Is Benchmarking just a Numbers Game?
I am just getting ready to conduct the Benchmarking workshop for the SMRP conference Indianapolis on 10/14. As I am reviewing the workshop content, I ran across an interesting point in the “Best Practices Benchmarking” textbook written by Sylvia Codling. In setting the stage for the rest of the book’s content, on page 10, she makes this point –“The advantage of benchmarking, which looks at processes rather than outputs, is that many diverse businesses share a certain number of processes”.
So reflecting on that point for a moment, how often do we find benchmarking effort that focus solely on numbers? Some benchmarking projects focus on meeting some industry standard (a number) rather than an understanding of how the processes enable reaching that number. How many organizations really document their business processes, such as maintenance work order processing, issuing a spare part, conducting an RCA analysis, etc.? The point Codling is making is without clearly defined processes, a company will never gain the true benefits of benchmarking.
Codling continues on the same page “Although hard processes are compared, an essential part of the approach is to analyze the management skills and attitudes that combine to make the systems operate effectively”. So, in addition to defining the processes, we need to understand how the processes are executed, including the management direction and support that enable the processes to work effectively and efficiently. How often do organizations have really great looking process flow diagrams on the conference room walls, yet when you examine the organization, you find that it really doesn’t quite work that way. Why? Because the management direction and support does not encourage the process execution. So the process may be partially executed, but a few key steps get left out – in other words shortcuts are taken – and performance gaps appear. This leads to uncompleted process and a failure to achieve “Best Practice” results.
Codling closes the thought with this statement – “Often it is a combination of similar processes/ different attitudes that determines “best” practice and may lead to new ways of operating, better use of resources and even process innovations”. So even if organizations have identical processes, it is the focus on execution of the processes with the thought of “how to improve them” that leads to best practices.
In other words, the real secret to being the best is execution.
(To be continued