Benchmarking is the continuous process of measuring products, services, and practices against the toughest
competitors or those companies regarded as leaders.
DAVID T. KEARNS, CEO, XEROX CORPORATION
Benchmarking is a method of comparing processes, products, and services against organizations with the best practices. You can benchmark best practices to identify how others achieve outstanding results, and can even benchmark the actual measurable outcomes. Doing both is the ideal. This is how it is done.
What do you want to benchmark? Take your cues from problem areas, which might include:
What information do you need? Determine which issues are most important, considering, perhaps:
Who will collect the data? For the survey to be both objective and accurate, you will need two or more people. Include colleagues who
have done benchmarking and surveys before;
will be authorizing the resulting changes in operation;
will be implementing the changes.
How will you collect the data? Methods include:
printed survey forms;
interviews in person or by telephone;
observation of workplace behaviour.
How will you record the data? The benchmarking team will need to develop one or all of:
data collection checklists or record sheets.
Where will you get the data? Possible sources include:
professional or industry associations;
published articles and books;
conferences and trade shows;
people in your own organization;
staff from competing firms;
people who previously worked for competitors.
Hold a planning meeting with your team members, using their input to refine the preliminary plan. Get as many people involved as possible, to "spread" the ownership.
Find information sources. In some cases, you might solicit cooperation by offering to share your final data.
Carry out collection of the data according to your plan.
Analyze the information you have collected.
Organize the data to identify
where your organization needs to improve;
how much improvement is required.
Determine why your organization is not meeting the benchmark (is it lacking, for example, in staff performance, operation methods, equipment, or materials?).
Your organization's efficiency will be most realistically evaluated when you have done your research thoroughly and consistently.
PLANNING FOR CHANGE
Set achievement goals for your improvement plan.
Develop the plan, including pinpointing what needs to be done, who will do it, and when they will do it.
SELLING THE PLAN
Make the "sales" presentation to those who will be authorizing and implementing the plan.
Present the team's findings, including goals, solutions, and benefits, to the audience.
Obtain authorization for changes in procedures and for any required expenditure.
IMPLEMENTING THE SOLUTION AND BENEFITS
Put the improvement plan into action.
Monitor implementation procedures to ensure that they are meeting goals.
Measure the results and determine whether goals have been achieved.
Give recognition to all the people who helped plan and carry out the project.
Continue to compare performance with current industry benchmarks. Make your organization a leader!