Benchmarking as a mixed metaphor: disentangling assumptions of competition and collaboration

Julie Wolfram Cox, Leon Mann, Danny Samson

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Examination of the management literature on benchmarking reveals that the concept conveys a mixed metaphor. While collaboration among benchmarking partners is advocated, description of benchmarking practice is dominated by principles and language that convey notions of competition. The `competitive' approach to benchmarking is due to four narrow, constricting assumptions: (1) that the motivation behind benchmarking is to improve and reduce a performance gap relative to some superior comparison other, (2) that benchmarking is a formal, organizationally sanctioned means of competing with others, including partners, (3) that benchmarking involves comparison through measurement or marking, and (4) that benchmarking is an activity initiated (and assessable) by one party. Two opposing concepts of benchmarking (as competition) and benchmarking (as collaboration) are introduced to develop a model for predicting the degree of competition and/or collaboration involved in relationships between benchmarking parties. Key factors within this model include context, activities, partnership and outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-314
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1997
Externally publishedYes

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