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Fewer barriers to trade and constantly improving communications have created a global economy that knows no borders. Multinational corporations find it imperative to stay abreast of best practices from around the world. When they engage in a benchmarking effort, they not only select organizations in their own country, but also search worldwide for the "best in breed," "best in class," or "world class." In the most competitive environments, firms that do benchmarking hope not only to identify best practices, but also to leapfrog past them. You may not feel the competitive pressure to be the best on a global scale, but many road maintenance managers are interested in adopting best practices from anywhere in the world if doing so is a means of efficiently and effectively improving customer products and services and of fostering superior performance in their own agencies. DETERMINING THE ORGANIZATIONAL LEVEL AT WHICH TO BENCHMARK A decision you will need to make before finalizing a partnership agreement is to determine at what geographic or organizational level you plan to or can benchmark; this is the benchmarking unit. Key considerations are as follows: 1. There should be well-defined administrative, geographic, or natural boundaries. Districts, areas, garages, counties, and municipalities qualify as administrative units. Quadrants or sections within a county or city should have geographical features that make it easy for the driving public to distinguish boundaries. Rivers, lines of trees, changes in topography, railroad tracks, and major highways help to make such distinctions. 2. You should benchmark at an organizational level as close to the delivery of maintenance to customers as possible, but also where customers can discern differences in performance from one geographical area to another due to differences in maintenance practices. Managers should have a good deal of control over the outcomes of maintenance at this organizational level. Among the factors managers should be able to influence are whether 35