In your life, who are you benchmarking against?
Your achievements will be average if you compete against the average.
Take an example of marathon runners. To win the run, one must have pace setters strategically positioned within the runners. And they all know each other. You have, A, the key runner (the one who wants to win the race). And you have person B and C, the pace setters. And you have competitors D, E, F, G, H, etc. Only A, B, and C know who is who. The rest of the runners do not know. Runner A will look at his pace setters B and C and keep the pace. The rest of the runners will be taken for the ride. B may sprint and create a gap. Other runners may suddenly drop their strategy of taking it slow and attempt to sprint to catch-up. Only for B to reduce speed and relax. Running is very tricky, runner D who is not aware of the plans B has with A, will suddenly also reduce speed. Unfortunately, the body may find it tough to react to the new pace when runner A comes and over takes. Like in a marathon, you must be careful who you are benchmarking against. If you benchmark on someone whose success was ‘artificial’, you may never make it!
It is not unusual to meet people who have a swagger of success yet are lying to themselves.
Many people are mediocre because they have not been exposed to see how people who are successful enjoy life and behave. Take an example of a village elder. They have a small farm, house and some crops. At village level, they see they are doing well. They have a feeling that they have arrived. Yet they are still doing badly as the impact of their achievements on the community is not felt.
One way of defining success is in terms of community or social impact. Attaining success is about the impact you bring to the community. Who are you winning with? At a country level, it is may not be good to say a country is successful when majority of her people are dying young, illiterate and dying from curable diseases. However great buildings and road network such a country may have, social happiness index and peoples well being is a critical factor to consider as a key success factor.
If you look at the league of nations and want to grow, who would Uganda benchmark against?
Is Uganda benchmarking against the United States? It may not be good idea to benchmark against someone who is far ahead of you. In that case, you dream while asleep. Much as you get motivated when you dream big. There is no value in dreaming big about something that will take you 100 years to achieve. We say that ‘dreaming’ is out of context. It is like a 90 year old mean dreaming about becoming a president of the country even when they have never held any public office like a school head teacher. Their dreaming is too late and almost impossible.
The kind of potential benchmarking you set up should be within your context. Do not look up to somebody whose perspectives and context are very different from yours. Much as it could be good for Uganda to benchmark against United States, you realise maybe US had a lot of supporting structures to get where it is now. Even if we try to get there, it is not possible. This is why we have Ugandans who have bought books of successful US entrepreneurs but have remained mediocre. The business environments are completely different. You have to choose the right person to benchmark against.
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If Uganda benchmarks against Kenya, how does Uganda fix its political systems? To some extent Kenya has sounding institutions. Uganda can fix small things and easily be at level with Kenya. This is benchmarking with context. But also, is it in order for Uganda to benchmark against Burundi? You might feel high yet you are benchmarking against poor performing individuals or economies.
When I joined Ernst & Young, I got an opportunity to travel to South Africa in 2007. I had been looking at my peers in Kampala and felt I had arrived. But I boarded South African Airways, landed in Johannesburg and found somebody carrying placard with my name ‘Mustapha Mugisa.’ Went to him, took me to a Mercedes Benz Convertible. This was the second time I was boarding such a car! I arrived in Pretoria, went into a very big room and there emerged a young man in his early 20s who briefed us about Ernst & Young’s advisory strategy. By then, I was around 26 years. This young man was commanding the entire room. I got to realise it is very important to know whom you are benchmarking against. Instead of starting to benchmark against him instantly, I searched about his background and family history. I looked for the local Ugandans who have made it with such background. I started benchmarking against them. I had local examples of outliers to benchmark against, while keeping in mind the South African prodigy, at least to me.
If you benchmark against mediocre, you will remain a mediocre.
Since then, I set myself to understanding the behaviours of my new role model. I got to understand the young man reads a lot.
Who are you benchmarking against?