Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've got to write this down so I can get it off my mind and forget about it.

For most of my career I've worked in a "service" business unit where we try to take the same shoes and fit them on every one's feet. That is, we try to provide the same solution, with slight modifications, for everyone. This gives us economies of scale.

One of the problems I've always had with this is, when you change the offering, you have to get everyone's buy in. This seems to work well when you want standardization, but turns into a disaster when decisions need to be made quickly.

I don't intend to solve this problem, but just make two simple statements about the pros and cons of massive standardization.

1) Standardization will make sure there is little duplication and economies of scale. However, it will slow decision making and, at times, cause a bureaucratic atmosphere.

2) Lack of standardization will make sure decisions and changes are made quickly. However, you'll end up with a number of duplicate solutions and at times, a feeling of total disorganization.

Neither is better than the other. We as business people just need to make sure we understand the pros and cons of each.


Droidtrader said...

You mention that when you change the standard, you need to get everyone's buy in. Why? You could remove this barrier by giving the decision-making authority to the group setting the standards, and everyone else must follow. In other words, move from a democracy to a dictatorship. Easier said than done, I know.

Mac Noland said...

Droidtrader, I like your style. However, I think a dictatorship, while often more efficient, is look poorly upon in corporate America. Everyone wants to make sure everyone else feels good about a decision. There's merit to that, but sometimes it causes too much bureaucracy.