Leadership Styles and Their Impact on Business Process Reengineering

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 36
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Study level: Master


There has been a wide range of studies conducted on the implementation and effectiveness of Business Process Reengineering (BPR) to improve the overall performance of organizations. Effective leadership among other organizational, cultural and people issues has been one of the major determinants of the success or failure of BPR. BPR has a major impact on the functioning of the organization and this impact involves the generation, dissemination and use of information by people at various organizational levels, which again is dependent on how well the BPR process managers are able to motivate and communicate with the people concerned for bringing about the desired changes in the processes. The level of motivation and communication has a significant impact on the ability of the organization to sustain the redesigned process and make an effective use of them. Success of motivation and communication is the factor of the leadership style of the managers involved in the process. Since BPR has the objective of improving organizational performance, leadership can be considered to have significant influence on the success of BPR. Lack of leadership may cause failure in the BPR initiatives of any organization. There are different leadership styles established in the management literature. The objective of this study is to explore the different leadership styles and their relative impact on the BPR.

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Business Process Reengineering – an Overview

In order to study the impact of leadership styles on BPR, it becomes imperative that a clear understanding of the term and its nature and objectives is evolved. BPR is a concept, which encompasses improvements in business processes in a dramatic approach.

“Reengineering is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed,” (Hammer & Champy, 1993 as quoted in Jones, Noble, & Crowe, 1997).

BPR is concerned with making changes that are radical and significant implemented to improve the overall efficiency of the business processes. Davenport & Short, (1990) refer the changes as business process redesign. The process changes, even though referred to in several terms such as business process improvement, core process design, process innovation and organizational reengineering, the central focus of all these different concepts is to bring effective and dramatic changes to the business processes to improve productivity and performance. There are different reasons like to decreased efficiency of the processes, reduced market share, increased customer dissatisfaction or challenges from the competitors that induce organizations to implement BPR. Hammer and Champy, (1993) identify the need for BPR in companies, which are in deep trouble. These companies do not have a choice except to improve the processes. Similarly, companies that do not have trouble, but who are expecting that the company may have to face troubles also introduce BPR. Companies that are in the peak of their business success and see the likelihood to develop a lead over the competitors are keen in resorting to BPR.

Several case studies on BPR have recorded failure in BPR, because of several reasons including lack of understanding of BPR and the inability to perform BPR effectively (Chan & Choi, 1997). The lack of understanding of BPR might be because of the unrealistic expectations by the managers. When these unrealistic expectations did not materialize the managers lost commitment. The inability to perform BPR was because of a number of reasons including, the use of an effective methodology, embarking on wrong process and objectives, over reliance on information technology and the lack of top management commitment. Reengineering needs new way of thinking and breaking away from the old ways so that the organization can develop visions. Since most of the benefits that can be derived from BPR are expected to improve employee morale and productivity, there is the need for the managers to adopt a fitting leadership style so that they will be able to ensure an effective implementation of the changes in the processes.

Leadership Styles and Business Process Reengineering

A number of past studies have focused on the impact of leadership styles on organizational performance (CannellaJr & Rowe, 1995; Giambatista, 2004; Rowe, Cannella Jr, Rankin, & Gorman, 2005). One of the most prominent reasons for the widespread interest might be the belief that leadership can affect the organizational performance greatly (Rowe, CannellaJr, Rankin, & Gorman, 2005). Some researchers have studied the influence of leadership styles in enabling the organizations to achieve their goals ad in evoking performance among the subordinates. Effective leadership is a potent source of management development and sustained competitive advantage, which leads to improvement in organizational performance (Avolio, 1999; Rowe, 2001). According to Mehra, Smith, Dixon, & Robertson, (2006) to focus on the effect of leadership is a long-standing approach to an organization, which seeks efficient ways to enable them to outperform the competitors. This is because the leadership style plays a pivotal role in shaping collective norms and in coordinating collective action. Since BPR also has the objective of improving organizational performance, it is easier to establish the causality between leadership styles and BPR initiatives. Leadership is an important element for an effective BPR deployment. Successful leaders use their respective styles to adapt to the particular situation and perform their functions and in the process they attach due importance to the people and the work involved.

Lack of leadership has been found to be one of the frequent causes for the high failure rate of several BPR programs. “BPR implementation requires a top–down, directive leadership style. Yet, it also requires the management of motivated, skilled, independent-thinking people doing non-programmable tasks for which a non-directive leadership style is most suited,” (Sutcliffe, 1999). Leadership style in the context of BPR becomes important because of the fact that BPR projects are carried out by teams consisting of members who are highly motivated and highly skilled people. Normally suck type of people enjoy working independently with little direct supervision on their work, which mainly consists of non-routine tasks. In order to bring out the best performance out of such teams, successful BPR leaders tend to use leadership styles, which are more interactive than non-directive. This implies that leaders under these circumstances use styles in which different options and approaches are discussed with the team for concurrence. Leaders are even willing to modify the plans and approaches before implementation based on the recommendation of the team members (making the leadership style interactive). This style will involve the determination of options and approaches as determined by the team and leader jointly (non-directive) (Sutlclffe, 2002). The current study will explore different leadership styles and their impact on the implementation of BPR.

