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Best practices and benchmarking

This is an excerpt from Leisure Services Management 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access by Amy R. Hurd,Robert J. Barcelona & Jo An M. Zimmermann.

Another purpose of evaluation is providing information that can help benchmark best practices and provide information to others in similar organizations to enhance the quality of programs, facilities, or personnel practices. Evaluation research of this type can also help develop policies or assess their effectiveness. Often, this research is conducted by researchers or people in an academic setting such as a university. Although managers might not conduct this research themselves, the information gained may be helpful in understanding industry trends and best practices. Best practices and benchmarking can be useful tools in many organizations; however, they must be pursued with caution and not seen as a quick fix to problems an organization might be facing.

Best Practices

A best practice is some aspect of a business, process, or system that is considered superior. Best practices have been used extensively in the commercial sector and have more recently been adopted by public and nonprofit organizations. An example of a best practice might be the current standard for software used to register people in leisure programs or a training plan for the best customer service. Because best practices are constantly evolving, staying on top of current industry standards is an important task for managers. This can be done informally by keeping up with journals and professional magazines in the industry and attending seminars or conferences as part of a commitment to lifelong education.

More formal research on best practices would involve researchers studying organizations that are leaders in an area. Often, a case study will aid in understanding why an organization is so good at what it does. Industry groups may also conduct this research, which is often provided to their members as part of membership or at a cost. For example, the Tennis Industry Association conducts research on trends in the sport and consumer behavior that would help those in the industry identify best practices in running a tennis facility or retail outlet.


Benchmarking is a way to identify best practices. A benchmark is a standard of performance that allows an organization to compare its performance with others or an industry average. Internal benchmarking studies the practices and performance within a particular organization, whereas external benchmarking examines an ­outside organization. Benchmarking may sound like a quick and easy way to poach the best ideas from other companies, but seldom is that the case. Effective ­benchmarking is holistic—it involves understanding how a best practice fits into a particular ­organization. Each organization is unique, and thus implementing a best practice in each organization is also unique. It is important to understand how making a change will affect not only the process being studied but also the organization as a whole.

For example, if an agency was considering a change from in-person registration to an online registration standard seen as a best practice, staff would want to look at a variety of its effects. What will it cost? How will it affect clients who do not have Internet access? Are the agency’s programs similar to those where the best practice originated, or are they more complex and require human interaction to help ­clients? Does the agency have the technology support and infrastructure to use such a system? Is the current staff trained or willing to be trained to use the new system? Because of these questions and the varying answers, benchmarking should be used with caution.

More Excerpts From Leisure Services Management 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access