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Benchmarking, Viewpoint!

Simply, improvement: June 2011 Newsletter


Improvement Skills Consulting

Simply, Improvement…


This month:

World Management Survey


I’ve been reading with interest the information presented at where you can find benchmarking data from an international, multi-year survey.  The WMS is an international research institute and their reports highlight the key management practices that differentiate the star performers from the also-rans.  There are sector-specific summaries for Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education and Retail.

One of the UK Reports highlights effective UK management practices in areas such as Lean Operations, Performance and Target Management, and Talent Management.

Some examples of effective practices include:

  • Top firms have a formal process of problem solving to encourage continuous improvement
  • Top firms provide regular visual performance information to all managers and employees
  • Well-managed organisations have daily updated visual display boards at each stage of production
  • Employee problems such as under-performance are dealt with rapidly, by training, then rotation, or exit/termination if this fails
  • Good performance is rewarded and top firms work hard to keep their best people

Some of the data comes from face-to-face interviews and there are some amusing, if not unsurprising, results.  For example: The “average” managers think that their organisation’s performance is above average!

In industries where there is lots of competition there are better management practices.  That might explain quite a lot about the public sector which is only recently waking up to the reality of “competition”.  The idea of “internal markets” and “market testing” apparently doesn’t have the same impact as the existence of alternative suppliers with competitive offerings that are attractive to customers.

The area of education and training is also covered in the survey.  Better managed firms have significantly more educated employees, including managers and staff with degree-level qualifications.  The UK typically does poorly in such comparisons in contrast with countries like the USA and Japan.

There’s lots to read and learn from, and you can download copies of their survey tools as well as a range of presentations and training materials.  Anyone familiar with the EFQM Excellence Model will not be surprised by the findings and there are certainly no “silver bullets”.

Are you “doing Lean”?

Some of the other points I picked up were very relevant to conversations I have had with clients in recent weeks.  For example, the leading organisations only adopt approaches such as Lean where they can directly adopt them to support the achievement of their business objectives.  The poor performers typically either ‘jump on the latest bandwagon’, or have unclear expectations of what Lean (or anything else) might enable them to do.  I said at the end of a recent workshop: ‘please don’t go away and try to DO Lean, go away and improve performance’.


Another set of recent conversations I’ve had recently has been around the use of ‘training’.  Some organisations seem to think that sending people on courses (e.g. to learn about Lean or Project Management) will be enough to get people improving things.  I wrote a recent Blog post about this and highlighted the other elements required for a successful improvement strategy.  This is all reinforced in the World Management Survey which describes how the best organisations take a long-term, consistent approach to embedding Continuous Improvement.  Anyone remember Deming? One of his guiding principles for Continuous Improvement was “Constancy of purpose”.

A few quotes to end with:

The following are all quotes captured by the researchers in the World Management Survey…

Plant Manager: “Modern manufacturing? Yes, I have heard about it, but it doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?

Interviewer: “How do you keep your star performers?”; Manager: “I am a star performer and I want to leave.

Production Manager: “Workers’ individual goals? They just want to go home.

These might make you smile but the recent words of a public sector Chief Executive will make you despair: “we’re no worse than any other hospital in this region“.

Until next time, good luck with your improvement efforts.

Ian Seath



Recent Blog posts:

We’re no worse than…

Training is not enough

Mindmapping: has its time come?



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