personal benchmarksBenchmarking can create new perspectives and a competitive edge in business. That why so many organizations look for benchmarks to compare performance, understand gaps, and measure success. Those objectives sound valuable for an individual as well, don’t they? That’s why I want to suggest to you the idea and value of personal benchmarks, and help you set and use them.

What is Benchmarking?

I went to American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC), <- an organization known as an authority on benchmarking, for a definition:

Benchmarking is the process of measuring key business metrics and practices and comparing them—within business areas or against a competitor, industry peers, or other companies around the world—to understand how and where the organization needs to change in order to improve performance. (specific source)

So, with credit to APQC, here is a definition of personal benchmarking:

Personal benchmarking is the process of measuring important metrics and practices that matter to an individual based on their goals and comparing them—within a team, organization, community, or others with similar goals —to understand how and where they can change in order to improve performance in the areas they are measuring.

Why Practice Personal Benchmarking?

Personal benchmarks can help us:

  • Understand our existing performance
  • Set new standards or goals for improvement or growth
  • Provide a new perspective for what is possible
  • Provide examples to motivate and inform our growth

If we are serious about our growth and success in any area of work or life you can see how these benefits could be worth the effort.  That is why I recommend creating personal benchmarks as a part of your growth and development plan.

The Risk of Personal Benchmarks

As good as this sounds and as valuable as these benefits are, there is a significant downside we must avoid.  While looking to others to provide perspective, approaches, and achievement levels, we must keep a proper perspective too.

  • Avoid direct comparison. Knowing someone’s else achievement level is helpful. Getting discouraged by their progress or smug in your own doesn’t help you.  Use the accomplishments of those you are benchmarking as a gauge not a complete measure of your success or worth.  Often, we compare our performance to the greatest strengths of others. Used incorrectly these can discourage more than inform us.
  • Avoid direct emulation. If person x did it that way then that is exactly how I will do it.  Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it isn’t the best way to reach your potential.  Learn from the approaches of others, and apply them to your situation, style, and personality.  Personal benchmarks should help us learn, not turn us into mimics.

How to Get Started

If you want to start applying the idea of personal benchmarks, you can start today by following these steps.

  1. Determine areas to create personal benchmarks. While you can create personal benchmarks in many areas of your life and work, start with one or two areas where you want additional information and perspective. Pick one or two of your goals or important habit areas for a place to begin.
  2. Look for exemplars. Look for those who are working towards the same goals, doing well in the areas you have identified, or have achieved what you want to achieve. These can be people you know or know of. You can you extremely high performers but take heed of the risks above. Benchmarking world class performers can be helpful if you keep the proper perspective.
  3. Learn about their progress and metrics. You can pick anyone you wish but they can only be helpful to you if you can see their progress or trajectory and timelines in the areas you want to compare. If you can see and measure their performance or results you are set.
  4. Map yours to theirs. Once you have their progress and performance, map it to yours. At that point you have created your personal benchmarks.
  5. Continue measuring. With that in place, you can begin using your personal benchmarks to achieve the goals we set from the start – to understand, inform, and improve your performance.

This isn’t a complete discussion of the concept of personal benchmarks, but it is enough to get you interested and started. I hope it has done both.

Want to keep a fresh positive perspective and consistently gain practical ideas, inspiration, and information to help you reach your personal benchmarks? What if you could get that in a short, affirming note each business day? If that sounds intriguing, sign up here for my daily email.

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