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Research Objectives and Hypothesis

The current research aims to explore the relationship between the leadership styles and BPR initiatives. The study in order to achieve this aim will have the following objectives:

  1. To study the salience of different leadership styles and their relative impact on the organizational performance
  2. To undertake an in-depth study into the concept of business process reengineering and the steps involved in implementing the concept including the factors affecting the success of BPR
  3. To study and report on the possible relationship between leadership styles and BPR by analyzing the impact of leadership styles on the success of BPR
  4. To recommend based on a quantitative survey, case study and secondary sources the appropriate leadership style for the implementation and success of BPR

Based on a review of the past literature on the topic of the impact of leadership styles on BPR, and by adopting an appropriate research method, the current study will attempt prove/disprove the main hypothesis that there is a significant moral impact of the leadership styles in the business process reengineering. Based on the main hypothesis the following sub-hypotheses will be studied for providing theoretical support with regard to them.

  • There is a moral impact of the classic leadership style and the BPR initiatives in any organization.
  • There is a moral impact of the transactional leadership style and the BPR initiatives in any organization.
  • There is a moral impact of the transformational or visionary leadership style and the BPR initiatives in any organization.
  • There is a moral impact of the organic leadership style and the BPR initiatives in any organization.

Research Questions

By undertaking an extensive review of the relevant literature and based on a quantitative survey, the current study will try to find plausible answers for the following research questions.

  1. What are the different styles of leadership prevailing among organizations?
  2. What is the level of strategic changes Business Process Reengineering brings in an organization applying the technique?
  3. What is the extent of relationship between different leadership styles and Business Process Reengineering?

Research Method

The current study will use a mixed research method of a quantitative survey through questionnaire and qualitative case study to collect the primary data. Secondary sources of professional journal articles and books on the subject will be used to collect and use secondary data and information for the completion of the study.

Organization of the Dissertation

For a comprehensive presentation, this study is organized to have different chapters.

  • Chapter 1: presents an introduction on the topic of study and this chapter also lay down the hypotheses the study will try to prove along with the aims and objectives.
  • Chapter 2: contains a detailed review of the relevant literature on leadership styles, BPR and the relationship between both the phenomena.
  • Chapter 3: briefly describes the research method, construction of the research instrument and the process of conducting the research.
  • Chapter 4: presents the findings of the research, analysis of the findings and a case study to accomplish the objectives of the study.
  • Chapter 5: summarizes the findings as concluding remarks and recommendations for further research in the field.

Literature Review

Organizations are sure to become successful when they network across functional boundaries and business processes rather than depending on functional hierarchies. However, the sheer use of the latest technology on existing processes and procedures will not be an effective solution to the organizational issues. An approach of rethinking the business activities to be of fundamental to the business processes has been found successful, which is the central theme of business process reengineering (BRP). “Effective redesign of business processes by removing unnecessary activities and replacing archaic, functional processes with cross-functional activities, in combination with using information technology as an enabler for this type of change will, according to the advocates of BPR lead to significant gains in speed, productivity, service, quality and innovation.” (Simon, 1994). Business reengineering therefore includes a fundamental analysis of various organizational elements like organizational structure, job definitions, reward structures, business workflows, control processes and a reevaluation of the organizational culture and philosophy, in order to bring radical and dramatic changes in these elements to improve organizational performance. Bringing changes at the organizational level requires committed change management at all levels. Change management can be practiced efficiently applying the appropriate leadership style. The scope of this study is to explore the relationship between leadership styles and BPR. In this context, this chapter presents a review of the past literature on leadership styles, BPR and the underlying relationship between the two phenomenons.

Key Elements of BPR

Davenport and Short (1990) defines business processes as “a set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome.” According to this definition there are two important factors characterizing the business processes. They are (i) the processes have customers – implying that the processes have defined outcomes and the customers represent the recipients of these outcomes, and (ii) the processes cross organizational boundaries – the processes occur either across or between organizational subunits. The definition of business processes as given by Hammer & Champy (1993) reads as “a collection of activities that takes one or more kinds of input and creates an output that is of value to the customer”. Based on this definition, developing a new product, ordering new goods from a supplier and creating a marketing plan can be considered as business processes. Davenport and Short (1990) have attributed three distinct dimensions to business processes. They are:

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  1. organizational entities or subunits, which take part in the process (these include interorganizational, interfunctional and interpersonal processes),
  2. the type of objects attended through the process (physical and informational processes)
  3. the type of activities that take place because of the business process (operational and managerial processes).

It is to be noted that different processes require different levels of management attention and ownership. The processes have also different types of business consequences.

This emphasizes the importance of practicing the appropriate type of leadership to derive the anticipated changes in the business processes so that the organization can be steered to success.

Process Orientation

“Many current business processes with their functional structures were designed to enable efficient management by separating processes into small tasks that could be performed by less skilled workers with little responsibility.” (Rock, 2003) Under this structure, the task of making important decisions within the organizational context was entrusted to the higher skilled and trusted leaders of the organization. Traditional approaches to business reengineering were expected to follow this sequential order, which centered on the decisions of the managers. The sequence followed the formulation of a business strategy, followed by planning the business structures and processes with the final stage of implementation. In contrast to these traditional hierarchical structures, BPR is more process-oriented. The objective of BPR as practiced today is to mitigate many of the issues raised by the traditional organizational structures, which are hierarchical in nature. BPR is the process-oriented to change the structural relationship between the management and employees in the organization. It involves an essentially interactive process between both the parties. Any BPR process is undertaken to identify the deficiencies in the current process structures and dismantle them so that they can be replaced with innovative ideas and techniques.

BPR is carried out following certain well-defined approaches undertaken with the objective of improving the process concerned. A frequently adopted approach of BPR is to identify and improve those process(s), which are central to the achievement of business objectives and which do not perform to the desired levels. The next step is to undertake a systematic analysis for determining the most important areas for development.

