Back in the early days of Unconstrained Thinking essays, I wrote a piece on (Bench)Marking Time. In it, I questioned the value of benchmarking for improving operations. One organization's solution is rarely appropriate for a second organization. And if it's a competitor being benchmarked, the result will be at best one of catching up and not one of true innovation.
I have, however, come up with an appropriate subject for benchmarking, especially in these restrained economic times -- your market and its problems. The target of this benchmarking effort is that aspect of your market's processes that is related to your product; how they acquire and use your products, and what problems they face with and around its use.
Once the targets are understood, truly profitable innovation comes from solving more and "more valuable" problems felt by your market in a way that refers primarily to your own internal understanding and rules of how the business works. By focusing on these internal policies and paradigms, it makes it harder for competition to copy your offering. The core of the approach, based on the TOC Thinking Processes, is as follows:
1) Identify problems suffered by the supply chain of your market that are related to your offering (both the actual product itself and the ways in which you present and deliver it).
2) Dig down into a common root cause for those problems, and then
3) Determine where to focus your improvements in order to help your customers deal with that cause and its symptoms.
Ideally, the solution won't be related to any benchmark process you find out there, because if it is, you'll only be playing catch-up, not leap-frog. That's the way to really improve/innovate; do what it takes to help your customers improve. After all, you probably only sell a product or service; what your customers are buying are solutions. The more problems you can solve, the more attractive and valuable your offering is.
Think about it . . .
©2002, Frank Patrick
|The reason lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn't there the second time. - Willie Tyler
This is one of a series of columns on improvement, TOC, constraint management, change management, systems thinking, uncommon sense, and whatever else comes into my mind. Suggestions for topics are welcome. - FP, 908-874-8664 or via the contact page of this site.
If you are interested in using these 1/2-page columns for your APICS, ASQ, PMI, or IIE newsletter, let me know through the same channels, and I'll send you the more easily usable MS Word versions.
-- Frank Patrick
Unconstrained Thinking Index