I assume that you are referring to the “quantitative” variety. In this regard, I believe that benchmarking is a highly valuable activity. For example, consider the “sigma-tizing” of a business. Let us suppose a certain corporation discovers that it is a 3.5 sigma business. Now suppose that the same company finds one of its competitors to be 4.8 sigma. When contrasted, a 47X difference is judiciously noted. Needless to say, it is likely that such a discovery would trigger a “significant emotional event” within the management team of virtually any corporation.
Interestingly, it is just this type of experience that can drive and accelerate sorely needed change. Such information can get the leadership of an organization off its complacent tail and on the path to quantum improvement. As many know, this is very similar to what happened at Motorola in the mid eighties – but they benchmarked at about 4 sigma and noted one of their key competitors to be nearly 6 sigma. Translated, we saw a 2,000X disparity in quality. Without saying, this was a shocking piece of information to the corporation’s leadership. In fact, this knowledge was a major contributor to management’s acceptance that quantum change was needed. Of course, the rest is history.