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A theory of benchmarking

John P. Moriarty (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 12 July 2011




The purpose of this paper is to identify the necessary or sufficient methodological elements contributing to benchmarking's effectiveness and to establish them within an acceptable theoretical framework: a theory of benchmarking.


A causal approach is applied to organizational benchmarking's current definitions and implementation frameworks. The resulting theoretical framework is compared with current benchmarking praxis to explain its effectiveness and satisfy historical criticisms. Supervenience and entailment relationships between benchmarking parties, within the umbrella of Peircean Causation, determines the feasibility of a benchmarking proposition.


Benchmarking effectiveness can be established from an organizational axiom and five logical conditions. This paper proposes a new encompassing definition of benchmarking, reduces its typology to a single form, explains current practices and addresses historical criticisms. The logical conditions also explain the effectiveness of business excellence frameworks such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and ISO 9000.

Research limitations/implications

A theoretical framework for benchmarking provides a platform for extending the theory of organizational improvement.

Practical implications

A theoretical framework for benchmarking has potential to enhance organizational sustainability by reducing wasted effort.


The research establishes a new definition of benchmarking and the necessary and sufficient conditions for its effectiveness.



Moriarty, J.P. (2011), "A theory of benchmarking", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 588-611.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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