I’ve participated in a lot of projects where one of the first questions is: How are our competitors doing it? Are there any benchmarks or nationally-recognized “best practices?”

While this may give a team a sense of security, or help to push stretch goals, sometimes I think it stifles creativity.

If we are developing, or redesigning, a process in the best interest of what OUR customers value, do we really care how others do it?

As I said to a group of leaders recently: “Who cares how someone else does this? Let’s US be the benchmark!” (OK, I was challenging them to think outside the box, not to ignore the competitive environment!)

When I present or teach, there’s a great demand for case studies. And while seeing how others do things can bolster our confidence (if they can do it, we can!), sometimes I think it’s taking the easy way out – just seeing what others have done so we can copy that – instead of inventing our own, least-waste process with our our unique customers in mind.

In fact, I have a mentor (Chuck DeBusk, thank you!) who does not use the term “best practice” as it may be “best” in the organization that developed it, but it’s not “best” for us unless we have the same customer diversity, value concepts, leadership, organizational culture, physical layout, vendors, computer systems, etc.

So my question for the day is, what has your experience been in regards to benchmarking? Good, bad, indifferent? Helpful to set stretch goals, or perhaps you were led to set a target beyond your capability? A way to garner new ideas or something that suppresses innovation? I’m curious to know your experiences!

About the Author