Why are standards not standardized?

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In my experience I’ve come across many different office cultures and ways of doing things, and I’ve always wondered how it is possible that hundreds of hours might be spent developing procedural or documentation standards, only to have an office “come up short” in terms of adoption.

However, I’ve developed a few conclusions as to why a lack of standards adherence typically occurs:

01 It is much easier for people to revert back to what they know

I’ve found that the architecture industry can, at times, be a fluid industry with many designers transitioning between positions with different offices. Oftentimes, these people come with “baggage” and opinions on how things should be done, entirely ingrained in their minds from the way things were done at their previous office.

02 There is a strong lack of understanding as to what the standards actually are

Many times, the issue of non-standardization comes from a much larger issue of communication or ineffective documentation infrastructure. If standards are not vocalized or documented in a way that is easy to digest, then designers are going to be left to their own devices.

03 People are reluctant to adapt to change 

This is by far the worst case scenario. Even with proper communication and documentation resources, there is sometimes resilience to standards adoption due to differing opinions of what is “right” and what is “wrong”.

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

01 Encourage top-down enforcement

In many ways, office standards should be mandated and the enforcement of this has to come from the top. Otherwise, it’s going to be an endless cycle of herding cats to achieve unification.

02 Develop an effective infrastructure

Without an effective infrastructure in place, it is incredibly difficult for standards to be understood. To eliminate all guessing games, information should be located in one central location and made readily known to the entire office.

03 Communicate 

Office-wide understanding is a critical component to achieving standardization. Everyone must understand the “how” and “why” of an office’s standards, and in most cases this requires training and written documentation to serve as enforcement.

In my opinion, it is entirely possible for an office to achieve unified standards adoption. Sometimes, it just takes time.

Happy designing.

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