Organizational Enablers for BPR

Evaluation of BPR projects has been attempted from a number of perspectives, in order to measure the success of the projects. Researchers have identified by different factors contributing to the success of BPR. Davenport and Short (1990) identified reducing in the overall costs, reducing the time involved in performing the process, improving the volume of output and quality standards and improving the employee performance through empowerment and leaning as the objectives of BPR. According to Morris & Brandon, (1993), the goals of BPR include:

  1. streamlining the operation,
  2. reduction of costs,
  3. improving the quality of products,
  4. increasing the revenue,
  5. improving customer orientation and satisfaction,
  6. merging the operations acquired in the course of business.

Stow, (1993) observes that improving the organizational effectiveness, efficiency and competitiveness of the organization and enhanced profitability of the organization are the major objectives of BPR. According to Stow (1993), defining the objectives of BPR clearly is the first essential step for the success of BPR.

The success factors of BPR are categorized into two broad groups – factors relating to process redesign and factors relating to change management. In respect of process redesigning there are three different categories of success factors have been identified relating to (i) process, (ii) project-team management and (iii) information technology. In respect of change management, issues the categories of success factors include (i) people oriented factors, (ii) managerial/administrative factors and (iii) organizational factors. Based on this discussion the focus of the current study can be identified to concentrate on the success factors in relation to change management, as leadership has an important role to play in all the factors relating to change management and in turn on the success of BPR.

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Number of researchers and practitioners are of the view that top management commitment is the most important factor in ensuring the success of BPR (Janson, 1993; Davenport, 1993). The researchers point out that a reengineered process alone cannot make changes to the way the people work, as BPR can never happen using a bottom-up approach. According to Champy & Arnoudse, (1992), the role, attitude, vision and skill or knowledge of the leaders contributes to the success of BPR. The authors argue that the BPR must follow a top-down driven approach because the process requires effective change management. Because of the inherently cross-functional focus on processes, BPR demands leadership by those who have comprehensive perspectives. The leaders in charge of BPR processes must have the authority to coordinate different interest groups effectively. Janson (1993) is of the view that clears, honest and frequent communication is important for the successful implementation of any BPR process, which in effect needs managers with appropriate leadership qualities who could communicate with employees at different levels cohesively and clearly. Janson (1993) states sharing information and empathizing with the concerns of the employees would help in minimizing the resistance to change. Katzenbach & Smith, (1993) propose that a BPR project team should consist of people from different interest groups and it is important for the team members to have acceptable skill levels, shared goal and mutual accountability among them. It is also important that any BPR project be led by people having the desired leadership qualities and style to accomplish the BPR project objective.

It is imperative that the BPR efforts are undertaken based on certain chosen objectives. The objectives need to be selected based on the strategies and visions of the company. When conducted based on objectives, success of BPR can be ensured easily. Davenport and Short (1990) selecting the right processes for BPR could be identified as one of the success factors. All these success factors become effective only when there is effective leadership, which controls the BPR process.

Review of Failure Factors of BPR

BPR is expected to bring about major changes in organizations, which enhances the competitiveness of the firms and make them more responsive to the market. However, the implementation of any BPR is complex and involves major issues. Improper defining of the scope of BPR has been identified to be one important reason for the failure of BPR. BPR involves coordinating the efforts of a large number of people and many of the BPR projects extend over a period of a number of years. Another important reason for the failure of BPR is that BPR always demands radically new behaviors. Janson, (1993) observes that BPR can provoke strong resistance within the organizations. The following are some of the major reasons for the failure of BPR.

Resistance to Change

Stanton et al., (1992) point out that the resistance from the people who would be affected by a BPR initiative might turn out to be the major reason for the failure of a BPR project. BPR operates by providing employees tools and expertise that enable them to perform on multiple tasks. BPR ensures that the departmentalization in the organization is broken and functional units are made to work in coordination with each other. By flattening the organizational layers, BPR make the managers lose their power. BPR also acts to shift the responsibility of individual organizational members and breaks open the status quo in the organization. Resistance by managers may result from altered status of the managers, fear of losing the job and loss of control and position and resultant frustration. There will be widespread fears of losing the jobs since BPR attempts to eliminate unnecessary organizational positions and tasks. Workers may also resist to BPR initiatives due to lack of team-oriented approach, lack of ability to be adjusted to new technologies and processes. Presence of stakes and territorial disputes may also result in resistance to BPR initiatives.

Unrealistic Expectation

According to Hall et al (1993), stakeholders have a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings about BPR, which lead to the failure of BPR. Top management may have unrealistic expectations of reaping the benefits of BPR within a short period after the implementation. In some cases, the design and implementation may take more time to give results of the BPR efforts. If the stakeholders have misconceptions and unrealistic expectations, it would be difficult to attract the commitment of these stakeholders throughout the BPR project duration. Without the commitment of the stakeholders, it would be impossible to conduct a BPR successfully.

Incomplete Restructuring of an Organization

Hall et al., (1993) prescribe that, there needs to be a complete restructuring of the key organizational drivers to ensure the success of BPR. The authors propose that key drivers of organizational behaviors such as roles and responsibilities, performance measurements and incentives, organization structure, information technology, shared value and skills have to undergo complete change because of BPR. The investigation of a number of BPR cases by Hall et al (1993) reveal that organizations that have taken the restructuring of these key drivers to bring about major behavioral changes have been able to apply BPR initiatives most successfully.

