I had a discussion today with a coworker about benchmarking and then later this evening had a similar discussion with someone while I was working out at the Y. Both conversations basically focused on the difference between tracking a metric and benchmarking. Here’s the last analogy from today’s conversations. If I keep a record of how fast I run a 5k, I have a metric that allows me to track my improvement efforts in running. However, that is not benchmarking.There has to be an external measure that is used for comparison before I can say I am benchmarking my running performance. Further, if I say I want to be a fast runner, a competitive runner, or a world class runner, I better be comparing myself to fast, competitive, or world class runners (maybe someone like Ed Whitlock but that’s for another post).
The same goes for companies (or any other organization). If your mission statement says something like “to be best in class” or “to be the best in the world” or “to be the industry leader” you need comparative data that shows that you are. Otherwise you’re blowing smoke. In the words of Ron Moore in “Making Common Sense Common Practice” (page 41), “Benchmarking is part of beginning the process for continuous change…Too many executives.. forget that the true definition of benchmarking is finding another organization that does a process better than yours.”