Benchmarking Best Practices

November 24, 2015

“Benchmarking is the search for those best practices that will lead to superior performance of the company” Robert Camp

“Benchmarking is the continuous process of measuring products, services and practices against the toughest competitors or those recognized as leaders in any field.” David Kearns, CEO Rank Xerox

“Benchmarking is the practice of being humble enough to admit that someone else is better at something and being wise enough to learn how to match and even surpass them at it.” APQC

The third quote perhaps best describes what most people misunderstand about benchmarking. Benchmarking is not just about applying best practices but about also then exceeding those best practices so that YOU become the best practice leader.

There are 3 types of benchmarking.

Strategic: Analysis of world class companies to determine opportunities for strategic change. This is looking at major shifts in the market, new entrants to a market place, economic impacts etc.

Performance: Analysis of relative business performance by comparing key performance indicators/metrics. This allows you to understand if and where gaps exist in your performance.

Process or Functional: Analysis of key processes and functions among best practice companies. This helps you examine why gaps exist and if they do, what to do about them!

Organizations benchmark to

  • Improve profits
  • Accelerate and manage change
  • Set stretch goals
  • Achieve breakthroughs/innovations
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Overcome the ‘not invented here’ syndrome
  • See outside the box
  • Understand world class performance

The Benchmarking Process involves:

Plan: Identifying what to benchmark, selecting the team and developing a project plan.

Collect Data: Develop and understand you own activities, develop key measures and identify benchmark partners.

Analyze: Identify causes of performance gaps, identify best practices methods and enablers.

Adapt & Improve: Share the findings, create an improvement plan and execute the plan.

The whole point is to learn about opportunities to improve and then actually IMPROVE!

There are dangers that emerge from benchmarking that can stall the execution. They result from denial, disbelief and dismay which can create inertia and a resistance to change.

Remember a brilliant solution or improvement idea is not enough, it has to become reality!

If you are interested in Benchmarking you may also be interested in Roundtables, here is a link to a blog on that topic.



Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the homebuilding industry as well as construction engineer, site manager and in training, auditing and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental and safety management awards for clients.

Denis is co-author of 'The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence'.

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