The review of the factors causing failure of BPR suggests that there should be strong leadership to communicate with the employees and stakeholders to make them understand the realistic expectations of BPR and eradicate or reduce the resistance to BPR initiatives.

Leadership and Organizational Performance

In the context of studying the impact of leadership styles on BPR, it becomes important to understand the effect of leadership on the overall organizational performance, because leadership is viewed as one of the key driving forces in bringing improvement to the firm’s performance (Zhu et al., 2005). Rowe (2001) and Avolio (1999) consider leadership as a potent source of management development and sustained competitive advantage for improvement in firm performance. According to Mehra et al. (2006), focusing on the effects of leadership has been recognized as a long-standing approach to outperform the competitors. This is because of the fact that team leaders could play a pivotal role in “shaping collective norms, helping teams cope with their environments, and coordinating collective action.” Based on this leader-centered perspective several studies have been conducted providing valuable insights into the relationship between leadership and team performance (Guzzo & Dickson, 1996). A number of studies have focused on exploring the strategic role of leadership in order to investigate the ways of employing leadership paradigms and using leadership behavior to effect significant improvement in organizational performance (e.g. Judge et al., 2002; Judge and Piccolo, 2004; Keller, 2006; MacGrath & MacMillan, 2000; Meyer & Heppard, 2000; Purcell et al., 2004; Yukl, 2002).

One of the important reasons for such an extended research in the area is because intangible assets such as leadership styles, organizational culture, and skill and competence levels of organizational members are seen key sources of strengths in those firms, which combine people and processes for an effective improvement in organizational performance (Purcell et al., 2004). It is evident from a discussion that previous researches have led to the expectation that leadership paradigms, when applied appropriately will have the effect of positively influencing customer satisfaction, staff satisfaction, and financial performance. Since these are the main objectives of any BPR application, it can be concluded that leadership styles have a positive impact on the BPR, which can be understood from the resulting improvement in the organizational performance.

Categories of Leadership Styles

Past research has developed several categories of leadership styles, each having its own salience and characteristic features. This section discusses some of the leadership styles, as understanding the different leadership styles will enable understanding the association between leadership style and BPR success.

Classical Leadership

This is the oldest form of leadership, still used in contemporary organizations (Avery, 2004). This leadership presupposes the dominance by a pre-eminent person or an ‘elite’ group of people in leading the subordinates. This leadership style may have a coercive approach or benevolent approach or a combination of both the approaches. There are certain limitations attached to this type of leadership. First is the inability of the leader to command and control every action of the followers, especially when the situations become complex in nature and beyond the capacity of the leader. The second limitation is that this type of leadership often depends on the ideas of an ‘elite’ few implying that only a few people among the group have the capabilities to exercise initiative. This makes the followers to deskill themselves and idealize the leader without any original thinking on their part. This results in the followers leaving the leader accountable to the organizational performance, making little contribution to the organizational success (Avery, 2004).

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership follows a transaction or exchange-based approach in leading the followers (Evans & Dermer, 1974; House & Mitchell, 1974). A transactional leader achieves his objectives by understanding the needs and desires of the subordinates and explaining them how their needs and preferences can be fulfilled in exchange for their contribution to the organizational success. The transactional leader clarifies what is expected of the subordinates and the consequences of their approach, attitude and behavior towards those expectations. By instilling confidence in subordinates, the transactional leader is able to exert the necessary efforts in the subordinates and achieve the desired levels of performance. Judge and Piccolo (2004) identify contingent reward, management by exception-active, and management by exception-passive as the three dimensions of transactional leadership. “The difference between management by exception-active and management by exception-passive lies in the timing of the leader’s intervention. Active leaders monitor follower behavior, anticipate problems, and take corrective actions before the behavior creates serious difficulties. Passive leaders wait until the behavior has created problems before taking action,” (Howell & Avolio, 1993; Judge & Piccolo, 2004). According to Avery (2004) in the transactional leadership, although the ultimate decision-making remains with the leader, the leader engages in different levels of consultation with the subordinates.

Visionary Leadership

Visionary or transformational, or charismatic leadership has been the subject of study during the last thirty years (Bass, 1985, 1998; Burns, 1978; Conger & Kanungo, 1987; House, 1977). Having added a new dimension to the leadership studies in the organizational context, visionary leadership ensembles the emotional involvement of employees within the firm. The basic conceptualization in visionary leadership is based on the perceived competence and ability of the leader and his/her vision to achieve success. Subordinates are hired based on their ability to share the vision of the leader and are expected to exhibit high level of enthusiasm and commitment to the visionary leadership objectives. Avery (2004) finds certain limitations with visionary leadership. According to Nadler & Tuschman, (1990), the unrealistic expectations of the followers to result from the decisions and actions of the visionary leader may lead to disappointment among the followers, if things do not move in the desired direction. This style makes the subordinates depend entirely on the leader, as they believe that the leader has control over all the issues. This leadership styles curtails the initiatives for innovations, as the followers are reluctant to contradict the leader’s views.

Organic Leadership

The concept of organic leadership is relatively new in the field of organizational studies. Introduced by Drath, (2001) and developed further by Avery (2004), this leadership styles blurs the relationship between the leader and the followers. “This paradigm relies on reciprocal actions, where team members work together in whatever roles of authority and power they may have, not based on position power,” (Hirschhom, 1997; Raelin, 2003; Rothschild & Whitt, 1986). Organizations following this leadership style have many leaders in the place of one leader. Presence of multiple leaders enables organizations to cope with heterogeneous and dynamic environments with the help of the extended knowledge and capabilities of different leaders. In the absence of a formal leader, the interactions of all organizational members with shared vision, values and supporting culture represent a form of leadership and this situation gives rise to emergence of leadership rather than people hired to hold leadership positions.

