Benchmarking for the sake of benchmarking is not a good idea.
Benchmarking, as a new, cutting-edge business
process, deserves more than that. Benchmarking is more than
driving in a fencepost to allow comparing old to new performance
or your operations to the competition. Benchmarking is the
discovery of what really needs to be done to make dramatic
improvements in performance—preferably in the customer's eye.
Capturing the customer's perspective is the key
to success in benchmarking. The objective of this presentation is
to show how to add value to the process of benchmarking by
integrating it with a customer-focused continuous improvement
initiative. With customer focus, the benchmarking process should
become a key activity for any total quality management program—as
important as training, involvement, and process mapping.
A Seven-Step Process
Benchmarking, as a process, first needs some
definition. It has come to be described in many different ways
since Camp made it famous in his book. Described here is an
outline of a 7 step process that is a composite of some of the
best—a result of benchmarking the benchmarkers? Yeah, sort of.
This seven-step process has been given the name of PARTNER.
The bulk of our attention is to be spent on the
first letter, P, which stands for Problem. The reason for
focusing primarily on this first step? Simply because it's best to
do anything right the first time which includes starting out on a
benchmarking mission. Ah, but it's not yet a mission is it? Here's
a critical first mistake with companies hooking onto the
benchmarking process. It's not vacation tour planning. There may
never be a site visit anywhere—that's just one of the many
choices you have for the new information gathering phase which
doesn't happen in this model until the letter N for New
Information. See what happens! Here we are, way ahead of
ourselves. We haven't done anything worthwhile yet and we're
getting excited about visiting that firm in Florida for our first
benchmarking visit this February!
Well, we've leaped ahead to the letter N so we
better backtrack quickly and uncover the others. Where is Vanna
White when you need her? (This is not a sexist remark, by the way;
she is simply considered the best at what she does and this topic
stresses the need to identify best practices and practitioners).
The letter P meaning Problem is to accentuate
the need do something if it is going to help you solve a problem.
Does this mean that if you're not going to solve a problem, don't
do anything? Yeah, sort of.
Author's note: You may have already noticed the
second repetition of the phrase Yeah, sort of. Expect
more of this and please be slow on your condemnation. This phrase
will be used to demonstrate the author's desire to be flexible vs
evasive in answering his own questions. In this world of trying to
be flexible yet focused, you should pick an answer for every
question but tactfully let it be known that there are other
answers! Yeah, son of simply reminds us that there are
multiple choices, variables, and exceptions to every rule.
There isn't time (the letter T) to do all the
things we know we should do let alone time to do the things we
don't yet know we should be doing. Now this is the kind of
sentence you didn't need after that esoteric 'author's note'. But
the point is, don't try to bring a blanket of change over the
organization. Focus instead on those improvements that will add
the most value. Focus is simply the newest way to say prioritize.
Do priority things, don't try to do non-priority stuff. You won't
have enough resources to do both. If you try to do everything,
there's a high risk that nothing will stand out as having been
significant. The benchmarking process should-be initiated with the
intent of making a difference—a significant difference.
So the letter P best stands for Problem or
significant problem. This paper will focus on how to ensure that
you've found the significant problems.
To be Continued
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