Why Benchmarking Sucks

Benchmarking has its roots in the Total Quality Management philosophy. It’s a technique aimed at taking advantage of what other organizations have learned and successfully implemented and improve their own performance.

The Benchmarking Process Is Simple: Determine Who Is Best In Class At Something And Copy Them

Benchmarking is usually aimed at a business process or operations. Go-to-market processes for products, order fulfillment and human resource practices are among the many organizational functions that get benchmarked.

Disguise it any way you want, but benchmarking is nothing more than following who is believed to be the leader of the herd. And if you’re behind, the view never changes.

Benchmarking is a “tool of sameness”; it adds nothing to the success and survival capabilities that organizations must develop in today’s world of fickle customers, volatile economies and fierce competition.

Copying sucks the life out of businesses; it is non-strategic and yet consumes a disproportionate amount of resource in most organizations given the value it creates. In fact I have seen the copying process given such high priority it stultifies creativity and innovation.

It lowers the bar and reduces everyone in the herd to the lowest common denominator. If herd members are all replicating and offering essentially the same product or service, for example, any uniqueness a particular member had soon fades and commonality with the herd takes over.

Copying Perpetuates Invisibility For Herd Members

The copiers remain unremarkable and continue to blend in with everyone else. Copying doesn’t make you stand-out, it makes you fit-in.

The real challenge in business today is to be able to clearly answer the question “Why should I do business with you and not the many others who are competing for my attention?”

Benchmarking shows you are a follower (by the way, even a FAST follower is still a copycat) and gives people ZERO reason why they should buy from you as opposed to someone else.

We need to get our thinking straight. Uniqueness comes from looking to be different, not copying what others do, even if they do it well.

It is time to change the best in class frame from “How can we be the same as the best?” to “How can we be different from the best?” In the best of circumstances, organizations have difficulty dealing with answering this question and if a copy mentality clouds everyone’s thinking the task becomes virtually impossible.

And let’s all agree that the question ” How are we different?” should be the filter for determining what strategies are pursued and what strategies are deemed successful.

A new lexicon in organizations is required to drive strategic thinking. Words and phrases like “contrary”, “off-the-wall”, “weird”, “kinky”, “crazy”, and “are you kidding me?” should guide us in determining our future direction and what we want to be when we grow up.

Put benchmarking where it belongs: a tool that might improve your operational performance from where it is today, but will NEVER make you special and remarkable in a market dominated by hungry competitors.

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