Kanter, (1989) identifies one downside of organic leadership in that the autonomy, freedom, discretion and authorization enjoyed by the employees might lead to lack of control and as a result increase uncertainty, which will hamper the growth of the organization. However, Meindl, (1998) argues that organic leadership is about creating a form of self-control and self-organization. It is important to understand that organic leadership is expected to generate a clear sense of purpose and autonomy among the employees within a given context. Avery, (2004) points out that the idea of organic leadership depends on the support of self-leading organizational members.


This chapter presented a review of the past literature on BPR and leadership styles. The chapter added to the existing knowledge on the objectives of adopting BPR and the factors, which contribute to the successful implementation of BPR. The factors causing BPR failure were discussed. Discussion on different leadership styles and their salient features are described in this chapter. The chapter presents a brief review of the relationship between leadership and organizational performance. The next chapter presents an overview of the research method adopted for conducting this research.

Research Methodology

This chapter provides a brief description of the research methodology engaged by the current research to accomplish the research objective. According to Denzin and Lincoln (1998), the researcher is free to use any research method that will enable him to achieve the research objective. However, it is necessary that the researcher consider the nature and scope of the research and other factors involved in conducting the research. The research questions also play a role in the determination of an appropriate research method and the research questions in turn depend on the social context of the issue. In the present research on the impact of leadership on BPR effectiveness taking into account the subjective nature of the research issue, it is proposed to use a mixed method of both qualitative and qualitative research approaches.

Research Approach

The research approach depends entirely on the selection of the research philosophy that governs the conduct of the research. Research philosophy covers the belief on the ways in which the collection of information, its interpretation and analysis on any particular social issue can be accomplished. Various research philosophies are enumerated and described by ‘epistemology’, which term means things that are known to be true. Epistemology is the antonym for doxology. which word means things that are believed to be true. The objective of any scientific research is to transform issues from the state of believing to be true into the state of known things. There are two principal research philosophies – positivism and interpretivistism.

“Post-positivism” is the recent addition to the school of research philosophies and critical realism is a part of positivism. Critical realism is the most accepted version of version of post-positivism. Critical realism postulates that there are several social problems, which scientific inquiries cannot clarify on their own. Positivism is different from post-positivism. In post-positivism, all observations about social issues are considered fallible. Therefore, positivists assume that all observations are subjected to some inherent false notions and it is possible to amend the theories and notions by employing suitable research methods. Critical realism doubts our ability to know the reality with utmost certainty. Therefore, it suggests adoption of a suitable inquiry method to correct the fallacies. Based on the above discussions on research philosophies this study proposes to follow critical realism- post-positivism. Since the basis for adopting post-positivism is to deal with the social issue on a subjective dimension, use of a qualitative research approach is suggested. The case study will be supplemented by a quantitative research of questionnaire.

Characteristics of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Denzin & Lincoln, (1998) have defined qualitative research as:

“Qualitative research is multimethod in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of meanings people bring to them.” (Denzin & Lincoln, 1998)

The definition of qualitative research gives rise to certain situations that cover complex human experiences. In the context of social science inquiries, there is the need for insight, discovery and interpretation and one cannot arrive at the conclusion just by testing the hypotheses established to study the particular issue. Qualitative research in respect of certain social issues is considered superior to quantitative research, because of its capabilities of understanding people within the social and cultural contexts, where the people are found to live. Examination of qunatitative data will not enable the participants to understand the issues perfectly from their social and institutional contexts (Kaplan & Maxwell1994). Because of this shortcoming associated with the quantitative research this study proposes to use quantitative research approach.

Quantitative research depends less on subjective methods but focuses more on the collection of empirical data to support the research findings. It involves statistical and mathematical analysis of the findings through a survey or other feasible method for collecting the data. Burns and Grove (1991) define quantitative research as “a formal, objective, systematic process in which numerical data is utilized to obtain information about the research question.” Objectivity and reliability are at the root of the methods used in quantitative research. In quantitative research, the position of the researcher is external to the research. Being quantitative in nature the results are expected to remain the same irrespective of the person conducting the research. The major strength of the quantitative research is its ability to produce quantifiable and reliable data William Trochim (2001).

Research Strategy

Research scholars in the past have developed a large number of different methodologies for use in various social research contexts (e.g. Galliers, 1991; Alavi & Carlson, 1992). The table appended below presents the various research methodologies developed by Galliers, (1991, p 149).

Scientific/Positivist Interpretivist/Anti-positivist
Laboratory Experiments Subjective/Argumentative
Field Experiments Reviews
Surveys Action Research
Case Studies Case Studies
Theorem Proof Descriptive/Interpretive
Forecasting Future Research
Simulation Role/Game playing

This study has chosen a mixed method of questionnaire and case study for conducting the research. The following section provides a brief review of the case study method.

Case Study Research

Number of past research have identified case study as a reliable research method (e.g. Yin, 1984). Case study because of its ability to study the phenomenon in its natural setting has been identified to be an effective research method. Case study research is undertaken in respect of issues which have been studied earlier either completely or as a part of another research. Literature has not provided any concrete definition for the term case study. Case study is an empirical enquiry and focuses on a contemporary social issue within its real life setting. Case study uses multiple sources of data collection and evidence. According to Anderson, (1993) contextual realities can be examined by case study method by focusing on the reasons and manner in which things have happened. Case study method elaborates on the variations between the reality and the expectations.

