Performance Perspectives Blog

Benchmarks: the good, the bad, and the ugly

by | Jun 23, 2011

A Wall Street Journal article spoke about high school graduating students who are “saddled” with being declared “most likely to succeed.” One such individual who earned this title stated that she has “been constantly evaluating [her] success and using that silly award as a benchmark.” And quite a benchmark it must be, no doubt.

At a recent Performance Measurement Forum meeting, we touched on hedge funds and their use of benchmarks. The key here is that the managers are not managing against these benchmarks, but rather use them only for reference purposes.

Benchmarks are critically important, in all aspects of life. And while being known as the graduate who is “most likely to succeed” might be a challenge, we no doubt compare ourselves to others.

Our younger son, Douglas, has become quite an athlete and participates in various events, like the Tough Mudder (and I thought the Army’s obstacle courses were tough!). He told my wife what his time was for his first such event, and she thought it was a good one (any time would have sounded good to this proud mother); I, on the other hand, wondered what it meant relative to others, because without a benchmark, such as mean, median, high, low, it’s difficult to judge (oh, and his time WAS very good). But a number by itself means little.

A lot can be said about benchmarks, and more will be …

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