Management Guru Michael Hammer Dies at Age 60

9/4/08Follow @bbuderi

Updated: Michael Hammer, the business management guru and author of the 1990s business bestseller Reengineering the Corporation (co-authored by James Champy) and three other books, has died at age 60 after collapsing from apparent cranial bleeding on August 22 while he was on vacation in the Berkshires, his company and various news organizations are reporting.

Hammer, whose business education and research firm Hammer and Company is housed at One Cambridge Center in Kendall Square, was formerly a professor of computer science at MIT and a lecturer at the Sloan School of Management, MIT News reports. He also received his undergraduate, master’s and PhD degrees from the school. According to his website bio, he was named by Time Magazine to its inaugural list of the 25 most influential people in America.

One of Hammer’s consulting clients back in the 1980s was AT&T. Arno Penzias, the Nobel Prize-winning former director of Bell Labs, once told the story of how Hammer advised him on restructuring the legendary research haven in 1989 to be more aligned to AT&T’s business. Penzias said he disagreed with several of Hammer’s specific ideas about how to proceed, but found his insights into human behavior remarkable. In particular, Hammer told Penzias to prepare himself for two fundamental truths: he would need to explain the entire rationale three times before people really grasped the concept—and that no matter what he did, some good people would leave. “I didn’t believe it,” Penzias said. But Hammer turned out to be exactly right.

Ken Morse, managing director of MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center, says:

… started a revolution in sustained corporate productivity by his breakthrough approach to re-engineering the corporation.

Giant firms like Oracle and SAP were founded to help implement Mike’s approach, which led to the longest run of steadily increased productivity in the US since the industrial revolution a century earlier.

Mike was a member of the legendary MIT Class of 1968 which spawned other breakthrough heroes like Bob Metcalfe, and some Nobel Prize winners.

Mike was a bit shy and private. This June, Mike came to the ’68 Class 40th reunion and mingled comfortably with his mates at the Boston Pops and the Kennedy Library dinner.

It is a sad shock to hear he is gone.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • http://www.mhc-net.com Derril Watts

    It’s interesting how we are finally recognized for who we really are and what we really accomplish only after we pass. Michael Hammer’s impact on the way we do business, both in the commercial as well as the government sectors, will be felt for a generation or more.

    I have taught and consulted with hundreds of organizations around the world for over 20 years and have yet to see a situation where Hammer’s focus on process was not only relevant, but critical to their success. With all of the talk that Reengineering is dead, long live six sigma, we have really missed the point. Reengineering in of itself was never the point, performance improvement was. Reengineering was never solely about IT, but most relegated it to the offices of the CIO. As Hammer said on so many occasions, it’s about giving people more of what they need to become better at what they do!

    I will miss his limitless drive to improve our work and our lives.

    We have lost a true warrior!

    Derril Watts
    President & CEO
    Mountain Home Training & Consulting, Inc.
    http://www.mhc-net.com