Imposing a Standard on Someone Else’s Work Is Wrong
Except for safety or regulatory reasons, there is no reason to impose a standard on someone else’s work—especially if a manager does so.
When managers impose standards, they implicitly say, “I don’t trust you to do your jobs. Here. I will tell you how.” Would you want to do your job that way? I wouldn’t.
I don’t mind having deadlines. I don’t mind having structure of maximums or minimums, such as word counts for columns or sizes for data structures. I can live with constraints.
But when managers told me how to do my job, I didn’t live with that very well. I always thought of ways I could do it better. Always. And some of my managers didn’t appreciate those thoughts.
Standards Try to Prevent People from Thinking
Worse, many standards try to cover all of the potential problems in a process. The standard wants to prevent people from thinking. That’s how we got to big, honking binders of process.
Why do we hire people? To think and solve problems. Do we ever not want people to think? No. We want people to think. We want people to think hard. We want people to solve problems, whether it is with the process or the product.
We hired these people because we thought they were smart. They are. Let them show us how they apply their problem-solving skills to the project itself, not just the problem domain.
What If People Need Help?
If the people ask for help with standards, then you can provide local help to each team. And if the teams are part of a program where you have one business objective common to multiple projects, make sure the program understands the problem. Let the delegates to the program team solve the problem at the program level. If they need help, they will ask for it.
In my experience, organization-wide standards don’t help if management imposes them. After a while, the “way we do things here” becomes part of the culture, and you don’t need standards. People see useful things and they copy them from project to project.
But standards and standardizing, especially from management? Let the people solve problems. They are good at it. And if they aren’t, let them practice.
Read more of Johanna's management myth columns here:
- The Myth of 100% Utilization
- Only the 'Expert' Can Perform This Work
- We Must Treat Everyone the Same Way
- I Don't Need One-on-ones
- We Must Have an Objective Ranking System
- I Can Save Everyone
- I Am Too Valuable to Take a Vacation
- I Can Still Do Significant Technical Work
- We Have No Time for Training
- I Can Measure the Work by the Time People Spend at Work
- The Team Needs a Cheerleader!
- I Must Promote the Best Technical Person to Be a Manager
- I Must Never Admit My Mistakes
- I Must Always Have a Solution to the Problem
- I Need People to Work Overtime
- I Know How Long the Work Should Take
- I Must Solve the Team’s Problem for Them
- I Can Move People Like Chess Pieces
- Management Doesn’t Look Difficult From the Outside, So It Must Be Easy
- I Can Compare Teams (and It’s Valuable to Do So)
- It’s Always Cheaper to Hire People Where the Wages Are Less Expensive
- If You’re Not Typing, You’re Not Working
- You Can Manage Any Number of People as a Manager
- People Don’t Need External Credit
- Performance Reviews Are Usefult
- It's Fine to Micromanage
- We Can Take Hiring Shortcuts
- I Can Standardize How Other People Work
- I Can Concentrate on the Run
- I Am More Valuable than Other People
- I Don’t Have to Make the Difficult Choices
- I Can Treat People as Interchangeable Resources