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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO BENCHMARKING WHAT IS BENCHMARKING? Benchmarking is a concept that is at least as old as the athletic events of ancient Greece. Ancient athletes realized it was possible to learn and continuously improve by gauging the performance of others: first identifying the "best" performer in their event, then assessing the gap between their own performance and that of the "best," carefully observing how the "best" performance was achieved, and striving to exceed it. At the root of benchmarking is measurement. When the athletes in ancient Greece gauged the performance of others, they were measuring with a combination of their mind's eye and the measurements of judges.1 There is a large body of literature that describes the process of benchmarking. The main steps are shown in Figure 1. Figure 1. Steps in the Benchmarking Process During the last 50 years, beginning with the arrival of modern methods of quality improvement, benchmarking has evolved through a number of stages. At first, benchmarking was focused 1 www.upenn.edu/museum/olympics/olympicglossary.html 7