No Benchmarking in LOs LO7591

Wilson K Maj 12AF/QI (
Fri, 24 May 96 08:44:00 PDT

Replying to LO7556 --

A short introduction of myself:

I am a "Quality Advisor" for a large intermediate command in the Air
Force. I have been an advisor or "change agent" for three years. The
office I am in consists of three people that are responsible for assisting
our headquarters to institutionalize a process of dynamic improvement. I
have 36 unit advisors that I have formed in a formally chartered group to
assist in the improvement process. I am constantly looking for different
ways to present information, make improvements, foster "buy-in" from
senior leaders, etc.

I am looking for information along the lines of what kind of actions have
been taken to make improvements and the RESULTS of the changes. Most of
my focus is on management processes, not engineering or manufacturing. Of
special interest is the area of linking strategic planning and the Malcolm
Baldrige criteria. I have been monitoring the list for a couple of weeks
and found something I have to reply to.

Replying to LO7556: Ivan wrote, "Those who rely too much on benchmarking
might end up always looking at the behind of the company in front of you!"

A similar topic came up on another listing. I thought I would respond
with my posting to Ivan's words.

"My comments may sound confrontational, Kim, and they are. . . These
strike me as architypically military phrases and military methods. There
is a limited return available from fitting good ideas from one domain
(business) into the already existing paradigm of another domain (the
military) . . ."

Your comments could be taken as confrontational or as discussion
provoking. Different view points will encourage discussions that may
bring out useful information to all parties concerned. I do have to
disagree very strongly with your comment about "fitting good ideas" from
one domain to another. The whole purpose of comparison and benchmarking
is finding those "best practices" that exist and adapting (not adopting)
them to your organization or unit and improving upon those practices. I
thought this was one of main principles of quality improvement! Notice I
made a distinction between adapting and adopting. This distinction is
what allowed Southwest Airlines to develop quick aircraft turn times at
the gate by "benchmarking" an Indy 500 pit crew. With your thoughts as
expressed by your e-mail, these two businesses should not have
participated in benchmarking because they are totally different. Another
example is the Prussian Army (of WWI times?) looking for ways to more
effectively conduct troop movement and using a circus as their example to
study and learn from.

The adaption of the Baldrige criteria has led to very significant
improvements within the Air Force. For example, we have adapted the
Action Workout process as designed by General Electric, and with their
involvement, have improved the process. They are now studying how Air
Combat Command uses their process to make improvements to the original
General Electric Action Workout process! I believe this is a perfect
example of how one domain (business) and another (military) can work
together and mutually benefit each other. Major savings in money, time,
and personnel have resulted from following this concept. These savings
reduce the demand on your and my tax dollars!

How can I help the Air Force act consistently with its mission? By
finding those "best practices" that will allow me to help our members wage
a war on waste and improve mission capability. To me that means
innovative thinking and adapting good process of others, no matter if they
are Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, private enterprise, or other
government agencies.

Dr. Carla O'Dell, President of American Productivity & Quality Center, has
said "Benchmarking is the practice of being humble enough to admit that
someone else is better at something, and being wise enough to learn how to
match and even surpass them at it." This is what I am trying to do!

Benchmarking or comparison is just another tool to help improve your
processes by adapting the best practices of others and improving upon

Sorry for the length of this e-mail. I thought I would just be reading
and not participating this soon!

[Host's Note: Welcome, Kim. Yes, this conversation can draw one in!
...Rick ]

Kim Wilson (


Wilson K Maj 12AF/QI <>

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