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Making Standards Stick

The Parts and the Whole

Implementing a standard to top all other standards or rolling out a shiny new technology is an attractive proposition. The novelty of these types of initiatives generates high levels of excitement and promise. But, due to an over-emphasis on the technical significance of the standard and an under-appreciation for the level of change management effort required for adoption, these initiatives often don’t deliver the value we expect.

What these types of efforts need in order to form a lasting effect is an eye on the bigger picture. We need to consider the parts and the whole of the systems in which we are the participants. Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, has this to say about keeping the whole in mind in his book, The Opposable Mind, “Keeping the whole in mind makes your head hurt. So instead you’ll keep each component of your decision in its own separate compartment. That eases the mental burden, but… because you’re focused on only one part of the problem… you overlook the effect your choice has on the overall experience.” Any meaningful initiative must consider the whole and will require strategic thinking, clear communication and thoughtful processes to mold effective and lasting change.

Target First, Weapon Second

First and foremost, before we choose a new standard or technology we must have an idea of where we’d like to go and this means we have to do the exhausting yet necessary work of creating a strategy and vision for the business. The fact that technology can be extremely effective is not breaking news, but it should be viewed as a tool, not a definitive solution. It makes no sense to choose a tool before we know the desired end state. As the saying goes, “When holding a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Remember, successful technological initiatives begin and end with business value.

Availability ≠ Adoption

"If we want to go fast, go alone. If we want to go far, go together."
- African Proverb

Aside from having a clear objective, it’s important to remember that availability doesn’t guarantee adoption as it relates to new technology (or anything else, for that matter). With this in mind, we must form our strategy with the help and insights of key stakeholders. They will be much more likely to adopt a new standard if they played a role in designing it and the unique vantage points they bring to the table will allow the team to consider solutions that would otherwise be ignored.

Use your words

Once we have a clear objective that translates to business value and buy-in across functional teams we will need to implement processes that will make sure it sticks. This means that stakeholders will need to be crystal clear on what their tasks and responsibilities are for the initiative. When we roll out this new standard, do we also have a plan to retire other standards? Or do we just have one more tool in the toolbox? How this combines, or doesn’t, with what came before is a question that needs an answer early on.

The team must also have effective communication so that progress can be tracked and obstacles can be identified. What do I do if I discover I am in need of a skilled resource to meet my goals for the initiative? Is there a process in place for any unexpected occurrences? How will the rest of the organization be educated on the new standard and its importance?

People 2.0

Here at Amitech, we know that attention to these kind of details is what makes the difference between a successful initiative and a failure. This is not an exhaustive list, but what is clear is that technology alone is not the answer. We must understand the importance of aligning people and processes with a clear business value. Only then can we harness the true power of technology.

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