Written by 6:00 am Feature, Service Leadership

Is It Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness?

Dave Hart, Managing Partner of Field Service Associates, highlights the importance of benchmarking your business against your competitors to fully understand if your strategy and plans are working.

I have to say for almost 18 months now I have been an avid watcher of the news with particular interest in seeing the daily coronavirus cases and deaths figures for the UK. Do I have some morbid fascination with seeing the numbers whilst being thankful I am not one of the statistics? Well, yes; yes, I do. Why may you ask? Well, I am one of those people who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, and I must be very careful where I go and who I meet. Even my friends don’t come around to my house unless they have taken a lateral flow test. (I must confess its rather embarrassing ‘parking’ them in the garage and watching them force large swabs up their noses before we allow them in!)

What fascinates me more, is that statistically I am a person far more likely to have serious ramifications to my health if I caught coronavirus and therefore, I watch with great interest in how the UK government tackles this awful virus. Now I am not going to debate the rights and wrongs of if the UK government should have locked down earlier, the wearing of masks, COVID passports and the vaccine roll out versus the anti vax brigade (don’t get me started!).

No, I am fascinated how the stats stack up country to country, now we have enough data we can see trends emerging and that is truly enlightening. You see for me, any governments first duty is to protect the lives and well-being of its citizens and now we can measure the ‘performance’ of each country’s government strategy and benchmark them appropriately. I will let you be the judge as to how well each government is performing…

Thus, my title for this article.

Always light a candle to show your performance. You see I fundamentally believe that any business, like any government, should be benchmarked against its peer group so that it has an indicator that its strategy and plans are delivering for its key stakeholders, namely the employees, customers, and shareholders

I love the phrase used in the US which is often banded about ‘I had my ass handed to me’ as it resonates with me so much. You see in a previous role, as my quarterly business reviews took place in the board room of our corporate headquarters in Connecticut, I often had my ass handed to me in my reviews because when challenged by the CEO or CFO it was almost impossible for me to defend my team’s performance.

You see the problem I had was there were no external benchmarks available that I could use to determine if it was warranted that my ass should be handed to me (even on a silver platter as my old CEO would often attest to doing!). As much as I tried, I could not find a way of proving that my team were performing very well especially with the constraints I faced as a service leader at the time. Often, I would be asked why I couldn’t get more productivity, achieve higher first-time fix rates, increase revenue per head, better profitability by product, reduced inventory (working capital) levels. I could go on – you get the picture. In cases like these arbitrary performance levels are set that can often be extremely difficult to attain purely because no one knows if anyone has achieved these levels of performance historically.

9It was only much later in my career that purely by chance I met my counterpart from our biggest competitor at the time. It was intriguing to find out that he had the same challenges from his CEO.

It strikes me that these days understanding your businesses performance becomes even more complex with transformational journeys service companies are embarking on. Artificial intelligence, Augmented reality, AIoT, Remote visual assistance, blended workforce approaches and many other developments. Service leader’s needs to benchmark themselves against their peer groups to truly understand if the progress they are making is keeping pace with their competitors.

To take this approach would quickly evidence to any service leader whether they needed to really start to take affirmative action in areas where they were falling behind their peer group, or indeed, walk into any boardroom with the full confidence of knowing their service team’s performance sets the benchmark and that is a completely different conversation with the CEO!

So, don’t curse the darkness of not knowing how you stack up, light a candle on your business and benchmark your performance and do so every year so you can evidence your progress. At the end of the day, it makes perfect sense to know whether your ass is ever going to be handed back to you.

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