I Got Your Benchmark Right Here…Somewhere…

“Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell.” – Joel Stein submission on the side of a Starbucks cup.

Heaven

“I see our numbers, but have we benchmarked against the competition?” Oh, few scarier words are spoken in conference rooms across the United States, possibly the world!

At Least We’re As Good As They Are

This kind of thinking breeds the ubiquitous four-door sedan circa Ford Taurus.  At the height of its popularity, there were over 12 other models from various manufacturers, virtuallin indistiguishable in passing.  The “me too” of the car world.

This happens in restaurants often as well.  Is there one near your house that doesn’t serve a ‘lunch special’?  Especially one that actually IS special?  And you don’t actually PAY FOR CHECKING at your bank, do you?  Supersize…we have that too! Benchmarking breeds commoditization.

When The Competition Doesn’t Play Along

What happens when the competition does make a big improvement? If you’ve put all your resources into being the same as the others, and one changes, you’ll have to re-work everything to catch up!  This plagued the ‘big three’ automakers in Detroit, who didn’t benchmark against the right competition.  Toyota and Honda are doing quite nicely.  The news out of Detroit is not so good.

Value Benchmarking 

By itself, a dangerous trap.  As a validation tool it can tell you when your business is stagnant, or falling behind.  This leads to the beginnings of a business case for innovation to stay ahead of the competition v. just playing to keep even.

Next time someone asks you to benchmark, ask them if they want fries with that.

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