After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Standards Get Us There Consistently and Reliably

Posted on February 16, 2012
Filed Under Business, Technology | Leave a Comment

We return briefly to sentiments being voiced at Quality Digest, this time on the nature of standards. We can’t imagine there are too many folks who view standards, in the context of quality control, as annoyances or encumbrances, but William A. Levinson apparently has come across some such dullards.

Levinson, a quality engineer and auditor, feels it necessary to remind us that standards are developed for the efficiencies and reliability they insure, not for their own, annoying sake. (Unless, as sometimes happens, they’re relating to management rules or guidelines that aren’t true standards.)

Standards are meant to express, as Frederick Winslow Taylor put it, “the one best way” to accomplish tasks based on given methods. That’s tasks, mind you, not always aims.

The ISO standards, for example, help make workplaces consistent and predictable, and their output consistently reliable. They are, notes Levison, to be viewed as servants rather than masters.

“Do your own thing” doesn’t apply in workplaces that are expected to yield predictable value, day after day, year after year.

“All human progress,” Levison writes, “depends on written records, and this is why ISO 9001 and other standards require documentation. It ensures not only that everybody does the job the same way, but also does it in the best known way.”

Now, the best known way implies that somebody in authority is paying attention to outcomes and possible improvements. That’s where fresh human insights come into play, and processes get advanced. But once they’re standardized – incorporated into standards – preservation of technique and assurance of outcome are the values being defended.

So standards aren’t, and shouldn’t be viewed as, irritants but tickets to continued competence, safety and success. William Levison took some of his time and Quality Digest’s space to get that off his chest, and we’re glad he did. – Doug Bedell


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