The possible applicability of business process reengineering (BPR) to organisations in the public sector is explored through analysis of the central issues in BPR and the emerging experience of organisations which have recently implemented it. In particular, the paper suggests that success of reengineering may depend critically on the strategic capability of the organisation prior to undertaking the effort. For that reason well-performing organisations are more likely to improve performance by means of BPR than are weak ones. Yet, in the public sector, it tends to be badly performing agencies which are most encouraged to undertake BPR. Knowing and understanding the reasons for success or failure of BPR in private organisations can prepare public sector managers for undertaking the effort, but each reengineering initiative must be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the individual agency. Public sector managers should use the widest possible definition of `value¿ when analysing value-added in process reengineering and should be especially sensitive to the way in which `value¿ in the public sector is differently interpreted by major stakeholders. During this learning process, public sector agencies would be well advised to be conservative in estimating gains from BPR.