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Chapter 1: Introduction to Benchmarking Periodic market research allows the agency to evaluate progress in satisfying or exceeding the customers' desires and expectations. Figure 2. Customer Involvement in the Benchmarking Process HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE BEST PERFORMANCES AND PRACTICES? One approach to identifying best performances has been to identify the frontier that represents the best performances that actually have been observed. Figure 3 shows a plot of the results achieved by different organizational units versus the resources applied. Examples of results are customer satisfaction and conditions that are the outcomes of maintenance. Examples of resources are labor, equipment, materials, and costs. Figure 3 shows a series of lines connecting the performances that form a frontier such that no performer is observed to achieve higher results using fewer resources. For any performance below or to the right of the frontier there is a gap between that performance and the frontier that represents the best performances. The gap represents the improvement opportunity. The practices of organizational units that achieve performances on the frontier are called "best practices." 10
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Figure 3. Frontier of Best Performances and Improvement Opportunity Once best performances and the improvement opportunity have been identified, a key issue is to identify the practices associated with the best performances that can potentially close the performance gap. Careful investigation and analysis are required to understand the nature of best practices. Typically, these are accomplished via an agreement with benchmarking partners to document and share information about their practices. Documentation involves identifying the environmental conditions under which the best practices occurred; determining the resources that were used (labor, equipment, and material); examining work methods, including how the resources were combined and applied; and documenting each step of the business process. Once an agency has identified best practices, it then must decide whether to adopt and implement them. Among the considerations are the following: The cost of the practice relative to the benefits that it will produce, Acceptance of the practice by those who will implement it, Ability to obtain management approval for implementation, and Whether to equal or improve upon the practice. 11