Benchmarking is the systematic search for best practice, innovative ideas and highly effective operating procedures. Benchmarking considers the experience of others and uses it. Indeed, it is the common-sense proposition to learn from others what they do right and then imitate it to avoid reinventing the wheel. Benchmarking is not new and indeed has been around or a long time. In fact, in the 1800s, Francis Lowell, a New England colonist, studied British textile mills and imported many ideas along with improvements he made for the burgeoning American textile mills.
Implicit in the definition of benchmarking are two key elements. First, measuring performance requires some sort of units of measure. These are called metrics and are usually expressed numerically. The numbers achieved by the best-in-class benchmark are the targets. An organisation seeking improvement then plots its own performance against the target. Second, benchmarking requires that managers understanding why their performance differ. Benchmarkers should develop a thorough and in-depth knowledge of both their processes. The processes of the best in-depth knowledge of standing of the differences allow managers to organise their improved efforts to meet the goal. Benchmarking is about meeting them by improving processes.