3 Reasons Standards Matter

Lately I’ve been thinking about standards and how they are so often overlooked by many companies and individuals.  Standards matter because they help shape who we are.

I would rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.” – Will Rogers

Will Rogers saw standards as a way to demonstrate our true character.  This is a fundamental reason for standards, in that they serve as a beacon to guide us morally.  This, I believe, is the most important reason for standards.

Looking beyond Will Rogers’ thoughts, there are other reasons that standards matter.  Here are three additional ways standards have impact:

  1. They keep us on track and help us stay focused on:
    1. Realizing our vision. (See Why You Need a Vision Statement)
    2. Fulfilling our mission. . (See Why You Need a Purpose or Mission Statement)
  2. Without standards we can only know something has changed, but we cannot know for certain if the change is progress.
  3. Without standards we have no way to compare our progress with the progress of others.

A Little Explanation

I will leave number 1 alone, as I think you can readily see how standards keep us on track to realizing our vision and fulfilling our mission.  In this sense, they are primarily a steering system for decision making.  However, I think some explanation is in order for numbers 2 and 3.

For number 2, think about a race.  Suppose two people are running a 100 meter dash.  One runs it in 11 seconds and another in 10 seconds.  Who did better?  The answer is obvious that 10 seconds was the better time, but only because we know it is closer to the absolute best time of zero.  Zero would be the highest level of performance, although we would never attain it.  But the closer we get, the better we are doing.  Each time one of these individuals races again, there is a way to know if they are moving closer to an ideal.  An example in business might be to see if changes we are making to a manufacturing process are bringing our tolerances closer to a standard for which we are striving.

With number 3, we can look again at the race scenario.  If someone knows what the world record is for the 100 meters, each time they run they will know how they stack up against that record.  Likewise, in business we use industry standards as a reference point to see how well we are doing against the competition.

Where Do We Get Our Standards?

Standards come from a multitude of sources.  Obviously, there are moral standards that fall in the category of non-negotiable.  Other standards are dictated to us by outside sources, such as government regulatory agencies.  Some are simply laws, like speed limits.  Those standards dictated to us are important, but the reality is we have very little control over them.

Where we really have an opportunity is in deciding standards to which we will hold ourselves to as individuals or companies.  These are the standards that we can set to move us forward.  As time passes we may find that we can tighten these standards even more as our capabilities grow.  I realize we generally think of standards as unchanging, but what originally may have appeared stringent may eventually seem too lenient.  An example could be in production times where improvements allow us to surpass a standard we have set.

There is another place we can look for standards that will serve to inspire us.  Here we can look anywhere, not just in our industry.  We can examine the standards of others and consider how their standards have helped them or impeded them.  Now we are moving into the arena of wisdom where we apply our knowledge of others’ experiences to help us make decisions without needing to have the same experience.  This is one of the reasons that successful businesses are not necessarily providing something totally new, but rather they are improving on something existing.  So spend some time studying those you admire for their success and even those you have seen fail.

What are your standards?  How do you develop them?

Should you like to know more, contact us at: AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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