• The best practice challenge


    The more you challenge yourself against external benchmarks, argues RAY WILKINSON, Director of the Best Practice Club, the more you can enhance performance.

    External benchmarking is the most powerful business performance improvement technique around today. Comparing your company’s performance against another’s, and learning from that experience, is a real driver for positive change.


    The truth is that companies can get complacent. They can acquire a dominant internal focus that risks dampening the creative stimulus they need to raise their game. Yet research shows that the more you challenge yourself against external benchmarks the more likely you are to enhance performance.


    I know how transformative this can be. In our Best Practice Club, we’re typically seeing organisations reduce expenditure by about 25%, improve efficiency by a similar factor, or both. In our experience, most organisations that haven’t tried best practice benchmarking before can expect to secure at least that order of improvement.


    Done properly, what external benchmarking introduces is a corporate impatience – an unhappiness with where you are now and a real resultant impetus to improve things quickly.


    And it can be fast. In fact in some respects it’s vital to make quick wins. Culture change means that you do need rapidly realisable demonstrations of progress precisely to fire the imagination of your people and sustain their enthusiasm.


    But persistence is also vital. Benchmarking to achieve culture change isn’t a one-shot weapon. As a senior leader, your focus has got to be relentless on changing those essential behaviours which will have the cumulative effect, over time, of securing the culture for which you’re aiming.


    Since the mid-1990s, our Club has provided a network for organisations to engage with potential benchmarking partners and a forum to share best practice. For mid-sized companies the focus of interest, we’ve found, tends to be on five key performance components: revenue generation, cost reduction, future investment, talent recruitment, and processes and technologies. 


    Having identified those strands of endeavour most central to your own corporate objectives, your choice of benchmarking partner is critical. Be prepared to cast a wide net – perhaps outside your industry. And remember that adaptation is vital – what works for one organisation may not for another, so select those elements of the partner’s analysis that most suit your own company’s goals.


    While the concept is simple to understand, though, the execution can be less simple.  The temptation with benchmarking is that you become a kind of ‘industrial tourist’, lacking focus and direction, and risk becoming disillusioned through not making best use of your time.


    The key is to be crystal clear about your goals. Invest time to explore and define what best practice really means to your company, and take steps to put a tailored framework around your informal benchmarking to maximise its effectiveness.

9/28/2020 11:25:49 PM