Benchmarking Guidelines

EFQM User Guide


The value-add of Benchmarking for any organisation’s drive to be the “best of the best”:

“Benchmarking is the practice of being humble enough to admit that someone else is better at something and wise enough to try and learn how to match and even surpass them at it.”

Where did it all begin?

The word “benchmark” is not of this century or even the century before. Depending on which story you prefer, it was either:

  1. First used in the mid 1800’s in the world of surveyors, it being a mark cut into a wall, pillar, or building as a reference point in measuring altitudes.
  2. First used by shoemakers, to measure a person’s feet for a pair of shoes. The shoemaker would place the customer’s foot on a bench and then mark it out to make a template for the shoes.

In the world of modern day management “benchmark” has come to represent the level of performance to which others must aspire if they are to be seen as offering outstanding levels of performance. Certainly to win the EFQM Excellence Award, an organisation has to demonstrate that it is performing at a level above others, including its peers operating in the same environment.

In the EFQM Excellence Model 2013, benchmarking is defined as:

“Benchmarking: A systematic comparison of approaches with other relevant organisations that gains insights that will help the organisation to take action to improve its performance.”

It should be noted that the focus is on understanding HOW someone does something, not just the results they achieve. This is reflected in the RADAR logic we use to assess. The ability to demonstrate that the way approaches and processes are conducted have been BENCKMARKED with other organisations would be considered when assessing the Enablers. The ability to demonstrate how performance COMPARES with other organisations would be considered when assessing the Results.

What is Benchmarking?

There are many definitions of benchmarking available on the Internet, most of them perfectly sensible. The exact wording of a definition is not the most important point. What is important is that each organisation takes ownership of its own definition, communicates it well internally and makes sure that the definition works within its current context.

Fundamentally, regardless of the specific definition adopted, it is about an organisation using a structured approach to step outside the four walls of its own house to see how others are performing similar tasks but achieving better results. It is a learning opportunity that is only completed when the lessons learnt have subsequently been incorporated into the organisation’s own way of working.

What are the different types of Benchmarking?

There are many different types and classifications for benchmarking activities. We’ve highlighted 8 below to give some indication of the different types of activities you may want to consider.

The diagram below shows how you could use these different approaches for benchmarking for different criteria:

Where does benchmarking fit in the EFQM Model?

The concept of benchmarking is embedded in the Concepts and Criteria of the EFQM Excellence Model but is most visible in the RADAR.

It’s quite possible that if your organisation is going to do something completely new, benchmarking could be included in part of the planning and development of an approach you’re developing to support this activity. However, it’s generally more common that we’re trying to improve an existing approach. If we look at the RADAR attributes in more detail, it’s easier to see where benchmarking comes into play.

Where does benchmarking fit in the Assessment Cycle?

Unless you’re looking to understand or improve your self-assessment methodology, the most likely point where benchmarking will enter the cycle is once you’ve agreed the priorities and are developing the action plans.

EFQM User Guide Content

  • Introduction
    • Where did it all begin?
    • What is benchmarking?
    • Why bother benchmarking?
    • The downside?
    • What are the different types of benchmarking?
  • Where does benchmarking fit in the EFQM Excellence Model?
    • RADAR for Enablers
    • RADAR for Results
    • RADAR Dynamics
  • Where does benchmarking fit in the Assessment Cycle?
  • Benchmarking methodologies
    • Benchmarking approach
    • Tips for planning your benchmarking project
  • Benchmarking with competitors
  • How can EFQM help?
  • Final thoughts
  • Appendix
    • RADAR Template
    • Rules of engagement


  • EFQM Member : 12.00 Euro (excluding VAT)
  • Non-Member : 15.00 Euro (excluding VAT)

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