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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Understanding and Utilizing Lean and Six Sigma in the Histology Laboratory. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Role of Benchmarks and Setting Targets In Sustaining Performance

Benchmark and quality targets are most useful when a team is answering the question:

What are we trying to accomplish?

Using benchmark measures with the voice of the customer feedback will help the team respond to this question and focus on the factors that matter most to any process. Specific targets or benchmarks can be established from the combined analysis of in-house data of process specification limits (USL and LSL), historical data, as well as any performance targets guided by external resources or references. External benchmark data is always a great starting point, but it is good to note that internally derived benchmarks and process targets tend to be more meaningful and motivating to process owners since they relate directly to their particular situation. However, when industry-established benchmarks exist for certain tasks, these measurements can be very useful in the initial evaluation of your processes and development of procedures and standards.
It is worth the time to develop benchmarks and standards that are quantifiable, whenever possible. Once established, benchmark measures can operate as key performance "dashboard" triggers for individual performers. They also provide a quick, accessible way for section supervisors to communicate performance successes to larger groups- or even entire organizations. Benchmarks and targets also make employee evaluation more objective, since performance parameters such as productivity standards or error rates, are clearly defined as measurable criteria for evaluation. Finally the establishment of clear benchmarks and targets for vital processes, will make your quality monitoring, quality control, and quality assurance activities much easier to carry out and document.

SMART Performance Standard Example: Embedding

StandardEmbedding Example
Personnel will correctly orient all tissue types using paraffin technique with 90% accuracy.
Personnel will complete embedding at a rate of 30 blocks per hour on a monthly average.
MPersonnel will record the number of blocks embedded and the time spent at this task on the QC log to determine rate. Rework and errors are deducted from totals.
AQA data has determined the mean average rate of accurately embedded blocks to be 30/hour minus re-work.
REmbedding is a primary task assigned to the histology technologist.
TTime of completion and monthly averages will be tracked as aggregates and individual rates against the 30/hour standard rate, minus rework and errors.