En route to a theory of benchmarking
Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to review the epistemology of benchmarking and identify methodological elements of a theory of benchmarking. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A thematic approach is applied to origins, primal and functional definitions of benchmarking. Findings ‐ 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. Originality/value ‐ Recasts much of the extant literature in beginning to focus on the fundamentals of benchmarking.