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Management: That Which We Call A Standard by Any Other Name …


The world of design is so wide and diverse. No matter what direction you take, your journey is bound to take you to interesting destinations. But, much like many theories of destiny, the destination doesn’t dictate the journey. In other words: there is more than one way to draw a polyline.

The Name

So every design firm is on the journey to a destination of production. The way we get there, while producing consistently, is to have documented processes. You know what documented processes are, don’t you? Those things that your management always tell you that you need but never got around to developing?

Perhaps you know them as “standards” which is the more common term. But there is almost nothing good that comes of calling your documented processes “standards.” It’s a name hindered by bad sentiment and a history of failed attempts. So let’s start our journey on the right foot with a better name, “Best Practices”.

Wrong Can Be Right Also

Why the change of labels? It’s really quite simple.

A “standard” is a documented process that should be done the same way each time. Each and every time. And if it is not done then it is wrong. It’s wrong because you have violated the prescribed “standard”. Which would be fine if any standard could apply to every situation.

The problem is that no “standard” can be perfect for every situation. Each and every job has its own particular issues and demands that require adjustment and the use of judgment. Each and every time. But a “best practice,” now that is a flexible measure. It is the guide post by which we set our production compass.

When your company has a system of instituted “best practices” you have direction with elasticity. You have the tools to produce the product, reach the destination, without doubt or becoming lost. Still you are also empowered to leave the prescribed path; to evaluate the needs of the project and stray from the path if need be.

Relocate, Rename, and Reinitiate

The truth is that the difference between “standards” and “best practices” is minimal. It’s a matter of being in the proper mindset. One has connotations of rules, effort, and red tape. The other has an inflection of wisdom, good advice, and know what is “best”.

We’ve all wrestled with “CAD Standards” and most of us have failed. Some of us failed repeatedly before painfully instituting standards that were difficult to implement and enforce. Generally speaking, there are probably 100 negative things you could associate with “standards”. So why not break the cycle of abuse and irritation?

Do yourself a favor and enroll yourself in the “CAD Manager Relocation” program. Get a new name and start a new life free of the bondage of hated standards and failed attempts. Make today the day that you take the standards manual off the shelf and write “Best Practices” across the cover.

When someone asks you what you’re doing tell them “I’m giving us all a fresh start …”

- KFD -

Image credits: Jim Mead, Stephanie Hampshire, Carbon NYC, and Eric Schmuttenmaer.

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Reader Comments (5)

Great perspective! We now have a "Best Practices" Workflow for County Roadway Maintenance and Rehab document. While the document provided for flexibility, the title did not, and perhaps that's why it wasn't being implemented as much as it should be.

October 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Pohlmeyer


Thanks for the comment. You know, there is so much to be said for implementation and mindset. In a very large way, it is a matter of marketing. Whether we intend to, or not, we are products of a consumer culture. And that extends to all facets of life. So even if we are not meaning to we do approach things with a "I will buy that" or "I won't buy that" mentality. This is the reason that the psychology of marketing, for good or ill, should be recognized as a much more important facet of office management, production goals, and basically any workplace initiative.

If you can't get your coworkers to be willing consumers of your product then perhaps it is time to consider a rebranding.

- KFD -

October 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterKung Fu Drafter

I like it... 'Best Practices' I need to chew on that a little bit - I can see some using the new title as an escape clause.


October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWalt Sparling


It's great to hear from you! Glad to hear that you found the post thought provoking. As for the escape hatch, well if you are escaping to a better place with better intentions then by all means blow the hatches and use the escape clause!

- KFD -

October 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterKung Fu Drafter

Ok, Curt - I have chewed on it and regurgitated my thoughts in a post of my own.


Thanks for the brain stimulation. : )


October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWalt Sparling

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