In a recent tweet, I wrote:
“There is no magic in standards. The magic is where conformance integrates with how you do business. Anything less is wasted time & money!”
Actually, I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s been true all along.
Why do I say that? Let’s have a look…
During the course of any given day, I see a lot of activity on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media regarding “standards”. Now, you might think that I am just talking about ISO 20000, because of my interest in Service Management (as compared to IT Service Management, but that’s a different post entirely), but you’d be mistaken.
In these posts and questions, I see people extolling the virtues of various standards and talking about how important that they are. It’s not that I have a problem with standards themselves, because I don’t. I am a firm believer in standards and believe that they are an important part of an organizations ability to respond thoughtfully to the challenges that they face.
For the moment, I am going to defer discussion of the standards process in general — how authors are selected to participate in the development of standards, how standards actually come into being, the management of standards across their lifecycle and so on. That is a whole topic unto itself for another day and many more postings.
But I know from the work that I do with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), as a member of the International Conformity Assessment Committee, the real magic (if there really is any “magic” at all) isn’t in the standard — it’s in conformance!
What is a “standard”?
What is relevant to my original tweet and what I see in the forums is of primary interest here. Where I do start to take issue is with the almost magical powers that people associate with them — much of this resulting from a misunderstanding of what standards are. Let’s look at the definition for the term “standard”:
“ 3: something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example : criterion <quite slow by today’s standards>4: something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality”
What benefit or gain do you expect?
- Favorable treatment as a supplier? (e.g. preference when bidding on government contracts)
- Enhancing your organizations public image?
- Internal process and quality improvement efforts?
- Regulatory requirements?
Examining the basis for acting is important, as it will help you see your way clearly to justifying why conformance to standards is in the best interests of your organization.
In the end, there’s really no magic to standards. The magic comes from doing the hard work of doing what’s needed to allow your organization to demonstrate conformance to the standard.
By being clear about:
- Your overriding organizational objectives
- The intention and specifics of the standard in question, as applied to your organization
- Evaluating the impact of the required changes, if any, prior to implementing them
You should be able to determine a proper and timely means of being able to leverage standards within your organization.