Benchmarking other organizations is an ideal way to gain information, spark creative ideas and continually improve your own processes. In the rush to benchmark, however, youï¿½ve got to remember that itï¿½s a two-way street. Before others will share best practices and information with you, theyï¿½ve got to know that they will get the same in return. Beyond an agreement of what will be shared, it also is imperative to agree on what wonï¿½t beï¿½especially with others beyond your benchmarking study.
The Benchmarking Code of Conduct developed by the American Productivity and Quality Center (www.apqc.org) provides basic guidelines for benchmarking endeavors. These guidelines will help you establish a mutually beneficial benchmarking partnership.
First of all youï¿½ve got to keep it legal. That means that if you and the company you want to benchmark with are competitors, both parties must stay away from trade secrets, price fixing, bid rigging or any other type of market or customer allocation schemes. Depending on the topic of your benchmarking, you might need a third party to conduct your study to make sure that all the findings are blind and anonymous to all the participants in the study.
Confidentiality is also key. If you expect someone to share important data and information, you must ensure that it is kept confidential and used for the purposes of the study only. That means you need permission from all benchmarking partners if you want to use or publish the information in a way that discloses company names and contacts or otherwise reveals specifics.
Exchange of information must be fair and balanced. All benchmarking partners must be willing to disclose the same type and level of information. This should be made clear to all participants at the beginning of the study to avoid any misunderstandings.
Be respectful of each otherï¿½s time and resources. Before you begin to benchmark, it is critical to understand your own organization and its processes. Understanding how your organization currently operates is a prerequisite to sharing that information with benchmarking partners, as well as being able to decide whether or not you are comparing similar processes and organizations.
Benchmarking activities take a lot of timeï¿½time to compile data, to fill out questionnaires and to meet and discuss practices. No one has time to waste, so preparation and follow-through should be top priorities. This means making sure you are ready to benchmark before you begin. Have your questionnaire finalized prior to making your initial calls. Make sure you share agendas before you meet. Respect the corporate culture of your partners, and work within mutually agreed-upon procedures. Follow through with commitments you make to benchmarking partners in a timely fashion.
After you have gathered all your information, take the time to distill and capture the learning in report form. This will enable you to share and discuss your results throughout your organization and to share findings with your benchmarking partners. The report becomes the basis for implementation ideas and next steps. It also provides you with a baseline to continually measure your organizationï¿½s performance and improvement in the area benchmarked.
Benchmarking is a two-way street. Remember that you are giving, as well as getting. If you communicate clearly and honor the Benchmarking Code of Conduct, your benchmarking encounters will be efficient and productive for everyone involved.
Chuck Oï¿½Keefe is national manager, associate dean for the University of Toyota, responsible for the schoolï¿½s skills-based curriculum development, operations, strategic alliances, research, measurement and evaluation, quality management and e-learning for a student body of more than 100,000 Toyota dealer associates. Chuck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Filed under: Measurement, Technology