“Case studies become particularly useful where one needs to understand some particular problem or situation in great-depth, and where one can identify cases rich in information.” (Noor, 2008)

Use of case study requires the consideration of several factors before adopting it as a research method. Case study becomes the ideal research tool in cases where the researcher would like to concentrate on contemporary social issues occurring in real life situations. Case study becomes useful in cases where the researcher is unable to find strong theoretical base to answer the research questions. However, when there are different variables that need to be controlled or manipulated, for accomplishing the research objective, case study may not be a fitting research approach. In view of the nature of the current research issue, which accommodates case study, this method is chosen for conducting the current study.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Case Study Research

Case study has received the criticism that it functions without the required scientific rigor and it is also unreliable. Another criticism is that it is not possible to generalize the results of case study and hence is unsuitable. However, researchers accept case study as a reliable method, since use of case study enables the researcher to get a holistic view of the social issue under study. By its quality of examining multiple sources of evidence, case study provides an overview of issues under study. It is possible to generalize results obtained using case study, when the researcher analyzes findings from several case studies to compare and embark on a particular pattern.

Survey Method

Primary data collection is accomplished through surveys and surveys represent one of the most popular methods for data collection under quantitative research approach. Denscombe (1998) observes a survey is undertaken “to get a detailed and comprehensive view about the data obtained, which will be used for mapping”. Denscombe (1998) has identified (i) Wide and inclusive coverage, (ii) at a specific point in time and (iii) Empirical research as the three important characteristics of survey method. Surveys method is popular because of its ability to provide a quantitative or numeric description of some fraction of the population known as sample, by asking relevant question (Cresewell, 1994).

For the purpose of this research, primary data will be collected using a questionnaire as the survey instrument.

Data Collection

Case study method comprises of three categories:

  1. exploratory,
  2. descriptive
  3. explanatory Yin (1984).

Exploratory case study method covers business related research problems. By using descriptive case study method, the researcher can get the possible explanation for the happening of a particular phenomenon. To study the organizational processes researchers make use of explanatory case study method. This study makes use of the descriptive case study method. In this method, the researcher observes the processes in an organization or studies the changes in issues in any other social setting and makes his report. Date under case study method can be collected using different methods such as;

  1. documents,
  2. archival records,
  3. interviews,
  4. direct observation,
  5. participant observation
  6. artifacts

The researcher is at liberty to choose one or more of these six data collection methods depending on the nature and scope of the study. The current research uses the methods of documents and archival records for collecting the required data.


This chapter provided a brief description of the research approach and elaborated the salient features of case study as a research method along with the merits and demerits of case study method. The findings of the case study are presented in the next chapter with an analysis of the findings.

Findings and Analysis

This chapter presents the findings and analysis of case study of BPR on TXU Energy and a quantitative survey conducted among 28 BPR leaders chosen on a random sampling. The objective of the case study and the survey was to examine the role of leadership on the success of BPR projects.

Case Study

The deregulation of energy markets by the State of Texas in January 2002, forced TXU Energy (TXU) to face a high-stakes competitive environment. The situation demanded high level of customer service, lower cost and the alignment of the processes of the company with its missions. The goal of the BPR leader, Brenda Jackson, Senior Vice President was to take a horizontal look at all the business processes of the company. Her evaluation of the processes revealed that the end-to-end processes of TXU were costing high than the peers operating in the industry, and this affected the bottom line of the company. The evaluation also revealed that there was the urgent need to simplify the unnecessary complexity in the processes and to streamline the compartmentalized governance structure. It also required the introduction of more standardization in to the business processes for effective control and improving the overall efficiency.

Brenda identified that the key for success was to establish enterprise-wide process owners. These leaders have to assure performance of the individual processes for which they are responsible. It was also the need for success that the process owners own the achievement of aggressive service and cost performance targets.

A perfect blend of transactional and transformational leadership was introduced in all the process areas. As far as the finance area is concerned, the CFO and the Corporate Controller were made the process owners with the vision of transforming TXU’s financial role from purely accounting to one of strategic business partners and catalysts for change. This required the exercise of different leadership qualities by the CFO and the Controller. These leaders provided some reflections on this approach by stating that vision was important; but clarity as to the direction in which the organization was heading in terms of concrete goals was even more important. This required excellent communication skills to motivate the subordinates and align their individual goals with then organizational goals. The need for best service, best cost positions and best employee capabilities, efficient processes in the context of the impact of the changes in the external factor of regulatory changes was explained in detail to the employees by the leaders, which produced the best results for the company. The problems of Accounting Services Manager with procurement, accounts payable processes, and mechanizing the operations were discussed. Because of effective leadership five systems were reduced to one, the organization moved from manual to electronic systems of accounting and decreased staff strength by 80% and at the same time, the service was increased commendably. The success of BPR at TXU can be solely attributed to the leadership qualities of Brenda and her inspiring the CFO and Corporate Controller to exhibit the same qualities.

Summary of Findings from the Survey

This section presents a summary of the findings of the survey conducted on the leadership behavior on BPR projects.

Overview of the Survey

A random sample of 50 BPR leaders was selected for completing the leadership effectiveness survey questionnaire. Out of the 50 samples selected, 28 of them responded to the questionnaire sent to them by email, giving a response rate of 56%. A covering letter was sent along with the questionnaire explaining the purpose of the survey. About two thirds of the respondents reported on their own leadership behavior on a BPR project and the balance of the respondents reported on the leadership behavior of another person who led the respective BPR projects.

