Standardization is just so boring
Lean IT improvement work often involves striving for standardization. And on the surface, most involved parties agree to the need for standardization.
“Yes, we’ll work together in the same software …”
“Of course we perform the same steps in handling a request …”
“Certainly we purchase our computers from the same vendor …”
The initial chorus of agreement is resounding and unified. Until the murmurs begin. Shortly after the introduction of a new standard, there is always one agitator in the crowd that insists on being unique.
“Well, I really need Mac instead of a Windows PC because …”
“Yes, but this other vendor is actually better… ?”
“Why work this way, we’re not all robots …”
Perhaps my (least) favorite response is the classic “sounds good for others, but won’t work here”.
“That might work when building cars on a factory floor, but our work here requires creativity. Standardization isn’t for us, it’s just so boring.”
Why the resistance? What to do?
Sigh. Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s Chaos Theory playing out in the IT Department. But I can’t help feel that we’re once again missing the point. Standardization has no intent on turning us into boring machines. It is about identifying the means of consistently performing safely, efficiently and effectively. The intent of standardization within IT is to simplify the elements of an IT service that can be simplified, without sacrificing quality. Thereby, standardization enables us to maximize efficiency, spending our precious time and resources on that which differentiates us, not the opposite. It frees up our time to be unique!?
Three quick ideas that might help us to break through the “boring” accusation:
- Don’t preach the horrors of non-standardization. Instead, strive to simply exemplify the consequences of variation. More technical platforms require inevitably more maintenance. A variety of softwares mandates numerous licensing agreements. Several vendors delivering the same service leads to increased time for communication, monitoring and reporting.
- Set a rule of offsetting – be diligent that each addition requires a subtraction. As the business (inevitably and necessarily) comes with new servicing demands, be sure to simplify or remove old service components. Adding a new reporting tool should eliminate the previous tool. Upgrading to a new OS eliminates our need for a previous. Increased complexity in one area of servicing should be offset by simplifying somewhere else.
- Know and sell the benefits of standardization. Standardization drives continuous improvement, helping us to find simpler and better ways of performing our work, over and over again. Standardization increases predictability and consistency of quality. Standardization simplifies our ability to describe and document, thereby increasing our ability to train others.
Ultimately maybe it’s a marketing thing – consider altogether avoiding the word “standardization”? While standardization is met with boring thoughts of robotic process and ISO audits, simplification conjures positive thoughts of Steve Jobs gadgets and Scandinavian design. Talk instead about simplifying. Let’s use standardization simplification to get leaner, improve and provide more value.
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