a skeletal ghost of its glory days, or merge with a more prosperous organization – an organization that proactively evolved their business infrastructure via BPR to compete and thrive.  

Transformation is driven by a compelling case to change – either from aspiration (BPR) or out of desperation (turnaround).  The political will to proactively change is often a barrier in moving forward with BPR.  Proactive transformational BPR requires strong leadership.  Without strong leadership, transformation is often reactive - precipitated by crises.

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