Background of the Survey

Past studies conveyed a mixed message on the approach of management to the BPR projects. Many of the scholars emphasized that a top-down approach ensures the success of BPR initiatives, though it is for the BPR team to own the implementation aspects of the project. This implied that the leader would direct the team on the ways of implementing the BPR steps rather than the team determining how the work should be done. If the leader allows the team to determine how the BPR project should progress, it can no longer be treated as top-down one. There have been a number of theories developed on the distinction between leaders and managers; but there is little evidence to prove the distinction. Past literature have evolved different leadership styles, based on the concept all leaders who were successful, could turn out to be successful managers. In most cases, the successful managers were charismatic in nature and admired by other people. This research is based on a theoretical framework constructed based on the study of several other theories, tested and validated by past research in the area of BPR and leadership.

Profile of Respondents

The average respondent was a male and the age group of the respondents ranged from 35 years to 49 years. The average experience of the respondents was over 5 years with the firm employing them after it started implementing BPR projects. The respondents have led a BPR team of almost 15 people on an average. The ages of the respondents ranged from 25 years to 59 years of age, none of them exceeded the lower and upper age limits. The respondents included two women leaders who were responsible for some BPR projects. The average years of experience of the respondents were between a minimum of less than a year and a maximum of 30 years. The BPR team consisted of members in number ranging from 2 people to 70 people. The projects occurred in the geographic region where the researcher is located with an extension to the neighboring countries.


The responses to the survey questionnaire evidence the existence of a relationship exists between different types of leadership qualities and the success or failure of the BPR schemes. This implies that the leaders have an influence on the way in which a BPR turns out. Some of the leadership qualities enhance the probability of success of the BPR projects. This study found that leaders who used such leadership styles congruent to the BPR situation have been successful, while those who do not exhibit the appropriate leadership qualities have witnessed the failure of their projects.

The BPR projects tended to have teams comprising of persons who were motivated and highly skilled. These people enjoyed working independently. They required only little direct supervision from the leaders on non-routine tasks. BPR leaders who have been successful have engaged leadership styles that were interactive or non-directive. These leadership styles were used in cases where the team members could work independently. These leaders used leadership styles where different alternative solutions and approaches were discussed with the team. Some of such options and approaches were also modified before implementation on the advice of the team members. The leadership style used here was interactive. The leaders also used styles where the team members were allowed to decide on the options and approaches. This style is non-directive.

The responses to the survey proved the fact that successful leaders adopted the technique of balancing different leadership styles and qualities depending on individual circumstances. This implies that successful leaders adopted people-oriented leadership styles in the same proportion to the work-oriented leadership styles. When the leaders have not balanced the leadership styles and use one type of oriented style over the other, they met with the failure of the BPR projects they handled.

The people-oriented leadership styles enabled the leaders to get the people in a team to communicate with each other and manage conflicts among the team members efficiently. They also supplied both positive and negative feedbacks on the performance of the team members and even helped people plan their future carriers. On the other hand, those leaders who used work-oriented leadership styles deal with goal setting and monitoring the performance of the teams towards achieving the goals. They also provided the team with the required resources for an effective implementation of the BPR project.

The responses to the survey indicate that the level of involvement of the leaders does no influence the outcome of the project in terms of its success or failure. Many of the past research have reported a strong relationship between the involvement of the leaders on a consistent basis and the success of the BPR projects. This study has not found evidence to this effect.

This study found no evidence to prove that there is a correlation between the volume of BPR initiatives and the degree of success achieved by BPR projects. In other words, fewer BPR goals meant greater focus and higher success rate of BPR. Therefore, the assumption is that with successful BPR projects there would be lesser BPR goals than those projects, which are less successful. The survey has not found any evidence to prove this point.


The purpose of the current research is to prove/disprove the main hypothesis that there is a significant impact of the leadership styles in the business process reengineering. The survey has provided empirical support to the hypotheses established earlier. Based on the findings of the study it is reported that there are no evidences to prove a moral impact of the classic leadership style and the BPR initiatives in any organization. This is because of the fact that in the present day context the managers do not exhibit the classic leadership qualities, as the work situations demand more autonomy to the employees at lower levels and there is the need to empower them to take decisions as most of the business meet complex situations. The view of Avery, (2004) covering the limitations of classic type of leadership apply in the real life situation and therefore, the managers in the course of time have withdrawn from following this leadership style. None of the respondents to the survey has indicated that they have inclination to follow this type of leadership traits.

The study finds evidence on the moral impact of the transactional leadership style and the BPR initiatives in any organization. This kind of leadership mostly follows work related leadership styles. The respondents have indicated that these types of leaders are keen in setting standards and observing the performance of the team members as to assess their level of achievement. In some cases, the leaders provide guidance to the team members and in some other instances; the leaders allow the team members to take their own decisions to meet the exigencies of the situation. This result corroborates the findings of Howell & Avolio, 1993 and Judge and Picccolo, 2004 with respect to the behavior of active leaders adopting this style in monitoring the follower behavior, anticipating problems and taking corrective actions before the behavior creates serious problems. The transactional leaders offer some form of need satisfaction in return for something valued by the employees such as pay rises, promotions, improved job satisfaction or recognition.

