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If you are striving to reach the frontier representing the best of possible performances, you can take pride in working toward being the best you can be. Benchmarking has greatly benefited private industry. Firms have found that they cannot survive and thrive without being acutely conscious of how well their competitors perform in serving their customers. For the public sector to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment, it too must strive to understand how to best serve its customers. Customer-driven benchmarking is an important tool for accomplishing that goal. PREREQUISITES FOR CUSTOMER-DRIVEN BENCHMARKING There are three prerequisites for successful customer-driven benchmarking: 1. Leadership. Customer-driven benchmarking, in most cases, will require a complete reorientation of the maintenance organization from thinking about maintenance resources, production, and activities to thinking about the maintenance products and services that are important to customers and the efficiency and effectiveness with which those products and services are delivered. This reorientation requires the strongest support from the head of maintenance. Usually the full endorsement of the chief executive officer will also be required. Without the leadership to bring about this change, customer-driven benchmarking will not succeed. Another part of the leadership imperative is to commit the agency to benchmarking. The time, effort, staff resources, and attention to detail required of the organization cannot be underestimated. You need to use the same performance measures as your benchmarking partners, and most likely you will not have the same measures to start with. You will have to work hard to agree on what these measures will be. You need to collect data in accordance with a rigorous plan. You need to document the practices of subunits in your agency and share the practices with your benchmarking partners if they are different from those of your organizational subunits. You need to make a commitment to implement new ideas found elsewhere and to set improvement targets. You will also need to think about 13
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Chapter 1: Introduction to Benchmarking whether measured performance and new practices ought to result in a reallocation of resources. 2. Culture. The culture must support the idea of continuous quality improvement. Customer-driven benchmarking requires a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo. Before customer-driven benchmarking begins, the maintenance organization must have made a substantial transformation toward continuous improvement and must be looking to others for better ways to serve its customers. This culture comes from leadership that continually seeks and studies success, is quick to admit failure, and rewards honest improvement and real effort to improve. Culture and Management Responsibilities . . . Changing the Focus from "What's Wrong" to "What's Right and Successful" Many organizations have a culture that tends to focus on the lower- performing units in the organization and to fix what is wrong. Benchmarking is different: it focuses on the best-performing units and seeks to understand why they are performing so well. In this new culture, management must want to understand the reasons for success and encourage everyone to recognize the possibility of change and improvement. Management also needs to challenge the organization to overcome the "not invented here" syndrome and to look elsewhere for ways to improve. 3. Agreed-upon measures. Participants in customer-driven benchmarking must agree on the measures they will use. It is much easier to reach agreement on measures if an agency plans to benchmark internally--across districts, areas, or garages--rather than externally--from one state or city to another. Even if an agency chooses to benchmark internally, many organizations do not have suitable customer-driven outcome measures. Many states lack customer survey information that is statistically valid at the county, sub- county, or area level of the organization, and they have few relevant technical measures of performance--for example, reflectivity of pavement markings. When benchmarking externally, it is much more challenging to identify relevant measures in each agency that are the same. Indeed, a major effort will be required by participating organizations to forge agreement on the measures to be used. Unless the measures are the same, there is no basis for reliable benchmarking. It is also critical that data be collected that fits the measures. 14