Standards, Standards, Standards
by Jeff Duce
Senior Manager, Best Practices
Standards? What am I talking about?
What is the definition of Standards? Google will tell you it’s “a level of quality or attainment.” Dig a little deeper and Google goes on to say “a required or agreed level of quality or attainment.” Whether you realize it or not, you have grown up with Standards all your life. Your parents likely raised you on some sort of Standards. They likely instructed you on what you should dress like, behave like, and speak like and so on. Your religion, if you have one, also set Standards. They may have been similar to the Standards your parents set forth. Your religious Standards may be stricter but yet they are another set of Standards you are expected to follow. Let’s not forget school. They, of course, had set Standards for you to follow also. Those likely included what you couldn’t wear, behavior while in school, behavior while on the playground, how long your essay should be, what the grading criteria was and so on. I remember our class valedictorian’s speech at graduation. His speech included encouraging words that talked about life Standards. He concluded his speech on a lighter note, including some humor. His famous line in the speech was, “It wasn’t school that I hated, it was just the principle (principal) of the thing!” I think everyone laughed for five minutes.
Standards, Standards, Standards
We’ve established that life includes a lot of Standards but let’s narrow the focus to business Standards and even more specifically, how you “go to market.” If you work for a retailer and are unsure what your company Standards are, then likely your company Standards are no Standards at all. And if that’s the case, you may be heading to disaster. Or maybe your company has set very specific Standards but if they don’t audit compliance or have no real expectation of their stores to follow the Standards, then your company is really no better off than the company with no set Standards.
Your company Standards should support your company’s mission statement. Your Standards should be documented and be available for all your associates and available to all levels of your organization. If done right, having company agreed Standards in place and practiced, should be apparent to your customers and your competition.
Believe it or not, too many times I’ve walked into businesses where Standards appear to be nonexistent. Displays are sloppy and have no theme. Packaging is done haphazardly with no thought to product appearance, label location and sometimes including so many labels you can’t see the product. The list of Standards lacking in businesses can be extensive. The lack of Standards or Standards compliance can be very obvious and you don’t have to be an expert to know if a business has any Standards. Maybe it starts with how many chewed pieces of gum are on the sidewalk outside the entrance or maybe it’s a lack of uniformity between displays, how wide, how tall, the times fresh made products are available, how they should look and taste and so on.
Standards are the basis of everything
Without company or business Standards it’s difficult for a company like Logile to support how work should be done. Standards set the “go to market” strategy. Everything else hinges on business Standards. Without Standards, it’s difficult to document how processes should be done.
You can hire industrial engineers or industry consultants who can help your company complete Visual Method Sheets to support your company Standards. If you are unfamiliar with VMS’s, they are simply the documented steps in doing a task. They also include pictures that support each of the steps. These can be extremely helpful to have everyone following the approved process but it can also shorten the time to bring new associates up to speed on how to properly do certain tasks, while supporting the company’s Standards. Standard Operating Procedures or SOP’s are similar to VMS except they don’t contain any pictures. These are generally 1-2 page documents that help associates already familiar with the process and need it as reference guide versus as a training tool.
Business Standards are also needed for other aspects of Standards. How do you write a great schedule without having scheduling Standards, which are informed by your set business Standards? Don’t forget task Standards with the use of programs from Logile like Task Management and Execution Compliance. If you have no business Standards structure around when things get completed, who completes them and what things need to get completed, then it all begins to fall apart.
If your business Standards are limited or undefined or if your business Standards need review, you could consult with industry consultants to help you. Clearly defined business Standards will be noticed by your competition but more importantly by your customers. Having written, well documented business Standards should be the Standard.