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Benchmarks are central to the transformational journey
You wouldn’t climb Mount Everest today without understanding the checkpoints you need to hit to reach the summit. When should you depart base camp? How much reserve oxygen will you need at each camp? How should you train to survive the conditions at 29,000 feet?
Of course, you’d be able to answer these questions because others have climbed Mount Everest before you, documenting and benchmarking their path to the top. This strategy applies to metaphorical mountains—say, transforming and improving outcomes at your organisation—too.
Once the distance is known, we can begin to create incremental plans to achieve goals.
Benchmarking gives teams something tangible to strive for
Benchmarking requires breaking down the journey into manageable steps, providing much-needed context to gauge your progress along the way. Leaders endeavouring to improve the care provided at their organisations must compare their teams’ progress to established benchmarks to know how things are going. Benchmarks, such as ranking, help you understand if you’re falling behind, keeping pace, or leading the way.
Strategic improvement toward becoming a world-class organisation keeps benchmarks at its heart. Success is marked by progressive gains and even setbacks, as measured by benchmarks hit or missed. Benchmarks let you see where you want to be as well as the path to get there.
Benchmarks also help manage the hardest part of improvement work: the fear of falling short. Keeping teams together, focused, and unified is key to success.
Being able to compare your climb to that of others is what will keep you on pace to summit.
Take the journey one step at a time
Benchmarks break the long journey into reasonable, attainable segments. Having checkpoints along the way staves off exhaustion and goal abandonment. Gaining buy-in for improvement plans also includes reassuring team members that if you consistently hit key milestones, you will eventually reach your goal. This prevents teams from feeling they may never “get there,” keeping the focus on the next benchmark that’s well within their sights.
The first team to successfully summit Mount Everest accomplished a truly remarkable feat. Without benchmarks to guide the way, their journey was far more dangerous and difficult than any subsequent attempt.
Thankfully for those who followed in their footsteps, these pioneers established benchmarks during their journey, which every climber since has used to reach the summit. Then, each team has contributed benchmarks of their own. Collectively, they have made scaling Mount Everest an easier undertaking.
To transform organisations, benchmarks should be used similarly. You need to understand the small steps and check your progress regularly against those who have already reached their goals. While the conditions may always be difficult, benchmarks make it easier to see—and reach—the top.
Benchmarks are key to breaking up the journey into small improvements, which lead to drastic transformation over time. This reassures front-line staff that they can take things one step at a time, which puts the goal within reach.