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Driving Agility with Standardization

Normal – is there such a thing? The last few years have proven to everyone that things perceived as being “normal” can change in unforeseen ways in an instant. Foundations can shift, throwing everyone (and everything) into disarray. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A strategic focus on standardization can provide enough stability to allow organizations to respond to changes and challenges with agility.  

The comfort of “normal” allows us to use repeatable frameworks, assumptions and rubrics to sift through the noise and differences to move faster, get products out faster, and profits in faster. When normal goes away, those frameworks struggle to hold true, assumptions become questioned, and decisions slow down. One way an organization can build frameworks and assumptions in a controlled way is through standards.

Standards create consistency that can be quickly verified and trusted (or uniformly updated). Think about your top SKU – consumers and customers expect that to be EXACTLY the same each time. Standardized. To ensure this standardization, organizations should look to standardize the key inputs that create variation. There is a saying that “garbage in = garbage out”… but should it maybe be “chaos in = chaos out”? And if so, a great way to remove the chaos… the unexpected… is through standardization.  

To be clear, standardization is more than data being in a specific format/structure. Standardization manifests itself in:

  • People: Team members with ‘X’ hours of training should be in these roles (reduces the inexperience factor)
  • Processes: The ideal way of manufacturing this SKU is following these specific steps (improves the repetition)
  • Technology: Production is coordinated through these specific solutions designed for our needs (leverages compute power to expedite work)
  • Data: Clear source of truth for specific information, stored in a consistent format (enabling automation, technology, process and skilled work) 

Standardization is not always seen as the “it” solution to organizations becoming more agile. Often, the decided upon solution is to throw more people or “hot” technology at the problem. But organizations that invested in strategic standardization during the “normal” times, created the foundation to drive agility when suddenly there was no more “normal” to ease decision making.