Posted tagged ‘mangement’

Bench Pressed

February 27, 2012

Because thinking of a different picture was too difficult

As regular readers of our blog will know we really love to start a debate and are perfectly comfortable with people telling us that we don’t know what we are doing. Thus, we were rather pleased with the debate following our post about benchmarking (smack my bench up) and thought that it was worth following up on some of it in today’s post.

As a reminder our post had argued the following:

To be honest I would be quite happy if I never saw another benchmarking report ever again.

Who knows? Managers might even be encouraged to focus on their own services rather than comparing themselves against others based on a series of arbitrary, inaccurate and ill-fitting indicators.

Not much room for nuance there eh?

So without further ado let’s begin with a quick point from twitter. Jonathan Green took exception with our contention that benchmarking is inherently wrong and asked the following (albeit rhetorical) question:

@WeLoveLocalGov if u can’t manage a meaningful helpful benchmarking exercise to help improve services should you be managing a service at all?

A fair point and there is undoubtedly an element of bad practice that underpins my dislike of benchmarking. However, I still think there is a wider question. I’m sure our managers could complete a decent benchmarking exercise (a concession on my part) but with all the difficulties I’ve already identified is it worth their while?

To which an interesting comment from Kriswith on the blog itself seeks to answer that point:

The problems is that if you collect performance data but don’t have any context for it then you have no idea if you need to be doing something about the results. One example I know of is a score from a national survey. My borough got 27% which in itself might have been a worry – until we found out that this was the third highest score in England. Without the benchmark we might have spent money on a problem that wasn’t really a problem.

You can always find a health warning attached to any benchmark but that doesn’t mean the context you get from comparisons with others is not still useful in understanding your own performance.

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