I have always liked benchmarking as a way of measuring how my business is getting on, but this does pose some interesting challenges. The main one is to be open to the fact that there may be some people who are doing things better than you are. For many of us this is difficult to contemplate, as we know we are the best at what we do – or are we?
This whole question was brought back to light for me this week as I listened to an interview on the radio. It was all about the turmoil in the NHS and the even bigger turmoil between the politicians as they blow hot air over the whole thing. I cannot help think that with an organisation that size, there is no doubt you will find evidence that you are right, somewhere.
That was not the point of the interview though. There was a doctor from Bangalore on the radio, who had been trained in Manchester and now ran a hospital there (I may have his role slightly confused, but the message was clear). He had looked at his hospital like a manufacturing plant and learned some lessons from that. I was all ears – I had heard of this kind of bizarre benchmarking before.
Many years ago I listened to a presentation about cheap airlines, in particular about Southwest Airlines, apparently one of the front runners in this game. When they had set up they had looked at Formula 1. After all, they manage a full service, car clean, new tyres, and refuelling in 6.8 seconds or so, while the rest of us take about 3 weeks to get this arranged.
Dr Bangalore did something similar. He opened the operating theatres longer for example – 16 hours a day and 6 days a week. This way he was able to drive down the cost of each operation. He told us, in the interview that the surgeons get a financial report on each operation, so they were aware of their financial performance.
In my own operations I try to look at how others work to find ways of gaining efficiencies. With today’s technology the data available is endless and the question is always: can I do things better at a lower cost? Looking at the NHS there must be lots of opportunities, and many private operators are proving this.
So don’t be afraid of change – embrace it. It will give us all a better product at a better cost, without immediately living in fear of losing jobs or our beloved National Health Service.