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implementation. This will require estimating the amount of this practice to be performed in the next cycle of maintenance activity for the particular product or service that was benchmarked. The resource costs can be estimated based upon local conditions for the initiating organization. Estimating the change in outcome levels will be more difficult because the functional relationship between resource levels and outcome levels is unknown and is not easily estimated. This is especially true for customer satisfaction levels and may be true for some outcome measures of technical quality such as IRI, the number of inches of shoulder edge drop off, and the reflectivity of signs. STEP 5. IMPLEMENT AND CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE Setting Targets for Improvements Experiences of the peer organizations will be helpful in estimating a rate of change in the outcome measures. Targets can be set for improved performance. They could be set at the level of the best performances or in accordance with an estimate of the improvement potential for a unit, which may even be at a higher level than the best-performing unit. It is usually best to set a reasonable target--a level that management believes can be accomplished in the next maintenance cycle. Making Improvement Plans After investigating best practices of peers and setting targets for improved performance, an implementation plan for carrying out the improvement must be established. The implementation plan should address the questions of what, how, who, and when. What? What business processes will be changed and what outcomes and resources will be affected? How? How will the business processes be changed--through improved scheduling, training, new technology and equipment, better 175
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Chapter 4: Steps of Customer-Driven Benchmarking materials, improved management and information systems, more efficient work reporting, or a combination of the above? Who? What managers and staff need to be involved? What levels of the organization need to participate? How broadly the changes will be implemented is an important part of the plan. Will implementation include all possible work units or will the changes in practices be implemented as a pilot project that affects just one unit? When? What is the schedule for improvements? Which improvements will occur first? Do some improvements depend upon the implementation of others? Implementing New Practices It is easy to maintain the status quo. Some organizations hesitate to embrace change, especially changes in practices that were developed elsewhere. Management must support the planned improvements and emphasize and reward improved performance. Managers at appropriate levels should be given the responsibility to manage the changes and to give visibility to changed performance. Moreover, management will want to prepare the organization for the next cycle of continuous improvement. This should include gauging how the next round of improvements will affect customer-driven outcomes and resource usage. Starting Again Customer-driven benchmarking is a continuous five-step cycle: 1. Select partners, 2. Establish measures, 3. Measure performance, 4. Identify best performances and practices, and 176
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5. Implement and continuously improve. In fact, benchmarking is generally regarded as a continuous improvement process. Once the last step is completed, you start over again with the first step, as shown in Figure 23. Establish Measures Figure 23. Steps in the Benchmarking Process In organizations committed to benchmarking, there is an attitude of continually striving to produce the best possible results. Starting again is routine for organizations committed to benchmarking. There is an atmosphere of creativity, an enthusiasm for trying new work practices, and a genuine desire to better serve the customer. Each cycle of the benchmarking process will result in a different set of best performers. There will continually be changes in the peer group with which an organization can compare practices. Each organization or unit that embraces customer-driven benchmarking can be confident that from time to time and perhaps frequently, they will be among the best performers. And even if they are not, they will be able to identify practices that will allow them to improve, year in and year out. 177