Benchmarking Best Practices

When it comes to executing management responsibilities like managing cross-functional teams, shortening cycle time, mass customization, just-in-time-inventory control, supplier relations, knowledge management and a myriad of other functional responsibilities, some companies have the right stuff. By benchmarking their proven process managers can avoid reinventing the wheel to solve corporate problems or identify new opportunity.

And here's the best part -- benchmarking managers do not have to assume the inherent risk of a newly reinvented wheel. Somewhere, somehow, someone else in a parallel situation has already discovered a highly successful solution to the current corporate dilemma. Proved it works in the real world. Has the metrics to document performance gains that would otherwise be dismissed as unachievable. And, under the right conditions, that someone is more than willing to tell you exactly how they did it!

Best Practices involves discovering and converting the excellence of a dozen best-in-class corporations -- drafted from non-competing industries -- whose success traces to the business function in question.

While acquiring a proven-in-the-real-world new process is the prima facie reason for employing the tool -- and it's an invaluable benefit -- it's not the biggest reason for Best Practices Benchmarking. The ultimate payoff is this: when you find a company twice as good as you are in a specific business function -- maybe even 50 times better -- it's no longer possible to settle for adopting a 5-10% improvement as a corporate goal. Having seen the light even the doubting Thomases are forced to go through breakthroughs. Best-practices Benchmarking provides vision. Creates true believers. Zealots. And zealots get things done.

An untidy process involving literature search and a concurrent networking effort involving corporate officers in various SIC categories, academicians, vendors and consultants ultimately resolves the first issue -- discovering who qualifies as a "best-practice" practitioner and documenting their excellence at the function. It's chaotic because Best Practice corporations come from all corners of the business world and typically corporations in one category are unaware of brethren in another who excel at the function in question. After all, why should Nabisco managers have occasion to suspect H-P, Nike, 3-M and Advanced Cardiovascular Systems all excelled in managing cross functional NPD teams? But they do and in spite of the fact they do it in very different ways, each definitely excels. This diversity of options available to discuss, debate and adapt / adopt invariably delights project sponsors.

Ultimately -- in interactive workshops -- a dozen prescreened & preprogrammed best-in-class functional managers candidly share their practices and metrics with client managers and other best-in-class participants. It's a win/win exchange in which clients pick and choose from a smorgasbord of options and even the best-in-class learn from each other -- which, of course, is precisely the reason they're there to begin with.

End-game of any corporate function is to produce a better product. Faster. For less. And to that end the corporation is required to perform the same standard functional procedures as any other corporation. The difference between the best -- and worst -- practitioners is not what they do but how they go about the function. And here's the ultimate truth: somewhere, somehow some other guy has figured out how to do a specific function performed by your corporation maybe twice -- perhaps 50 times -- as effectively as your system. And that's the application opportunity for this tool: it's designed for any manager looking for breakthrough increases in productivity -- in any business function, in any corporation, in any industry.

Best Practices has benchmarked a multitude of companies and across a diverse collection of clients searching for significant productivity gains in a variety of functions. A cross section of the mix includes: Apple, H-P, Advanced Cardiovascular, 3-M, PepsiCo, Seagrams, SC Johnson, Johnson&Johnson, Hallmark, Nike, Toyota, Northern Trust, Nabisco. Issues range from broad stroke subjects like managing cross-functional teams to matters as narrowly focused as R&D efforts to quantitatively measure sensory variables i.e., exactly how sweet is the cream filling in this cookie? As Einstein noted: "God is in the details". The observation applies to the Universe. Business practices too!

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