Standardizing Your Company – Part 14: Follow Through

In last week’s post we talked about the technical side of the rollout and the final stages of getting your standards to the users.  Now that the first installment of your standards is in place, you can forget about it, right?  Of course not.  So what SHOULD you be doing?  Find out after the jump.

So yesterday was the big rollout meeting.  You’ve cleared your schedule, got e-mail up, and moved the phone a little closer…you’re ready.  Then…silence.  It’s one of the most peaceful days at work you’ve ever had.  How is this possible?  Well remember that you wisely stated that the new part of the standards is applicable to new projects only.  So…unless a new project is born today, you’re not going to hear anything.  Expecting folks to dive into those stunning new tool palettes you’ve created just for the pure pleasure of it?  A few might dabble but they’re not going to put them through their paces just yet.

Activity centering around the new standards will ramp up as time goes on and new projects come on line.  Depending on the average life-cycle of a project in your company, you may not see this peak for a month or two.  This is a good thing because if it all hit at once, it might be more than you can handle.

The most important thing you can do during this time is simply be there and be accessible.  Ask around about new projects coming online and get involved.  Make frequent visits to teams working with the new standards for their first time.  Sure, you’re there to answer any questions, but you’re also checking to make sure they’re actually using the standards.  If problems arise (a missing tool palette tool, a typo in the manual, an error message in your custom programming) hit them head on…and quickly. 

Some people are going to complain of course.  “This isn’t the line weight I use.” or “This hatch pattern is too dense.”  The first step is to suggest that they make a plot and take a look at it with you.  More often than not, they’re response is “Yeah, it’s not as bad as I thought.”  If they still don’t like it, stand firm that the standards are now company policy and that personal preference is out the window.  If there is a legitimate need for a change, then the person needs to speak with their CAD Committee representative and start lobbying to make it happen.

So are we talking about enforcement here?  I like to think of it as reinforcement.  Nobody’s threatening to fire anybody, you’re just having lots of one-on-one adult conversations with people, passing along information and sharing your philosophies about how important this stuff is to the health of the company.  In my career I’ve yet to have a person stand there and say “I’m not doing it”.  Agree to it and do something else when I walk away, yes, but never outright defiance.

What about auditing?  Should the company have a formal auditing process to ensure folks are following the standards?  Well my personal experience is that I’ve been down that road and it just didn’t work for me.  The whole idea just reeks with negativity and puts people on the defensive.  I’ve got another tactic that I’ve found very useful:

After a few months, schedule a meeting with each design team for the purpose of following up on the standards and answering questions.  Beforehand, dig into the team’s project folder and pick out a few samples, some good…some bad.  Then at the meeting, put the samples up on the big screen.  Use the good ones to show what it looks like when the standards are followed.  You will naturally acknowledge those folks who are doing well without saying a word about it.  The team will know who they are.  Use the bad examples to “clarify” how the standards are to be used – keeping a very positive spin on it.  Once again, the team will know who worked on what and the folks who were misbehaving will not like the public embarrassment.  Before the meeting is over, be sure and tell them you’ll be doing this again in a few months.  The non-conformers will now think twice about being apathetic toward the standards for fear of their projects being featured in the “what not to do” part of the meeting.  Sound brutal and inhumane?  It’s all about your approach.  Again, from personal experience, if you keep the meeting light and positive and make sure everyone truly believes that you’re sole purpose is to teach, the meetings are actually kind of fun.

Note that all of these approaches to reinforcing your standards require you to get out of your seat.  You’re not going to make your standards successful by sitting in your office all day.  Schedule meetings, make your rounds, talk to people, and win them over one by one.

What’s next?  Tune in next week.

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