What is it?
Benchmarking is the practice of comparing an organisation’s processes, metrics and performance against another or others. Specifically benchmarking looks at what is considered to be industry ‘bests’ for performance and practices. Typical benchmarks relate to quality, productivity, costs and time. Benchmarking is sometimes referred to as ‘best practice comparison’.
Why is it used?
Benchmarking has been used in the UK since the late 1980’s. This includes public sector, housing and charities. In some of these sectors, a huge industry has developed, with ‘family’ groupings to aid more ‘accurate’ benchmarking. The purpose of such benchmarking is supposedly to encourage everyone to adopt best practice improve but does it really work?
Whilst looking at another organisation’s performance or approaches may inspire some people, and indeed encourage them to attempt to copy or replicate, it may cause other reactions. These include:
- Rejection of a different way of working
- General defensiveness
- Pure mimicry without understanding actual differences that will affect any change or implementation.
All of the above will ultimately have negative impacts on the organisation and benchmarking activity can lead to wasted time and unfavourable attitudes.
Within Lean Thinking comparison between organisations is not viewed as helpful. We believe the best way to improve is to fully understand your own current performance, however painful that might be, and then to identify what is stopping you getting better. Adopting the right metrics that measure true performance, then systematically addressing root cause problems will create a solid base for improvement.
The following approach is advocated:
- Develop definitive clarity of purpose based on your customers’ requirements
- Identify merciless measures that allow you to judge your own performance
- Baseline current performance against which to compare
- Make measurement visible by using Information Centres
- Review performance regularly and frequently
- Problem-solve root cause issues to improve your own performance.
- Actual sustainable performance improvement
- No wasted energy on unhelpful comparisons
- No sense of frustration or inadequacy
- No need to line up a defence!