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CHAPTER 2: SELECTING BENCHMARKING PARTNERS Customer-driven benchmarking requires organizations that perform or are responsible for highway maintenance to make a commitment to work together for a considerable period of time-- at least 2 years to obtain meaningful initial results and 3 to 5 years to make substantial progress toward continuous improvement. The commitment of the benchmarking participants involves using an agreed-upon set of measures focused on customer-driven outcomes, taking measurements for a set of benchmarking units, sharing the data regarding the benchmarking units, and sharing details of the maintenance practices of the benchmarking units. This guide distinguishes between benchmarking partners and benchmarking units. Benchmarking partners are organizations that have the authority to do all of the following: Enter into an agreement with other organizations to perform customer-driven benchmarking; Define a set of maintenance products and, services, or Internal benchmarking both that are appropriate for their organization; and may be the best place to Establish or change the performance measures used by begin a customer-driven their organization. benchmarking initiative. The types of organizations that satisfy these three criteria are State agencies, Cities, Counties, Turnpike authorities, Private-sector firms, Organizations in different industries, and Organizations in other countries. Benchmarking units are the units within a particular level of an organization that compare performances with one another to identify best practices and to continually improve. Customer- driven benchmarking is unlikely to be successful unless the benchmarking units have the following attributes: 29
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Chapter 2: Selecting Benchmarking Partners The managers of the units make decisions regarding the resources (labor, equipment, and material) used in their geographical area and the procedures for applying them. The managers of the units bear responsibility for the results of the maintenance program in their geographic area. The driving public can distinguish the results the units achieve over a specific time period from the results that neighboring units or other units achieve. The organization under which the unit resides finds it practical and economically feasible to collect statistically valid customer satisfaction data. A benchmarking partner and a benchmarking unit are not necessarily the same--for example, a state maintenance organization could be a benchmarking partner with benchmarking units consisting of districts, counties, areas, or garages. Private companies could be benchmarking partners, and their benchmarking units could consist of districts. County government or municipalities could both be partners, while having subunits that are benchmarking units. It is strongly recommended that a state maintenance organization not be a benchmarking unit. The state maintenance organization is represented by a headquarters that usually is too far removed from the actual performance of maintenance work and from the outcomes of maintenance perceived by road users. Also, it is unlikely that the state has just one set of practices for a maintenance product or service; it is likely there are many different practices for any maintenance product or service across a state. In short, the benchmarking partners make an agreement to work together and to settle upon mutually agreed-upon performance measures. In contrast, the benchmarking units are the level at which performances are compared and descriptions of practices are prepared. New or different practices are implemented at the organizational level of the benchmarking unit. 30