Today I went down to Dover AFB to benchmark their Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO 21) program. This is the Air Force's equivalent of industry's Lean/Continuous Process Improvement initiatives. I took over as the base's officer in charge around the end of 2008 and it has been an amazing experience so far. There are many times where I feel as though I am trying to drink out of a fire hose as far as the learning curve goes, but I will take whatever I can get and I truly enjoy seeing things improve around the base.
I have learned about benchmarking all through college and I guess in a sense I have been doing it in hockey all my life. But as we were driving back I started to think of how little benchmarking that I, and probably the majority of you out there, actually do. The term win-win is a buzz word that gets thrown around a lot, especially in business. Benchmarking is one of those things I think is truly a win-win situation. Seeing where you are at on the totem pole is always valuable even when you're eating some humble pie along the way.
I think getting together with like minded individuals, companies, and/or organizations is the quickest way to share best practices. In truth, I feel like we didn't really have a grasp on what some of our best practices really were until we got in a room and starting talking. I also think it is a great way to know what you don't know! It was great to hear that others had tackled a problem in a completely different and possibly more effective way.
Benchmarking also serves as a motivator. There is something very assuring about hearing another organization struggling with many of the same issues that you are. Its almost an us against them mentality that forms, even if their isn't necessarily a "them."
All in all it was a great experience. Hopefully I can look for other opportunities in my life to benchmark.