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En route to a theory of benchmarking

John P. Moriarty (Victoria Management School, Victoria University Wellington, Canterbury, New Zealand)
Clive Smallman (Commerce Division, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 10 July 2009




The purpose of this paper is to review the epistemology of benchmarking and identify methodological elements of a theory of benchmarking.


A thematic approach is applied to origins, primal and functional definitions of benchmarking.


Benchmarking remains theoretically underdetermined, with publications focusing on pragmatism and praxis rather than epistemology. Analysis of the literature leads to a new definition of benchmarking focusing around the teleological processes that lead to state‐transformation of organizations.

Research limitations/implications

A theoretical foundation for benchmarking should be consistent with current organizational paradigms. Going forward the paper aims to develop a theory of benchmarking based on illustrative model derived from the thematic review.

Practical implications

The paper initiates the development of a more rigorous theoretical base for future benchmarking practice, which will strengthen organizations' business cases for undertaking such processes.


Recasts much of the extant literature in beginning to focus on the fundamentals of benchmarking.



Moriarty, J.P. and Smallman, C. (2009), "En route to a theory of benchmarking", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 484-503.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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