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Standards should be the foundation not the ceiling

Standards: Jigsaw piece with a dictionary definition of a standard on it

Written by Rhona Aylward

Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

The topic of standards in project management came under the spotlight during the PMO panel session at the recent Psoda User Community Meeting, at which I posed the following question: Do standards add value?

For starters, I want to go on the record as saying that I do believe in standards and I think that, when applied correctly, they do add an awful lot of value.

However, as a long standing quality and PMO manager I’ve noticed people tend to see compliance with the standard as the maximum they need to achieve. Once they hit said compliance levels, they tend to stop working to improve processes and performance – since after all they have complied with the required standard.

Unfortunately as the old saying goes you can comply with a standard and still produce rubbish – as long as what you produce is consistently rubbish.

I believe that standards should be seen as the minimum level that needs to be complied with, instead of the ceiling.

Standards should be seen as the foundation on which to build our success, not the ultimate goal. In projects, as in other areas of our work and life, we should strive to achieve more than the bare minimum outlined in the standard guidance.

Remember, standards are specifically designed to give you a framework to build around and are meant to be adapted to fit the needs of your organisation, not something that you should rigidly follow and mould your business to comply with.

There should not be a one size fits all approach – rather look at the standard and see what parts are applicable to your organisation and use those, while discarding the bits that are not.

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