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Best Practices Code of Conduct

November 1, 1995
Related Topics: Total Quality Management, Ethics, Strategic Planning, Featured Article
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The International Benchmarking Clearinghouse of the American Productivity and Quality Center in Houston offers the following advice on how to engage in best practices studies ethically and effectively:

Principle of Legality
If there's any potential question on the legality of an activity, don't do it.

Avoid discussions or actions that could lead to or imply an interest in restraint of trade, market and/or customer allocation schemes, price fixing, dealing arrangements, bid rigging or bribery. Don't discuss costs with competitors if costs are an element of pricing.

Refrain from the acquisition of trade secrets by any means that could be interpreted as improper, including the breach or inducement of a breach of any duty to maintain secrecy. Do not disclose or use any trade secret that may have been obtained through improper means or that was disclosed by another in violation of duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use.

Principle of Exchange
Be willing to provide the same type and level of information that you request from your benchmarking partner to your benchmarking partner.

Communicate fully and early in the relationship to clarify expectations, avoid misunderstandings and establish mutual interest in the benchmarking exchange.

Be honest and complete.

Principle of Confidentiality
Treat benchmarking interchange as confidential to the individuals and companies involved. Information must not be communicated outside the partnering organizations without the prior consent of the benchmarking partner who shared the information.

A company's participation in a study is confidential and shouldn't be communicated externally without the company's prior permission.

Principle of Use
Use information obtained through benchmarking only for purposes of formulating improvement of operations or processes within the companies participating in the benchmarking study.

The use or communication of a benchmarking partner's name with the data obtained or practices observed requires the prior permission of that partner.

Don't use benchmarking information, or any information resulting from a benchmarking exchange, or benchmarking-related networking, as a means to market or sell.

Contact lists or other contact information provided by the International Benchmarking Clearinghouse in any form may not be used for marketing in any way.

Principle of FirsT-Party Contact
Initiate benchmarking contacts, whenever possible, through a benchmarking contact designated by the desired partner's company.

Respect the corporate culture of partner companies. Establish—and work within—mutually agreed upon procedures.

Obtain mutual agreement with the designated benchmarking contact on any hand-off of communication or responsibility to other parties.

Principle of Third-Party Contact
Obtain an individual's permission before providing his or her name in response to a contact request.

Avoid communicating a contact's name in an open forum without the contact's prior permission.

Principle of Preparation
Demonstrate commitment to the efficiency and effectiveness of benchmarking by being prepared prior to making an initial benchmarking contact.

Make the most of your benchmarking partner's time by being fully prepared for each exchange.

Help your benchmarking partners prepare by providing a questionnaire and agenda prior to benchmarking visits.

Principle of Completion
Follow through with each commitment made to your benchmarking partner in a timely manner.

Complete each benchmarking study to the satisfaction of all benchmarking partners as mutually agreed.

Principle of the Understanding and Action
Understand how your benchmarking partner would like to be treated. Treat your benchmarking partner in the way that your benchmarking partner would want to be treated.

Understand how your benchmarking partner would like to have the information he or she provides handled and used, and handle and use it in that manner.

SOURCE: The International Benchmarking Clearinghouse of the American Productivity and Quality Center in Houston

Personnel Journal, November 1995, Vol. 74, No. 11, p. 66.

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