Benchmarking: A case study of the process in mid-sized community colleges in Texas

Date

1999-12

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Texas Tech University

Abstract

The problem facing higher education today is threefold: decreasing resources, increasing demands for accountability, and increasing information available. These pressures are forcing changes in higher education, and colleges and universities are seeking efficient ways to meet these challenges. As this desire for quality has become a part of the culture of higher education, many institutions have accepted and adapted the Total Quality Management (TQM) theory to their campuses. Part of TQM is continuous improvement; thus, an institution must have an understanding of its current practices and of ways that current practice can be ameliorated. Both of these needs are met by the TQM technique of benchmarking.

Benchmarking is defined as the ongoing analytical process of comparison used as a tool for continuous improvement in an effort to manage change. This peer benchmarking study was conducted in six mid-sized community colleges in Texas to answer the question, what are the conditions necessary for benchmarking to be used by mid-sized community colleges in Texas to improve community college operations? Using a survey instrument designed by the six participant colleges, ten key areas of community college operations were evaluated. The lead college employed the researcher to construct the survey instrument, conduct the internal pilot study, gather and analyze the data, establish current trends, and produce a gap analysis. Two years after the study was conducted, a follow up study was conducted to determine the use of the survey data in making changes and what conditions existed at each community college that made changes from the survey information. Thus, this study applied the TQM technique of benchmarking to the community college setting to determine what conditions were needed to use benchmarking data in beginning quality improvements

The study found that the conditions necessary for benchmarking to be used for community college improvements were (1) seven planning steps including recognizing the need for a study; providing the essential elements for the study; selecting a leader; selecting, training and utilizing a task force; selecting the peer institutions; establishing study guidelines; and overseeing the design and pilot study of the survey instrument, (2) a survey instrument designed by a researcher and participants, (3) a year's commitment to the study, and (4) collection, analysis and access to the data by decision makers in each area surveyed. Five basic types of improvements were made based on the benchmark data: further research in weak institutional areas, improvements in technology equipment and usage, making existing processes more efficient, upgrading weak areas and developing new services.

The study concluded that support and involvement of the president and senior leadership is necessary for improvements to be made from a benchmark study, that training of decision-makers and a Task Force on each campus is necessary in a benchmark study, that doing a gap analysis of an institution after receiving the data, and that making the data available to key personnel are necessary in making improvements from benchmark data.

Description

Keywords

Benchmarking (Management) -- Texas -- Case studies, Community colleges -- Texas -- Administration, Total quality management in education -- Texas -- Case studies

Citation