As we looked at the poll results, it struck us that these three issues, which account for nearly half of the total responses, can all be caused at least in part by bad information. Garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t start with high-quality ingredients, you’re not going to get high-quality results.
• Personal opinion. There’s something to be said for going with your gut, but the pitfalls of relying on opinion alone are obvious. Even if your opinion agrees with that of your peers, without some stronger corroboration you cannot consider yourself informed. Plus, management will have limited confidence in your methodology.
• Ad hoc benchmarking. Benchmarking varies in its effectiveness. Rigorous benchmarking, when done effectively, can provide a limited snapshot of common sector or cross-sector practices that can help influence your decision making. Unfortunately, benchmarking is rarely done this way. Usually it is self-reported data provided by whoever happens to answer the call. This may be simply the person who has time to respond to the benchmarking request, not the person who’s most knowledgeable or who has the most relevant programs.
• Selective and vetted benchmarking. This type of information is supplied by people and companies who are selected by a knowledgeable source because they have been shown effective or successful. It is a group of known elements who are able to elaborate on their situations and decisions in order to better inform others.
• Research. Research applies rigorous procedure and study to issues. This includes a carefully selected pool of a set minimum of representative respondents, in some cases supplying redundant lines of questions to ascertain reliability, following up on questionable answers, removing outliers and often repeating benchmarks for trending purposes. It may include both qualitative and quantitative techniques.