Headlines: April 24th, 1998

Benchmarking is to be adopted throughout the public sector to improve services and motivate staff. Trials in more than 100 public bodies over the last 18 months have shown that benefits come from comparing performance with other organisation, including those in the private sector. The trials have been carried out mainly in Executive Agencies, but local government, the health service, police forces and education services are being encouraged to launch benchmarking projects.The Organisation for Economic Co-operation is setting up an international Benchmarking Network for public service and the UK will play a leading role in the project. There will also be collaboration with the European Commission in making international comparisons.

Traditionally benchmarking is viewed a s technique which examines a process such as dealing with an application, measures standards achieved and identifies the costs of the different components. The costs and standards are then compared with those of other organisations carrying out similar processes to find out who is doing better and why this is so.

The benchmarking approach used in the trials is quite different. It is based on the Business Excellence Model developed by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and 200 private sector organisations across Europe. Organisations carry out a self assessment against criteria relating to leadership, policy and strategy, people management, resources, processes, customer satisfaction, people satisfaction, impact on society and business results. The self assessment produces measurable data which can be compared with the data of other users of the model. Because it is the total organisation that is being measured against a common model, functional variations and national differences do not invalidate comparisons. The model also allows public and private sector organisations to be compared to a common standard.

Findings from the trials showed that public sector organisations scored fairly highly in customer satisfaction and business results, but not so well in leadership and human resources.

See Publicnet Features page – Benchmarking in Central Government, for a description of the initial pilot benchmarking project.