Resources - Benchmarking

The Benchmarking Glossary of Terms

This Glossary of Terms is taken from the Department of the Navy TQL Glossary (1996). Terms marked with an asterisk () were developed specifically for this handbook.


Benchmark To take a measurement against a reference point that can be observed or studied.

Benchmarking A strategic and analytic process of continuously measuring an organization's products, services, and practices against a recognized leader in the studied area.

best-in-class Those organizations that perform a particular function or service more efficiently and more effectively than other organizations.

Best Manufacturing Practices (BMP) See Department of the Navy's Best Manufacturing Practices.

best practices The methods used in work processes whose output best meets customer requirements (Spendolini, 1992).

BMK Frequently used abbreviation for the word benchmarking.

BMK Team A team of high performance process experts, chartered to perform a benchmarking study on a particular process. The team may be cross-functional and/or represent various levels of an organization. Individuals are selected based on their particular skills and abilities in the process to be benchmarked. The BMK Team is assisted by an expert in the benchmarking process itself.


champion A high-level advocate for benchmarking initiatives.

charter A written document that describes the boundaries, expected results, and resources to be used by a quality improvement team.

consensus A decision by a group that is acceptable to them, but is not necessarily unanimous nor arrived at by a majority vote. All members support the decision, even without universal agreement.

cross-functional team A team whose membership includes those from more than one organizational function and who have responsibility for some portion of an identified process.

customer The person or group who establishes the requirements of a process and receives or uses the output of the process. (Also see external customer, internal customer, end-user, and stakeholders.)

customer feedback system A system used by organizations or groups to obtain information from customers about relevant quality characteristics of products and services.


data Information, especially information organized for analysis, used as the basis for decision-making.

data collection plan A plan that provides guidance for gathering information. It establishes the why, who, what, how, where, and when of data collection.

dantotsu A Japanese word that means to strive to be the "best of the best".

Department of the Navy's Best Manufacturing Practices (DON BMP) A center for excellence sponsored by the DON, in collaboration with the Department of Commerce and the University of Maryland, whose purpose is to network and partner with industry, government agencies, and universities to identify and coordinate best practices through reports, site visits, databases, and software tools.


  • end-user The person for whom a product or service is intended. That person may be the user and/or buyer of the product or service.

Executive Steering Committee (ESC) The team of top leaders and guiding members of an organization who comprise the highest-level quality improvement team in the organization.

external customer An individual or group outside the boundaries of the producing organization who receive or use the output of a process.


facilitator A person who guides and intervenes to help a group or team process a tasking.

facilitation A process in which a person who is neutral and has no decision-making authority intervenes to help a group improve the way it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, in order to increase the group's effectiveness.

flowchart A schematic diagram that uses various graphic symbols to depict the nature and flow of the steps in a process. The flowcharts can be drawn to represent different levels of analysis, e.g., macro, mini, and micro.


gap In the context of statistical sampling, a gap is the portion of the universe not included in the frame. The larger the gap, the higher the risk of invalid results. In the context of strategic planning, a gap is the difference between what an organization is doing today to accomplish its mission and what it needs to do to achieve its vision of the future organization.

goal A statement of a result to be achieved in the long term, representing a major accomplishment.


implementation To carry out a plan of action.

industrial tourism Term used to describe site visits made without sufficient research or a clear purpose.

innovation The application of knowledge leading to the development of new processes, products, or services in response to anticipated customer requirements.

inputs Materials or information used to produce a product or service.

internal customer An individual or group inside the boundaries of the producing organization who receive or use output from a previous stage of a process in order to contribute to production of the final product or service.

International Benchmarking Clearinghouse (IBC) A part of the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) that specializes in networking services, information searches, and databases for benchmarking.


just-in-time (JIT) The concept of supplying inputs only when they are needed for use.


leadership The process of inducing others to take action toward a common goal.

linking pin A member of an ESC or QMB who is assigned to work with the subordinate QMB or PAT in order to interpret the team's charter as well as provide guidance and support to the team's activities.


mission statement A written document that defines the fundamental and unique purpose that sets one organization apart from others and identifies the scope of operations. It describes what the organization does, whom it does it for, and how it does it.


