When leaders consider business capability questions, they often consider benchmarking, where they compare their business to similar businesses across key metrics. It is more valuable, however, to consider how the business is performing in relation to the director’s unique vision.
Just last season, American basketball player LeBron James became the first man since Michael Jordan (pictured) to win the NBA’s MVP Award for the regular season, go on to be the MVP of the NBA Finals series in a winning team (the Miami Heat) and win an Olympic gold medal for Team USA - all in the same year.
If you asked LeBron to rate his game, comparing himself to every other player, he would consider himself superior in most categories. But how useful would this analysis be to helping him improve his game? Not very.
He would be better completing his analysis relative to himself. In other words, compared to the level of achievement he wants to attain, how is he doing? If he assessed himself against himself, he would identify which areas of his game needed development.
This is not to say that benchmarking isn’t a useful exercise, but when you benchmark your business against what you want it to be, it empowers you to make greater improvements. Comparing yourself - favourably or otherwise - with your competitors or other businesses typically doesn’t help you improve the capability of your organisation. Simply aiming to be better than your competition at “the same” is not a way to differentiate your business for competitive advantage. And even if you achieve the goal of being "better" than your competitors, that doesn't guarantee that you are becoming the best that you can be, reaching your maximum potential. Benchmarking can be limiting in more ways than it can be helpful. And the first question you should ask yourself when benchmarking your business is "What should I be comparing it to?"
If you’re currently struggling to implement change (business or personal), it would be wise to take another tip from LeBron James. Remember that he - and other successful athletes – are objectively assessed. A coach or mentor can identify, prioritise, and execute sustainable strategies based on the goals most important to you.