Criticisms of Benchmarking
Despite all of the positive recommendations for benchmarking cited, there are critics of the benchmarking proces. Wolverton (1994) states that benchmarking, as a cornerstone of CQI, is based only on current information, and may not give us the freedom and flexibility to see the future. In addition, Wolverton adds that this focus may relegate us to the role of follower, instead of leader. In writing about a related quality improvement technique, Business Process Reengineering (BPR), Hammer and Champy (1993) add that:
The problem with benchmarking is it can restrict the Reengineering team’s thinking to the framework of what is already being done in its company’s own industry. By aspiring only to be as good as the
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Edward Deming’s comments on the hazards of copying without adapting. Other researchers such Dr. Howard Gitlow have stated that an "example is no help in management unless studied with the aid of theory. To copy an example of success, without understanding it with the aid of theory, may lead to disaster" (Dale, 1995, p. 12). Plagiarism and industrial espionage could indeed be disastrous, but can be avoided if the benchmarking is done properly and the code of conduct is followed. The lack of opportunity for innovation was also addressed in the previous discussion of benchmarking and its relationship to reengineering. Real innovation and breakthrough processes can be achieved, especially if an organization goes beyond just benchmarking competitors, and does industry or generic benchmarking of world-class leaders and adapts the processes back to the home industry. Benchmarking offers the ability to look externally at a very closed-minded organization or industry, which may believe that any processes not invented within are inferior. In addition, most benchmarking minimizes exposing organizational weaknesses, because the processes being examined are often not that confidential and the benchmarking partner may be in a completely different industry.
Despite these concerns and criticisms, the fact is that benchmarking is currently being used successfully in many organizations. As stated