Creating Supply Chain Excellence

The Tompkins International Blog

Benchmarking and Best Practices and Your Last Eureka! Moment

February 23, 2009

As with many of the phrases we use in business and in our lives, I think that sometimes when the terms ‘benchmarking’ and ‘best practices’ are brought up, their meanings aren’t getting through.

That’s why I chose these two terms for this recurring post feature I’ve got on my blog to examine jargon. Every once in a while, I’ll be looking at the words and phrases we use in business and pointing out their real meanings. These are meanings that tend to get lost over time and from constant usage.

The phrases “Benchmarking” and “Best Practices” are in danger of becoming meaningless. But to the contrary, they are so very important! Why?

For the answer, let’s consider Archimedes’ bathtub. He’s the mathematician from ancient Greece who exclaimed “Eureka!” after getting into a tub and noticing the water level rising – which made him realize that volume could be calculated in the same manner.

This story may only be a legend. But it helps to remember that these kinds of “ah-ha!” moments are really exciting when they happen. It’s possible to improve operations by benchmarking and best practices, and when efficiency and cost savings are found along the way, it’s really rewarding.

The really good part is that you don’t have to wait for the knowledge to come to you through random inspiration like Archimedes. By benchmarking your operations and applying best practices, you can control what’s measured and forge your own improvements.

Benchmarking and best practices require not only innovation, but also being a part of that innovation. When someone has a new best practice for some operation that upsets “the way we do things around here,” it is definitely time to pay attention. New and better ways of doing things takes effort and special consideration, because it’s easy to settle for the usual process. That’s why it’s important not to lose the meaning of these phrases. When we talk about best practices, we are talking about sharing the personal discoveries and progressions that innovate our work and our lives.

These are the Eureka moments that really make our careers interesting, and I think, satisfying and rewarding.

In the podcast I host, I did an installment that covers benchmarking and best practices and the reasons that companies should be incorporating them. I discuss a reaction that I got from an executive about benchmarking and best practices. Not everyone embraces the idea immediately, as I found, but eventually, he saw how useful they truly are. I also define these terms further and talk about the Supply Chain Consortium, the benchmarking and best practices forum that has a lot of great members like Target and Ingram Micro. 

Lastly, if you have had an “ah-ha” moment lately, I hope you will share your experience by commenting about it below. I also hope the next time you hear “benchmarking” or “Best Practices,” you will think of it as the bottled lightning that it is instead of just another piece of meaningless business jargon.



  • All of the information in this blog is the result of Tompkins International's research of public information. There is no information presented that comes from any proprietary source. Tompkins International does not discuss information about their clients unless that information has been published.