Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Benchmarking Can Do For You

Do you know how your organization stacks up against its industry-wide competition? Are you aware of how your performance measures up to the goals your organization has set for itself? Are you interested in finding out, but don’t know where to begin? You need an expert on benchmarking, and Canner Street Consulting can help.

We'll start by using the principles set forth in the book Benchmarking for Competitive Advantage, which was edited by Canner Street Consulting principal Bert Nelson.

Benchmarking is the process of systematically identifying, analyzing, and adapting an industry’s best practices to improve an organization’s performance. Benchmarking helps an organization to:

  • Locate its position in the marketplace
  • Identify methods to increase its efficiency
  • Improve learning, bring in new ideas, and enhance communications
  • Hone capabilities that give it a strategic advantage over the competition.

Benchmarking is a proven and cost-effective way to set standards and measure adherence to them. Although benchmarking is widely discussed, few companies are actually doing it correctly. The Canner Street team, which has led dozens of benchmarking projects, can to work with your organization to plan and execute a benchmarking study, and apply the results.

If you are interested in learning more about benchmarking, contact Canner Street Consulting or Opera Advisors.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Documentation: A Matter of Life and Death

It's not likely that a responsible government agency or company would prepare sloppy documentation for a life and death undertaking, such as decommissioning a nuclear warhead. But what about the thousands of companies doing business in China that have farmed out their user manuals for consumer products to non-English speakers? These companies have disseminated untold millions of items into the U.S. market with poorly written user and assembly instructions. Is this a matter of life and death?

Ask Robert and Susan Cirigliano, whose six month old son was smothered when he was caught in the drop-down panel of his Chinese-manufactured crib. Mr. and Mrs. Cirigliano told their horrendous story to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Investigations, in Washington on January 21, 2010. Their son is one of at least 43 children who have died in cribs with faulty drop-down panels, and the Consumer Product Safety Administration is now overseeing a recall of over 1.5 million possibly defective cribs.

As Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) noted during the hearings, the cribs are even more dangerous when they are improperly assembled, and they are improperly assembled when distributed with poorly written instructions, which is often the case--especially when companies cut corners by hiring writers who are not native English speakers.

The smart company doesn't scrimp on documentation. It's a matter of life and death.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Work-Life Balance in the 16th Century

Peasant Dance (1569), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Here we have a lively scene of a peasant dance in a village of 16th century Netherlands, which was at the time under the control of the Spanish empire, and paid fully 50 percent of the taxes levied by the Spanish king on his domains. We used this painting to illustrate the training services page on the Canner Street Consulting web site, because it made the point that good team work can be fun.
Peasant Dance was painted in 1568 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569), who is often considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century. During a period when most artists chose formal classical and religious themes, and sited them in urban environments and elaborate settings, such as cathedrals, Bruegel developed the art of landscape painting and printmaking, and sited even his religious paintings in rural settings. His depictions of village life are important artifacts of what life was like for the laboring population of the period. Both of his sons were accomplished painters in their own right. We chose this painting as a reminder that recreation—whether it be playing the bagpipes, or taking a spin around the village square with a partner—is a key ingredient of productivity for every organization. Good training and team-building programs can serve the same purpose.
Question for readers: What is that object that looks like a broken ale mug handle in the lower right hand corner of the painting? What does it mean?