In Texas, everyone has to get burger and fries

Apples and OrangesI grew up in Texas. If you grow up in that part of the world, you don’t have a choice, you have to play high school football. After every game, you must get a hamburger and french fries. This phenomena leads to two challenges, 1) getting sick of eating burgers and fries, and, 2) getting yelled at by the coach for not performing. He will explain, loudly, “That is your job…that is why you get your burgers and fries.” Everyone plays football, everyone eats burgers and fries.

I work for a research organization and I see a lot of the same behavior in the consumers of our benchmarks and research.

What is the benchmark?

Much of the research we do is metric benchmarking. We help organizations compare their process outcome measures (cost, cycle time, staff productivity, etc.) to other organizations. Many times, the consumer of those metrics is looking for a single number; the benchmark. They usually think that number will come from an industry peer group when, in fact, it probably shouldn’t.

If you are benchmarking your procurement processes and you execute 1,000,000 purchase orders per year, you probably want to compare yourself to a peer group executing a like number of purchase orders. Try to stay in your industry and you’re less likely to find a true comparison. Get out of the ‘everyone plays football’ mentality of your own industry. Forget the burgers and fries.

They are not like us

When we are involved in more qualitative benchmarking projects, customers usually want the same thing. They want to go on site visits to learn from industry peers (or Apple and Google – everyone wants to talk to Apple and Google, regardless of the process being examined). The ideas of ‘their industry’ and what’s ‘like them’ get confused. It can waste everyone’s time.

What is your role in helping the organization learn?

The truth is that organizations aren’t plug-n-play. There is no organization that is just like your organization. There are those research projects you can tell from the beginning are going to be a challenge, and then there are those research projects you can tell from the beginning are going to be stellar.

The difference between the two comes down to the role the individuals on the project take regarding learning. The stellar projects usually include people that understand their role is to examine the best information out there, and apply that to their specific organization. They have to understand the research and then determine how this will impact their organization. They are very clear on the criteria they want to use to find organizations, but that is seldom solely based on industry. The reason they are able to outperform (or gain ground) in their industry’s market share is how well they learn and adapt at the process level.

We’ve found the most beneficial research solution for an organization is to provide them with results from about four different peer groups, and teach them the characteristics of each peer group. They are then equipped pick the benchmark or the approach for their organization. They understand that this is “why they get their burger and fries”. They are not relying on anyone else to give them the answer for their organization. They own it.

That is when magic happens and it is great to watch. I hope each of you get the opportunity to experience this at least once in your career.


Categories: Continuous Improvement, Learning, Process Management

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3 Comments on “In Texas, everyone has to get burger and fries”

  1. Larry Dux
    January 28, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    In Wisconsin, we would add cheese to our burger and fries! :))

  2. lynne
    May 17, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Well Ron, you know what they say …. there are Americans and then there are Texans! Good post. I despise benchmarking – it just makes you as bad as the other guy – not better. And it is true …. once you’ve seen one organization …. you’ve seen one organization!

  3. May 17, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Lynne, we are a odd kind here in The Lone Star State, for sure. Benchmarking is like any other tool. You get the value out of it that you take from using it. Nothing more, nothing less. There is a lot to be learned by looking at other organizations (1 or 100 other organizations), but only if you do something with it and not rely solely on the fact you did a benchmarking project to change your organization.

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