Standards Part 4- Enforcing Standards

Posted on January 7, 2010

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So far, we have discussed how we can set standards, gain agreement in them, and achieve clarity in them. The final step towards having effective standards would naturally be to enforce them. In this final issue, we shall discover how we can enforce the standards we set so as to create an effective framework and culture for the team to work with.

If you were of the impression that setting standards is the end of it all and the start to a beautiful working culture, you’d be in for a rather rude shock. Setting standards is just half the battle, seeing it through its implementation has still to be won. After all, we cannot reasonably expect that we’ll always get a hundred percent agreement and have everyone’s cooperation right? It is imperative that for the standards we set to function effectively, we must put in conscious effort to see to the adherence of the standards. Now, let us dive into the “hows”.

The ideal way to enforce standards would be by holding the team members accountable for the standards. This would only be possible if they feel ownership of the standards of the team. In turn, one way to achieve this ownership would be through achieving buy in, as discussed in the second article. With each individual believing that they are a member of the team and should rightfully abide by the high standards of the team, there would be little reason to deviate from the set standards, right? Moreover, holding team members accountable can be seen as a pre-emptive rather than a reactive tactic, which means to say that the problem is stopped before it occurs rather than fighting fire when it has already happened.

This principle of accountability can also be applied to the team as a whole. As such, the team serves as an internal watchdog to maintain its own standards. Again, this can happen only when team members feel that they have an obligation to the team by maintaining standards, and at the same time, also ensure that the team as a whole maintains its standards. This way, each member would do their best to ensure personal proficiency and also help, encourage and pressure other members who are falling short of standards to improve, bringing up the team standard as a whole.

A major benefit of this is that team members will know that they are answerable to not just their managers or leaders but also each and every other member of the team too. In this sense, it would not be a case of a team with a leader who constantly nags and finds fault in everyone but rather a team where everyone judges the commitment of each other and cooperates to keep the standards high.

I was ever part of such a team I would consider to be ideal in not just setting and maintaining, but constantly raising its standards. As a member of this team, I remember myself to be always striving to improve and helping others to improve. In this team, we would not hesitate to criticise members whom we collectively deem to be falling short of standards. Due to the fact that we all understand the importance of maintaining synergy while putting the pressure on each other, we would only offer constructive criticism and suggestions of how to further improve. With all the team members understanding the intent to keep moving to greater heights, this team certainly did achieve a wonderful performance.

On the part of the leader, it is also critical to lead by example. Nothing looses a leader credibility more than his failure to meet the very standards expected of the team. Actions speak louder than words, and members of a team would more likely follow the unpunctual habits of the leader rather than the punctuality he preaches.

The standards of a team are very much a part of the team’s culture and underlying agreements. By employing appropriate measures to engineer effective standards, implement and enforce it, we, as leaders, can create an environment that is conducive for excellence in the team.

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