Inbox: What’s really holding you back?

If you think your business is doing enough to improve productivity, think again. New Zealand’s business performance and competitiveness is in decline. Our OECD position has dropped three places to 33rd out of the 59 economies measured, and of the four competitive measures used, our business efficiency fell four places to 28th position. Either we are not hungry enough, or we’re failing somewhere.
That said, according to 2008 Global Benchmarking Network study conducted by the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER), organisations regard performance and best practice benchmarking (used by 49 percent and 39 percent of respondents respectively) as increasingly important tools in their improvement efforts. So where are Kiwi companies going wrong?
Michael Voss, an advisor on performance excellence, sees number of glaring mistakes that companies make when benchmarking their performance against others. He says that one of the most common is directing benchmarking projects into business-as-usual processes instead of determining the critical best practice business improvements first.
Consequently many organisations waste time attempting breakthrough change in an area where there may be an unseen barrier to achieving it, instead of applying best practice techniques and learning from others who have already found better way. According to Voss, this key reason why benchmarking projects fail.
In many instances where the potential for improvement seems too small, companies are in fact not seeing the significant opportunities that are preventing them from achieving business improvement. To recognise these opportunities and determine which areas should be benchmarked first managers should conduct holistic assessment of the organisation.
Assessment tools are not only useful in identifying these areas, and presenting holistic view of what world-class sustainable organisation looks like, but also in obtaining senior management agreement.
Voss says that holistic assessment of the entire organisation will locate the blind spots, and ensure that the best practice benchmarking project will achieve the raised performance expected, quicker and more cost-effectively.
If applied, our managers will be on solid foundation from where they can begin to raise the performance level of their organisation, and New Zealand can again begin to climb back up the world competitiveness rankings.
Voss, owner of PYXIS.co.nz and developer of the ‘Assessor’ assessment tool, is speaking on why benchmarking projects fail at the World Business Capability Congress in Auckland, 5-7 December.
He is also running pre-conference workshop at the University of Auckland Business School on how to conduct best practice benchmarking projects. M

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