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Reengineering set to begin; teams, consultant named

MIT's reengineering effort, geared toward simplifying processes that support the Institute's academic and research enterprises while improving quality, enhancing customer responsiveness and reducing costs, will begin in earnest tomorrow, March 17, Senior Vice President William R. Dickson has announced.

Mr. Dickson said that Professor James D. Bruce, vice president for information systems, who has agreed to assume the position of program manager for the "reengineering" effort, will convene the first meeting of the newly appointed seven-member Core Team tomorrow.

The team's tasks include analyzing the external forces driving change at MIT; identification of the Institute's business processes and assessing opportunities for process improvement; creating a case for specific action; and selecting focus areas for process redesign to recommend to the Steering Committee. In addition, the Core Team will oversee work to assess the Institute's information technology capabilities and MIT's readiness for organizational change.


Members of the Core Team (see brief biographies below) are:

  • Katherine Cochrane, director, alumni information services and resources.
  • Isaac Colbert, associate dean, Graduate School.
  • Marilyn A. McMillan, director, information systems planning.
  • Pamela A. Phillips, administrative officer, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
  • Shirley M. Picardi, bursar.
  • Steven D. Scarano, assistant to Vice President Simonides for information systems.
  • ������Anne H. Whealan, assistant director, finance.

"Each of our Core Team members has extensive experience at MIT," Mr. Dickson said, "and together they possess considerable knowledge about the Institute's support systems. They face much hard work, and I thank them for their willingness to take on this challenge."

Mr. Dickson gave this outline of the next steps to be taken:

Professor Bruce will lead the Core Team in selecting and mapping perhaps 10 key support processes over the next 8 to 10 weeks. The Core Group will recommend to the Steering Committee two or three of these processes for the first round of process redesign and implementation. Reengineering Teams will be appointed for each process and members will devote about 80 percent of their time over the next six months to the project.

"Our goal is to complete the redesign of two or three processes by the end of the calendar year," Mr. Dickson said. Implementation will continue over the following 12 to 18 months, he said.


The Steering Committee, which will provide general oversight of the entire reengineering effort, consists of Mr. Dickson, MIT's vice presidents (Professor Bruce; James J. Culliton, financial operations; Professor J. David Litster, research; Constantine B. Simonides, secretary of the Corporation; Glenn P. Strehle, treasurer), the Dean of the School of Engineering, Professor Joel Moses; and the executive vice president of the Alumni Association, William J. Hecht.


Mr. Dickson also announced that MIT has retained CSC Index, Inc. to assist in the reengineering effort. Index, one of three firms MIT solicited reengineering proposals from, is an international management consulting group with extensive experience in reengineering.

Index has assigned Karen K. Temkin, a 1989 MIT graduate with an SM from the Sloan School, to be the firm's program manager for the MIT project. She will work closely with the MIT team.

In announcing the latest reengineering developments, Mr. Dickson said the key to success is for MIT "to learn how to work differently, not just harder."

Several task forces, many applying the principles of Total Quality Management, were established in recent years to review a variety of activities, including software license review, campus visits, and procurement. Larger task forces have been or will soon be working on larger systems, Mr. Dickson said. These include health services (a panel is being selected), mail services (report expected in summer), publications production (report recently completed), and the redesign of the Sloan School master's program (much work already completed).

"The reengineering effort will build on this momentum as it focuses on some of the major support processes at the Institute," Mr. Dickson said.

Professor Bruce, a member of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and former associate dean of engineering and director of the Industrial Liaison Program, said two words provide the most useful definition of reengineering. The words are: Starting over.

That is the definition, he said, favored by Dr. Michael Hammer, a former MIT faculty member, who is the originator and leading exponent of the concept of reengineering and the founder of the reengineering movement.

In the book, Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, Dr. Hammer and his coauthor James Champy, say that reengineering is "about beginning again with a clean sheet of paper. It is about rejecting the conventional wisdom and received assumptions of the past. Reengineering is about inventing new approaches to process structure that bear little or no resemblance to those previous eras������ Reengineering is the search for new models of organizing work. Tradition counts for nothing. Reengineering is a new beginning."

Dr. Hammer, a member of EECS when he taught at MIT, has said that "at the heart of reengineering is the notion of discontinuous thinking&emdash;of recognizing and breaking away from the outdated rules and fundamental assumptions that underlie operations. Unless we change these rules, we are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We cannot achieve breakthroughs in performance by cutting fat or automating existing processes. Rather, we must challenge old assumptions and shed the old rules."


Core team members -- who's who

The seven members of the newly appointed reengineering Core Team, who will take up their new assignment at a meeting tomorrow, March 17, have deep experience with how support systems operate at MIT. Here is a brief glimpse at their backgrounds:

Katherine Cochrane

Joined MIT in 1973 as support staff in nuclear engineering������1979 became supervisor of personnel records������1981 became administrative officer in Office of Dean for Student Affairs������1986 became administrative officer at the Alumni Association������current title is director of alumni information services and resources������co-convenor of the Working Group on Support Staff Issues������ served on the Publications Services Review Group������currently chair of the MIT Mail Committee.

Isaac Colbert

Joined MIT in 1977 as senior consultant and trainer, Office of Personnel Development������became assistant equal opportunity officer in 1979������from 1981 to 1985 held information systems posts in Personnel and Financial Operations; became associate dean of Graduate School, 1988.������is co-chair of the Cambridge Partnership for Public Education and a member of MIT Council on Family and Work and the MLK Memorial Celebration Committee������also an adviser to Black Student Union and Black Graduate Student Association.

Marilyn A. McMillan

Joined MIT in 1977 as senior systems analyst/project manager in predecessor to today's Information Systems group������has held variety of posts in Information Systems, including area manager for financial systems, manager of application services, director of administrative systems, director of architecture and strategic technology������since 1990 director of information systems planning in IS.

Pamela A. Phillips

Joined MIT in 1981������has served as administrative officer in Division of Comparative Medicine, Department of Economics and now Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences������member of the Administrative Advisory Committee since 1989, chair since 1990������involved with task force projects initiated to look at cost containment at MIT, serving on the Administrative Computing Task Force in 1993.

Shirley M. Picardi

Joined MIT in 1976 as an industrial liaison officer and assistant director of industrial liaison...has been bursar since 1985, responsible for 9,500 student accounts, for educational loans and loan counseling sessions������from 1981-85, Alumni Association secretary������in 1981 served as special assistant to vice president for resource development.

Steven D. Scarano

Joined MIT in 1986 as assistant to the vice president in the Office of the President for information systems...serves in a consulting capacity to analyze information systems' needs for central administrative departments and clients and to identify ways to use computer technology to enhance business operations������managed project which replaced custom mainframe-based Personnel System with off-the-shelf Human Resource Management system running on a small mini-computer.

Anne H. Whealan

Joined MIT in 1975 in financial operations as assistant director������headed many special projects involving the design of Institute financial statements������1983-84 served on Strategic Management Committee mapping Institute goals and missions������currently responsible for Institute's capital budget.

A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 26).

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