It’s been a very busy week, full of hubbub and learning – one of the things I keep getting confronted with is the dramatic difference between what any two people mean when they use the phrase “high standards” in relation to anything.
I have very high standards for myself – don’t you?
We all judge our own work in a different light than we judge the work of others, or expect others to judge ours. In situations where we’re butting our heads against the wall – whether because of new variables or values we think we know that turn out not to be as advertised – the idea of standards can go quickly out the window if we let it.
Three coats of paint on a wall might be your standard, even if two does the job fine and there’s no way to tell the difference after the paint has dried. So why hold to the three-coat rule? Don’t even ask – the reasons are just as often as apocryphal as they are fact-based, and trying to understand someone else’s standards without first understanding the person is pointless.
Develop a common language – or else!
Do we even need to ask how many words there are in the English language? What about migratory words that make their way in from other languages, or the adoption of foreign terms to describe very specific qualities or situations? Like measuring standards, precision in communication is something to be approached very carefully. Just because you know how to use “their, they’re and there” doesn’t give you license to run the language into the ground.
On the other hand, adherence to a dictionary view of speech and writing can be damaging in part because so few other people approach the process of getting on the same page from the same angle. Sometimes the same page can mean nothing – after all, is the word “communication” on the same pages in Oxford’s dictionary and Webster’s? No – then what’s the point of being on the same page?
Solve the obvious problems first.
Developing standards isn’t just about earning your stripes – quality’s nice and all, but they have to be transferable. If standards don’t mean what we think they do, and being on the same page isn’t helpful, what is?
I wish I could tell you, but I can’t. The trick is not looking for semantics and syntax, but checking for relevance and reliability. It’s not a goal, it’s a process, and it’s not going to be the same twice, even if you’re approaching the same tasks or problems equipped with the same tools.
If you’re treating new problems just like old ones without making sure you’ve looked for holes where once there were none, chances are that even in success you’re going to miss opportunities to excel and do something other people don’t. Trying harder is the same as repeating failure hoping the situation has changed. You may want to reconsider the difference between victory and success – another question of precision.
After all, if standards can’t be made standard, what chance do we have if we can’t communicate?
Photo by pasotraspaso.