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Chapter 1: Introduction to Benchmarking Benchmarking is time-consuming and expensive. Managed properly, benchmarking yields large improvements in customer-oriented outcomes and organizational cost savings. Nearly every major corporation does some type of benchmarking because the net benefits are so compelling. The profitability and even the survival of many firms and lines of business depend on informed benchmarking. The government can reap similar benefits. You can't get started unless you have all the data and the measures. You can begin a benchmarking process without an ideal set of data and measures. By making judicious choices about which attributes of the maintenance products, services, and activities you want to explore in benchmarking, you can start to reap the benefits; learn from an initial effort; and fill in missing steps, data, and measures as you go. The rewards of benchmarking just go to the best performers. Not just one organizational unit will improve its performance when it adopts a best practice: all organizational units can potentially adopt the best practice, and thus the service to customers of the entire organization will be enhanced. CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS As you apply the method of customer-driven benchmarking in this guide, bear in mind the following critical success factors: 26
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Remain focused on the customer. Keep your attention on the outcomes that affect customer satisfaction and value received, not on production and inputs. Assess customer priorities using market research. Use surveys and focus groups to determine customer preferences, expectations, and satisfaction. Secure strong management support. It is essential to obtain buy-in from all levels of management, particularly those directly involved. Use agreed-upon measures. Without a set of common measures that partners agree to use, there is no basis for performance assessment. Establish trust among the benchmarking partners. The success of the benchmarking effort will rise or fall with the level of trust you achieve with your partners. Maintain a sense of proportion. Balance extremes in everything you do in a benchmarking project. Too much or too little attention to detail, data collection, best practices documentation, and so on can undermine your benchmarking effort. Pace yourself and, at the minimum, pursue the low-hanging fruit. Do not try to accomplish everything immediately. At the least, achieve some small success each step of the way that can lead to larger success. 27