Benchmarking - striving for the best of the best

The concept of benchmarking is based on the Japanese word ‘Dantotsu’ meaning ‘striving for the best of the best’ (Bank, 2000, p43). Although the benchmarking concept has been in existence for a very long time, the Xerox Corporation was the first company to make widespread use of the technique and to formalise it as a model for continuous quality improvement.


A plethora of different approaches...

While benchmarking is now common practice in a number of different industries, including public health services, it has evolved to include a plethora of different approaches, each involving a different number of steps (Cole, 2009). In addition, a number of authors have also described different ‘types’ or ‘perspectives’ of benchmarking (Codling, 1996), which further complicates the issue when organisations are attempting to introduce it into practice and researchers are attempting to assess its value as a service improvement tool.

The current focus of the benchmarking literature has shifted and is beginning to address issues about how to improve the benchmarking process (Anand & Kodali, 2008), particularly for the purpose of continuous service improvement and for the development of the learning organisation (Senge, 1994).

With the basic benchmarking framework in mind, Lattice Consulting's preferred model is a collaborative one that builds on the concept of mentoring at an inter-organisational level, as opposed to the competitive model whereby agencies are supported to gain advantage or superiority over another.

‘Blueprint II’ (MHC, 2012) envisages benchmarking across teams, services and organisations as part of a routine process of continuous learning and accountability.

Director Phillipa Gaines frequently facilitates benchmarking forums in ways that help to apply a magnifying glass to different parts of the mental health and addiction system. The intention is that participating teams or organisations collectively explore, discover, understand and implement what is working well, and question what is not. Ideally this process should include representatives from each of the main groups that have a stake in the ‘quality’ of the service (particularly service users or their advisors) as per the democratic approach to quality.