National Performance Review (NPR) Created by President Bill Clinton on 3 March 1993, who appointed Vice President Al Gore as its leader. It is an initiative to reform the way federal government works. Its goal is to create a government that "works better and costs less".


outcome The way a customer responds to a product or service.

output The product or service produced by a process.


partners Those individuals or organizations who choose to associate because they share a common vision and set of strategies.

performance measurements Indicators to help determine how well an organization is performing.

Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle Also known as Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, Deming cycle, or Shewhart cycle, it is an application of the scientific method useful for gaining knowledge about and improving a process.

primary research The direct source of the research, that is, Deming's own writings instead of what others have said about his teachings.

process A set of causes and conditions that repeatedly come together to transform inputs into outputs.

process mapping Diagramming, usually with flowcharts, the extended view of a process for the purpose of improvement.

Process Action Team (PAT) A team, composed of individuals who work together on a particular stage of a process, who are chartered by the ESC or a QMB to look at ways to improve the process.


quality The extent to which a product or service meets or exceeds customer requirements and expectations.

quality advisor A TQL support position within a DON organization. This person assists QMBs and PATs in data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The advisor also trains these teams in the use of methods and tools for process improvement.

quality characteristic A property or attribute of a product or service that is considered important to a stakeholder.

quality improvement team Any team that has been established to improve quality, usually through the improvement of an organization's processes. In the DON, the Executive Steering Committees, Quality Management Boards, and Process Action Teams are the teams linked by charters to make process improvements.

Quality Management Board (QMB) A cross-functional team composed of managers, usually of the same organization level, who are jointly responsible for a product, system, or service.

quality philosophy An enduring, value-based set of interrelated statements created by an organization's guiding members that reflect the quality principles, concepts, and methods that address what the organization stands for and how it conducts its business.


range A statistic that depicts the extent of dispersion in a set of data. It is determined by calculating the difference between the largest and smallest values in the data set.

"rice bowl" issues Issues, topics, or resources that someone wants urgently to protect. They may define the person and/or the organization in the eyes of others who are influential.


secondary research This is the research that tells you about what organizations and companies do, through the eyes, ears, and perceptions of others outside the organization. Many benchmarking databases have this type of information where informed observers relate what goes on in an organization or company.

stakeholders The groups and individuals inside or outside the organization who affect and are affected by the achievement of the organization's mission, goals, and strategies.

strategic goal A long-range change target that guides an organization's efforts in moving toward a desired future state.

strategic intent A driving force compelling leadership toward its vision.

strategic management A process that links strategic planning and strategic intent with day-to-day operational management into a single management process. It is used to describe Phase Two of TQL implementation.

strategic plan A document that describes an organization's mission, vision, guiding principles, strategic goals, strategies, and objectives.

strategic planning The process by which the guiding members of an organization develop a strategic plan.

strategy A means for achieving a long-range strategic goal.

suboptimization A condition that occurs when the performance of a system component has a net negative effect on the aim of the total system.

system A network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish a common aim.

systems view Knowing how all the parts of an organization link together, such as the suppliers, the entire production process, the customers, and the employees.


team A group of individuals organized to accomplish an aim.

team leader A member of the team responsible for leading the team in the accomplishment of the aim.

total quality An extension of the quality concept to include improvement of all of the quality characteristics that influence customer-perceived quality. This includes sources of variation from incoming supplies, all of the significant processes within an organization, and all those that can influence customer satisfaction, needs, or expectations when the product or service has left the organization. Also referred to as TQ

Total Quality Leadership (TQL) The application of quantitative methods and the knowledge of people to assess and improve materials and services supplied to the organization; all significant processes within the organization; and meeting the needs of the end-user, now and in the future.

TQL coordinator A person selected by the commanding officer to assist in the implementation of process management through TQL.

Source: USN Benchmarking Handbook

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