Benchmarking

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Module 2

BENCHMARKING BEST PRACTICES

GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA

Module 2

BENCHMARKING BEST PRACTICES
An Overview for Workshop Participants

GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA

Benchmarking Best Practices: Overview

1

Module 2:..... Benchmarking Best Practices An Overview for Workshop Participants
Through a process called benchmarking, an organization that wants to improve its performancemay do so by adapting and implementing key practices that make other organizations outstanding. Borrowing from the terminology of surveyors, those who use this technique assess their own operations or condition in relation to a carefully defined benchmark−usually, the condition or achievement level of an outstanding counterpart or, in some cases, a recognized standard−and proceed to find ways toelevate their own organization’s performance toward that benchmark. Benchmarking has been defined in simplest terms as “learning from the pros.”1 Benchmarkers decide which of their own processes hold the keys to future success, identify “best in-class” performers of those crucial operations, examine the practices of best-in-class performers, note differences that distinguish those practices fromtheir own operations, and adapt key practices for their own use in an effort to close the performance gap. Projects often focus on quality, cost, and/or speed of operation. The impressive results achieved through this process have made benchmarking an important element in many applications of total quality management (TQM). The objectives of benchmarking−learning from top performers and adopting“best practices”−are consistent with the drive for continuous improvement common among many leading public and private sector organizations.

Defining Benchmarking
Xerox Corporation is credited with originating the practice of benchmarking among American companies. Xerox’s chief executive, David Kerns, defined benchmarking as “the continuous process of measuring products, services, and practicesagainst the toughest competitors or those recognized as industry leaders.” Robert Camp, the logistics engineer who initiated Xerox’s benchmarking program and who is generally regarded as the guru of the benchmarking movement, offered an even simpler definition. “Benchmarking” says Camp, “is the search for industry best practices that lead to superior performance.”2 Other experts have offered avariety of definitions of benchmarking. Some are rather complicated, but others are quite simple. Although a bit lengthy, the following definition is especially appealing because of its simple language: Put quite simply, benchmarking is the art of finding out−in a completely straightforward and open way−how others go about organizing and implementing the same things you do or that you plan to do. Theidea is not simply to compare your efficiency with others but rather to find out what exact process, procedures, or technological applications produced better results. And when you find something better, to use or copy it−or even improve upon it still further.3 Although many of the earliest and best known instances of benchmarking involved private sector corporations, nothing about the philosophyor logic of benchmarking renders it inapplicable or inappropriate to the public sector. Just as in the case of total quality management (TQM), the philosophy of benchmarking emphasizes continuous improvement. Every organization, even those that already are outstanding, can and should strive to get better. The logic of benchmarking suggests that the best place to look for ideas to improve ourproducts and services is in the processes of organizations that already are achieving extraordinary results. The philosophy is appealing and the logic is simple −and clearly applicable to federal, provincial and local government.

History of Benchmarking: First the Private, Then the Public Sector
Benchmarking lore credits Xerox Corporation with initiating the process in the United States in the...
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