Recently, we’ve renovated our bathroom. When purchasing a new toilet, I was surprised at the number of different styles and the variety of choice. Last week, the toilet was put in the new bathroom and the kids commented that it was small. I was confused as it appeared to be the same size as the old one. But they insisted. They grabbed my hand and took me to the bathroom to show me. Sure enough, they were right. It wasn’t the whole unit they were talking about, but rather the place you sit and the bowl. I was surprised. I thought a toilet was a toilet and that there was standards for these things.
Surprises. We generally don’t like them unless they are fun. Standards tend to be surprise killers. They articulate a specification to which a product or service needs to adhere. Standards also enable interoperability – most countries have adopted a standard electrical socket so manufacturers know what type of plug to add to their device. Standards make life easier. And yet, they are viewed as boring. We rarely celebrate the standard creators.
However, standards are critical to modern day life and to digital transformation. It’s hard to talk about working across teams or across organisations without setting standards first. It’s hard work, often slow and unappreciated. But most foundational work is.
Do it anyway.
And as an aside to close, without standards, we’d have far less surprises as surprises are partially the result of not adhering to the standard.