By John Kelly, VP Erie Innovation and Commercialization
Ontario Lavender Association Director
At the recent international lavender conference (“The Business of Lavender”) held in Woodstock, the discussion on benchmarking for the industry raised a lot of eyebrows and caused much discussion. It was clear that there is a need to establish benchmarks for the Ontario Lavender Association but the scope of these benchmarks was less clear.
Benchmarking provides a method for identifying and importing best practices in order to improve performance, whether it be a company, sector or not-for-profit organization. It is a process of learning, adapting, and measuring outstanding practices and processes from any organization to improve performance. When we raise the performance of all members, we raise the value of the industry as a whole.
There are several reasons to benchmark, and in the business of lavender, this is no exception. We want our industry to learn from other’s experiences. And these others are not just within the lavender business. We can take the experience of diverse industries and apply principles that at first would seem unclear as to their relevance, but in application become apparent. Gains in product quality, service, process and performance all impact the efficiency and profitability of the company or organization.
A key objective of benchmarking is to set ambitious but realistic business goals and objectives as targets. The ability to reach these targets will no doubt uncover strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and provide opportunities for improvement. By developing benchmarks, we can then better prioritize activities and reallocate resources to meet and exceed the benchmark through identifying and implementing best practices. These have to be continually measured.
First, you must plan. Developing a plan involves forming a team, determining the purpose and scope of the project, selecting the process/product to be benchmarked, defining the scope / criteria, establish process / product measures and identifying benchmarking partners.
Secondly, collect data on what you want to benchmark. For example, this can be done through background research and customer surveys, but one must keep quantifiable data. These data then form the basis on how to measure improvement.
Thirdly, analysis of the data will provide insight into operational best practices – those things that are done really well and should be maintained. It also will assist in the identification of performance gaps – those items that are not having the desired impact or add little value to the operation of the organization.
Finally, adapting and improving performance must be done through the implementation of planned improvements. By monitoring and adjusting targets on a timely basis, performance should be enhanced and new targets can be set. Then the cycle starts again, but in reality it is a continual process.
In the Ontario lavender business, how one company approaches performance and best practices can impact other companies. Customers need to have a positive experience to become repeat consumers. By elevating the level of all companies through established benchmarks, the Ontario Lavender Association will be supporting continuous improvement leading to a stronger industry.