Where to Go

Penny Macias | March 25, 2015

First of all, I must say I sincerely hope you get involved in some way with the MAAP in the coming months. My colleague, Robyn, has done an amazing job with programming the upcoming changes. I believe every change will benefit the City of Tulsa as an organization and its employees. I look forward to working with and learning from you, and bringing some valuable tools to you.

One of the techniques or practices that must be done to take a journey of process improvement is benchmarking. It is a time where you review possible destinations and determine which one you'll begin to develop. Every year, if I think I'd like to go on a trip, and stop at that thought, I more than likely won't take a trip. So where do I go? I don't know about you, but "nowhere" is not an acceptable answer for me.

When you're hoping to improve your process, you must have a goal in mind and establish an ideal end. Determine what other team, or company, or city does the same or similar thing and find the best way to do it. Once you've established the best course, work to understand it and what makes it the best. Try to understand the differences and similarities between yourself and the team that does it the best. Are there processes they've put in place that you can do as well?  Finally, set a S.M.A.R.T. goal (S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound) and set sail. You may even take a few selfies along the way.

Identify the Best Practice(s). You may know what team does it the best, especially if they're known worldwide for their process. For example, Chicago has perfected deep-dish pizza. So if that's what you want to excel in, look no further than Chicago. If you don't know who's the best, then start your research or ask others you trust to give you an honest answer.

You can use websites such as Governing for articles on issues relevant to multiple cities and state. Or, try Alliance for Innovation which highlights success stories of innovation in local government. Remember, the City of Tulsa is a member of the Alliance for Innovation. If you'd like to access all of the features on this website, contact Robyn or me and we'll connect you so you can set up a username and password.

If you're not sure where to look, or what keywords to search, contact us with questions on how you might research. Ultimately, if you don't establish a benchmark or target, then how can you know what an improvement will look like?

Understand Best Practices. If Oklahoma City is the gold standard in street sweeping, then find out how they did it. How large is their budget? What tools do they use? How long have they done it that way? Are they satisfied with how they do things? You can learn the answers to these questions by calling, visiting, or reading a white paper Oklahoma City published explaining their efforts. For a full 360 degree view, you can learn through all three methods. Talk to your team about aspects you don't understand or are unconvinced. For example, if I'm thinking, "I can't believe that many food items are stacked into a single piece of dough and it still holds up," I'm probably not the only one who's asked that question.

Dissecting a process from a skeptical perspective, while keeping an open mind that your point of view is not the single source of truth, helps you better understand what makes a process or product amazing.

Set a S.M.A.R.T. Goal. Once you've researched best practices and are satisfied you understand them, set a goal that is S.M.A.R.T. After a team has decided to reduce defects and determined they have the resources and the commitment to proceed, an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal is: For the month of August, the team will decrease defects in product by 10 percent. A less than SMART goal might be, "If NYC is the best at that, let's be better than them."

Finally, benchmarking is such a great technique when people perfect a process and are willing to share their story: They can acknowledge the value of the work they've done and share insights into how they got there. So if you have a process you've improved, or you believe your team is doing something at the City of Tulsa that should be the gold standard, let us know!  We want to showcase your work and help you submit that improvement for potential awards.

I look forward to helping you benchmark and determine where you want to go, as well as hearing your successes in transforming small practices and creating long-lasting benefits.