Best practices benchmarking is a systematic approach for gathering information about process or product performance and then analyzing why and how performance differs between business units. In other words, benchmarking is a technique for learning from others’ successes in an area where the team is trying to make improvements. The term benchmarking means using someone else’s successful process as a measure of desired achievement for the activity at hand. Some sources of information for benchmarking include: literature reviews, standard-setting organizations, professional organizations, universities, or staff or customer interviews. A short Quality Assurance Project paper about benchmarking within health care provides ideas for how to organize a benchmarking activity.

When to Use Benchmarking

Benchmarking is most useful when trying to develop options for potential solutions. When trying to develop solutions, improvement teams often have difficulty generating new ideas. People frequently do not know what others nearby are doing regarding the same problem the team is facing. Benchmarking helps stimulate creativity by gaining knowledge of what has been tried. It can also be used to identify areas for improvement by seeing what level of quality is possible.

How to Use Benchmarking

Step 1. Identify other groups, organizations, or health facilities that serve a similar purpose and that appear to work well. They do not need to be doing exactly what the team does, as long as the issue at hand can be compared. For example, if the team is dealing with problems in hospital laundry services, the team could learn from hotels and dormitories that provide similar services, although they are not in the same field and/or do not provide exactly the same service.

Step 2. Visit these sites and talk to managers and workers, asking them what they are doing, if they have similar problems, what they have done about it, and what levels of performance they have achieved. Ask as well what obstacles they have run into and how they have dealt with them.

Step 3. As a team, review how the situation and constraints for the process in question are similar to or different from that of these other groups.  Based on the information collected, identify promising ideas that could be tested.

Points to Remember

Be sure to understand fully how the process in question works before looking at the processes of others.

Be sure that the other process is fully understood before adopting or adapting it to the process in question.

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