The strategy-contingent approach to benchmarking posed in this resource is not a linear process but a cyclical one.
This reflects two facts:
- Benchmarking is used to best effect when it becomes an intrinsic part of continuous development, refinement and implementation of strategy, rather than a one-off exercise
- In a rapidly changing environment all aspects of the process intended to effect improvement, from monitoring of the operational actions taken to assessment of the strategic objectives on which those actions are based, must be regularly reviewed
Step eight is therefore an extremely important one that can easily be undervalued. Without such a stage, changes in the environment can overtake a programme of improvement and lessen or even negate its effects. A number of questions must be answered:
- How effective are the improvements being made?
- How quickly are improvements being seen? Are we on course to reach improvement targets in the scheduled timeframe? If not, then what corrective actions are required?
- Are the targets originally set still the right ones in the current context? Do we need to update any aspect of the benchmarking work to re-establish the latest context for the targets? Do we need to change the targets as a result?
- Do we need to re-assess any aspect of the original strategic objectives?
In this way assessment of progress and context can, depending on the outcome, result in a loop back to one of three points in the strategy-contingent benchmarking process as shown in the diagram:
- Manage improvement – continue managing the improvement with the same strategic objective and existing targets but perhaps with modified actions to ensure correct trajectory of change
- Evaluate – review/change targets in current context. Perhaps update benchmarking work to re-establish current context
- Set objectives – fundamental review/change of original strategic objectives
- Evaluate trajectory
- Adjust plans or targets
- Assess benefits of benchmarking exercise
- Loop back