Benchmark for Better Outcomes

Client: “I feel like I am not making progress.” Me: “How have you defined progress?” Client: “I am not sure.” Me: “Then how do you know you aren’t making it?”

A quick exchange followed, and my client left the call with some much-needed clarity and a few action items. I also had a few takeaways from the conversation, including the realization that potentially other business leaders, decision makers, entrepreneurs and the like were feeling like my client.

As a business strategist and thought partner, I am continually uplifting the importance of strategy. But at times I am forced to remind myself and my clients (especially in moments of doubt or frustration) that strategy is more than creating a to do list. It is a way of thinking that it is relevant to every area of your development. When building a company, business or a vision, it is both strategic and crucial to have some accepted assumptions about what growth is supposed to look like and how fast it is supposed to happen for YOU and YOUR venture. The process for creating these assumptions in an informed way is called Benchmarking.

Benchmarks are used to facilitate goal setting and productivity management with a primary focus on time, cost and quality. The process of benchmarking requires assessing facets of performance against industry standards and best practices; and aims to identify gaps, create solutions and implement improvement measures. A google search will provide you with a wealth of information on benchmarking, most of which engages the process from a broader business perspective which can be complicated (one source lists a total of 18 steps). However, despite this complexity within the process lies a gem or two that can be used across businesses and ventures of all sizes.

So…how you can use benchmarking to create better business outcomes?

First, you should have a clear understanding of the two main types of benchmarking and their utility.

  1. Internal benchmarking measures the things happening within your business or brand. Many entrepreneurs, visionaries, and individual contributors struggle in this area as they either set goals that are unsustainable or fail to set goals at all.

  2. External benchmarking measures you against your competition. Many struggles in this area also. For evaluation in this area to be effective, it should focus only on mission critical operations and be careful to compare apples to apples.

Benchmarking should ideally be done from both perspectives with each perspective informing the other. Having clarity around, for example, how many hours you should spend on essential functions, how much money you should be gaining, losing and investing in your venture, and the type of value you bring to your audience and customers is essential to remaining motivated and progressive. Next, you will need to select a method. As I previously stated google has a number of them with varying degrees of dificulty and relevance to business and brand owners like you. To increase your efficiancy, I have constructed a process of benchmarking for small businesses, entreprenuers, and individual contributors. The process can be easily remembered using the acronym D.I.A.M.O.N.D.

  • DOCUMENT current practices and methods (include what, how and when);

  • IDENTIFY relevant best practices and processes (emphasis on relevant);

  • ASSESS which practices are ideal for your unique venture, goals and constraints;

  • MAKE an honest evaluation of the gap between the current and ideal;

  • OUTLINE the steps needed to fill the gap between the current and ideal;

  • NAVIGATE the transition (yes navigate as opposed to implement); and

  • DO IT AGAIN as often as necessary to ensure continued effectiveness.

Finally, get started. This process is all about YOU and defining the norms of YOUR business and brand. Any comparisons, assessments, and changes YOU make should be about creating the best opportunity to meet the YOUR desired outcomes.

Remember you are either going to be your easiest or toughest critic. Do the work; remain objective; and set realistic BUT challenging targets. And if you have any questions regarding the DIAMOND method I am just one email away --->