Benchmarking is the process of comparing one's organizational processes and performance metrics to industry bests or best practices from other industries.
Benchmarking is an instrumental tool to quantifiably measure the organization's strengths and weaknesses. Once the benchmarking exercise of your organization is concluded, whether it be aFor-Profit or a Local Governmental Agency, significant tangible value can be added if the improvement process is appropriately structured. I would recommend – 12 “ingredients” for optimizing of the results of the benchmarking process:
1. Select an area in which a tangible problem exists - If you are fortunate enough to have a set of processes that are performing extremely well – these processes are not the best candidates to start this endeavor.
2. Have an amnesty period – once it isdetermined that there isa less than ideal process, work with that team to rectify the process. The team knows the challenges, problems and probability options to rectify the issues. Assist them in mapping out the solution(s). Let them candidly discuss the problem from their perspective – “without shooting the messenger”
3. Identify the problem in a manner that all parties can understand. Two sentences are more than enough. For example - “In Department A, 15% of our clients / taxpayers had to wait more than 12 minutes to have their concerns resolved. The average time in our industry is 4 minutes – our goal is 3 minutes within 6 months.”
4. Easy to Implement. Do not select the measurements or a set of solutions that are so sophisticated that one requires a CPA or engineering degree to implement. Utilizing the aforementioned example, the organization could have a consistent weekly chart that illustrates “ the Starting position (of 12 minutes), the weekly average (say 7 minutes), the goal plus / or minus the improvement in the last week.”
5. Pick 3 or 4 areas to focus on improving. What are the true factors that the organization needs to improve? If you have more than 4 critical issues that warrant executive attention, perhaps it is time to call in a turnaround specialist. The objective is not to solve the “world hunger problem,” but to obtain tangible quantifiable benefits in challenged processes.
6. Recognize that this is a CI (Continuous Improvement) exercise. Also recognize that they may be a short period where the CI is not positive. Find out why the progress was not as expected and map out a formal map on how this will be corrected on a weekly / daily basis.
7. Assign an owner who is accountable and responsible for the CI. Then empower him / her to address the CI. Unless the proper individual is accountable, responsible and empowered to drive the CI – stop the exercise you are wasting your time and demoralizing the team(s).
8. Cross Functional Solution. Leverage this opportunity to have at least one team member from another function / department participate working on the solution. This is suggested for two primary reasons: first, it develops your organization into a more cohesive organization where others appreciate and understand the overall processes of the organization processes and, secondly, this allows the corrective methodology of the CI to spread through the organization.
9. Publish the Results Frequently and Consistently throughout the Organization. in today’s organizations, the processes and systems are so interwoven that a weakness in one area can have material repercussions in others key areas. So the CI exercise results are important to more than the individual team / department. Drive “home” the CI methodology – it is OK not to be perfect, but we will be getting better.
10. Follow-Up, Follow-Up and Follow-Up. Be persistent in your CI. And do not forget to revisit the original assumptions, verify that the parameters assumed are indeed taking you to the “promise land”.
11. Celebrate your win!!! After you have achieved the goal, ensure that management recognizes the results andthat the team celebrates the win!!!
12. “Keep your eye on the ball.” After you have achieved the goal for several periods without exception, then change the frequency of the reporting on the CI area(s). On a short-term basis, the organization has achieved its objective. To ensure that the organization does not revert back to the old process and maintains the CI efforts in the long-term, measure the against the goal on a more infrequent basis. For example, if the CI was beingmeasured weekly, then start measuring the set goal monthly for a quarter. Then if the monthly results continue to be at the acceptable rate, measure quarterly. However, I would not suggest going beyond quarterly basis.