There is a moral impact of the transformational or visionary leadership style and the BPR initiatives in any organization. Most of the respondents to the survey have favored the transformational leadership styles to motivate the team members. As the earlier theorists like Bass (1985) and Burns (1978) have laid down the transformational leadership is found to have achieved the emotional involvement of the team members. The respondents point out that they always prefer to hire employees who have the ability to share the vision of the leaders and the respondents want the employees to exhibit higher level of commitment to the BPR project objectives. From the responses to the survey, it can be observed that the transformational leaders are able to win the trust and confidence of the followers. These leaders are able to build a base for future mission and this enables the leaders to make the followers more committed to the project objectives. This leadership has the scope for providing opportunities to the followers to suggest new and innovative ideas for better implementation of BPR.

The study does not find any evidence of the presence of organic leadership, as the respondents have not indicated any instances of following this leadership style. Therefore, this study is unable to fine the moral impact of the organic leadership style on the BPR initiatives.

Based on the survey results, this study concludes that different BPR project leaders adopt different leadership styles to achieve their respective project objectives. Therefore, it may not be possible to identify certain specific leadership styles that would lead to success of BPR projects. The general observation is that some of the leaders follow a transactional leadership style of setting definite work standards for the team members to achieve and they monitor the progress of the subordinates. These leaders also provide the resources necessary for the individual members to achieve the work targets. There are transformational leaders who follow non-direct or indirect leadership styles, depending on the ability of their team members. These leaders do not interfere with the work of the subordinates except for guiding the followers where the leaders’ expertise is required. These leaders expect the team members to share the leaders’ vision and objectives. In few cases, the leaders combine the transactional and transformational leadership qualities to get the best results. Therefore, it can be concluded that successful BPR project leaders combine both transactional and transformational leadership qualities and a balanced leadership style would only lead to success in the present day business context. The study also concludes that the number of BPR goals has no relevance to the level of success of BPR projects.

Conclusion and Recommendations


The technique of Busies Process Reengineering refers to the application of intelligent and innovative initiatives aimed at achieving radical redesigning and improvements in work processes. It is also essential that the changes in the processes be effected within a specific period. The current study observed that an effective communication of the BPR objectives and motivation of the employees to meet the time targets are essential prerequisites for the success of BPR initiatives. An appropriate leadership style is found to be an important factor in view of the fact that BPR is a top-down approach where the leadership qualities and the commitment of the top management makes a significant difference in getting the implementation of BPR successfully. Leadership is important for effective BPR deployment. Successful leaders use such leadership styles that suit the particular situation. This enables them to perform their tasks by giving due importance to both the factors of work and employees. An analysis of BPR will reveal that business processes are essentially value engineering applied to the system with the objective of bringing forth and sustaining the product with an emphasis on an accurate flow of information across the organizational levels. The information flow can be maintained only when the BPR project leader exhibits a proper leadership style. The success factors for BPR analyzed by past studies reveal that factors relating to change management are important to ensure the success of BPR projects. Effective change management can be practiced only through effective leadership at the top management level. Therefore, it is impossible to ignore the importance of the role played by executive leadership in BPR projects. It is the responsibility of the BPR leaders to provide the required resources to the BPR team. In addition, they have to demonstrate their active support to the team. The leaders can stimulate active performance by the team members by setting the stage for reengineering through determination of core business processes, which need to be modified. The leaders have the obligation to define the project scope and objectives in an explicit and coherent way. It is also the responsibility of the BPR leaders that the project gets adequate financial resources, and work to achieve new standards. The leaders of any BPR project should provide encouragement to the subordinates so that the team members would develop innovative approaches. All these are possible only when the management possesses and exercise the apt leadership style. It is seen that many of the BPR projects have failed because of lack of effective leadership.

The study answered the research questions to a maximum extent. On the question of the salience and characteristics of the different styles of leadership prevailing among organizations, the study has provided a theoretical base for the different types of leadership, with a discussion on the qualities of these leaders. However, the study could not find a plausible answer to the question of the level of strategic changes Business Process Reengineering brings in an organization applying the technique. Within the scope and constraints of the current research, a satisfactory answer to this question could not be found. This is a lack of the current study. By engaging a quantitative survey, the current study could establish the extent of relationship between different leadership styles and Business Process Reengineering to some extent.

It can be stated that the research has been successful in achieving the objectives of studying the salience of different leadership styles and their relative impact on the organizational performance. The research achieved the other objectives of presenting an in-depth study into the concept of business process reengineering and the steps involved in implementing the concept including the factors affecting the success of BPR and studying and reporting on the possible relationship between leadership styles and BPR by analyzing the impact of leadership styles on the success of BPR. The study has recommended that the success of BPR projects be enhanced by combining the transactional and transformational leadership styles and by making a balanced approach to the implementation of BPR projects.


The major limitation of the research was in identifying and selecting the samples for the survey. Initially it was though that the consultant organizations who are involved in BPR could be contacted to collect data on the leadership styles. However, on a second thought it did not appear to be a sound idea as the companies introducing BPR form the BPR teams. From the list contained in the trade directories and from the other available sources, it was difficult to find out whether the establishments have introduced BPR. It required lot of time and efforts to locate managers and leaders having BPR experience. Second, although there is abundance of resources on BPR and leadership styles, there are no adequate research findings on the effect of leadership on the BPR. Some of the studies have dealt with BPR as one of the variables having an influence on BPR success. Third, the number of respondents to the survey is less jeopardizing the generalization of the findings.


It is the practice of the new BPR teams to engage the services of consultants for effective implementation of BPR projects. Even though consultants can make valuable contributions to the BPR implementation, the experience of companies in this connection may differ. A case study of on the implementation of BPR by a firm, which has used an external consultant, would add to the knowledge on the success of BPR projects and the factors influencing the success. A quantitative study on the impact of BPR on the financial performance of any specific firm is an interesting area for further research.


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