Best practice benchmarking

Why is it important to establish Best Practices in an organisation?

Organisations spend fortunes establishing a brand image. Beautiful and meaningful logos are created, with promotional material to match.

But gone are the days when the brand was protected by a responsible manager who dictated correspondence to a highly qualified secretary who conformed to high standards of typography. Today almost every employee has an e-mail address, and therefore a licence to send the organisation’s image out into cyberspace. A glance through my in-box shows how dismally these communications fail to support the sophisticated brand they should be supporting.

Some time ago I worked for a company that was short of funds for a PR exercise. We invited a few quotes from the marketplace. The most expensive ones had every department’s contribution using the same font, page set-up, numbering etc. It was impressive. The more desirable ones price-wise were a dog’s breakfast. Fonts and page numbers differed, and so did their decisions for inserting landscape pages into a portfolio document. Despite the shortage of funds, we opted for the expensive proposal. We felt that if the other companies couldn’t get their internal act together, then they could not possibly cooperate to meet our needs!

It is therefore imperative that time and energy be invested in getting the brand message across to all employees. While this is important for correspondence, it is s important for all aspects of the way they do business with customers. It can mean the competitive edge!

Where do you start establishing Best Practices?

Find out who’s doing it right. Seek out high performing organisations (or departments) then compare and measure your policies, practices, philosophies, and performance measurements against these. Any identified gaps are improvement areas.

Benchmarking need not only be with external organisations; it can also be an internal exercise. This is a useful first step, especially when a large corporation has several business units spread over a wide area. Best practices are constantly developing within the independent units. These need to be shared and compared. Benchmarking can also flush out practices within one’s own organisation that stand out as the best. This affirmation creates confidence.

So, Best Practice Benchmarking is the process of seeking out and studying the best internal practices that produce superior performance. This can be done at several levels: :enterprise level, procurement and production level, service level, administrative level, and especially at the level of customer service!

Administrative staff who support all other levels should create a brand of their own. This should align with the direction and brand image of the enterprise. They need to share best practices, then set standards for all generic areas. Because of the dramatic change in technology as well as that of ownership and customers, these standards will not be set in cement; they will be revisited at appropriate intervals.

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