Most schools want to compare their strategic progress against meaningful data sets. The problem is that they often compare "apples to oranges", as the saying goes, using data that is irrelevant or taken out of context. We suggest that every school or college have three different dashboards with which they regularly measure progress.
- A Benchmark List is a list of institutions that look very similar to yours in terms of size, scope, mission, price, and philosophy. This list is helpful for measuring progress on items such as professional development or compensation. They may or may not be competitors.
- A Competitor List is a list of institutions that research has demonstrate compete directly with your school for students or visibility. This list is likely more geographically close to your school, but these schools may not be on your benchmark list.
- An Aspirant List is a list of institutions that your school or college aspires to be more like, such as more resourced or more selective.
The challenge that we find in our work with clients is that leaders at schools often select schools from the different categories above to measure strategic progress. And, the reality is, they simply are comparing "apples to oranges" when they do this. We often hear faculty say "we compete with school X or Y but don't the same possess the same resources as they do." This is often because a school might be a competitor, but not necessarily on the benchmark list. All schools should have three dashboards from which to make informed decisions based upon the proper context, such as competition, aspiration, and parallel or similar organizations.