Array Architects' Blog

Why Are Standards Not Standardized?

Posted by Alec Higinbotham on Jan 30, 2017 at 11:20 AM

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In my professional experience, I've come across numerous office cultures and ways of doing things. I've always wondered how hundreds of hours might be spent developing documentation and procedural standards, only to have a firm "come up short" in terms of adoption.

With this in mind, I've developed a few educated conclusions as to why a lack of adherence typically occurs:

It's much easier for people to revert to what they know

I've found that architecture can, at times, be a fluid industry with employees transitioning between firm offices. Oftentimes, these people come with deeply-rooted opinions on how things should be done – most of which have been engrained in their minds from the way things were done at a previous place of employment.

There's a strong lack of understanding of what the standards really are

Many times, the issue of non-standardization comes from a much larger issue of communication or an ineffective documentation infrastructure. If a firm does not vocalize standards, or document them in a way that’s easy to digest, then designers are going to be left to their own devices.

People are reluctant to adapt to change

Even with proper communication and documentation resources, there is sometimes resilience to adoption due to differing opinions of "right," "wrong" and “I’ve always done it this way.” This is perhaps one of the most difficult situations to abate.

All things considered, what can we do to equal the playing field and begin to eliminate non-standardization within an office environment?

Develop an effective infrastructure

Without an effective infrastructure in place, it is incredibly difficult for employees to understand standards at a firm-wide scale. Firms should position the information in one central location, whether that location is a network drive or an intranet, and make it readily known to the entire office.

Communicate

Office-wide understanding is a critical component to achieving standardization. Everyone must understand the "how" and "why" of a firm's standardization. In most cases, this requires on-going training and written documentation to serve as enforcement.

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Encourage top-down enforcement

In many ways, firms should mandate their office standards and enforcement has to come from the top. Otherwise, it's going to be an endless cycle of “herding cats” to achieve any form of unification. 

At Array, there is a team responsible for shepharding the studios into adherence and constant re-teaching and monitoring to ensure all locations are implementing Array's standards. It is entirely possible for a firm to achieve unified adoption. Sometimes, it just takes time.

Topics: quality control, continuous improvement, Standards