Use of benchmarking as a performance improvement tool: a case of Kenya power and lighting company
Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) is a limited liability company operating In Kenya, and is the sole transmitter and distributor of electrical energy. Although a monopoly, the last two decades have seen the Company faced with increased pressure to step up to the plate in terms of performance. Sources of this pressure include more empowered customers, the government and regulatory bodies, and external development partners such as donor agencies. Best performing companies the world over have realised that competitiveness is hinged on always seeking out new and improved ways of doing things, both from within and without the enterprise. It is for this reason that benchmarking has garnered appeal as a tool for continuous improvement. Worldwide studies reveal scant knowledge into the use of this tool in public sector organisations, while their counterparts in the private sector continue to register improvements directly attributable to benchmarking. As a provider of an essential service, KPLC would benefit greatly if the tool were to be applied to its core, value-adding function. Research findings indicates that managers of the Distribution and Customer Service Division were aware of the tool, and informally applied it from time to time, despite the fact that a number feel that as a monopoly, the tool would not necessarily be of any value. The results also indicated that performance benchmarking and functional benchmarking were most popular, with most using a combination of more than one type. There was general agreement on the need to identify what to measure first, before benchmarking. There was however lack of information and knowledge sharing, and ability to learn were not considered as necessary to success of benchmarking. Lack of management support, poor attitude of staff and poor communication were found to be the leading challenges to carrying our benchmarking successfully at KPLC. This is in concurs with findings by other authors on the problems facing companies in the public sector. These barriers can be overcome by knowledge sharing, a cross functional system of management primarily through the use of process mapping, and systematically capturing and communicating customer needs so that they become the focus of any improvement initiative.