Standardisation Programmes: It is fiendishly difficult to achieve and maintain a standard

By Dee Carri, Tuesday, 23rd December 2014 | 0 comments
Filed under: BPM, Business Process Management, Operations, Process, Process-Improvement.

Standardisation Programmes

It is fiendishly difficult to achieve and maintain a standard. Dee provides five recommended actions to greatly improve the probability of success.

Standardisation Programmes are large, they are radical and they offer tantalisingly big rewards for those brave enough to take them on. Good examples of these programmes are:  Shared Services; Global systems; PMO; Common ways of working (processes) across large, dispersed teams.

But with big, radical programmes also come big risks and in standardisation programmes the overarching risks from three factors:standards are required in multiple geographies and/or multiple functions; standardisation displaces people and roles; and standardisation shifts power and authority from local autonomous authorities to a central governance model.  

It’s no wonder, then, that many standardisation programmes fail, they don’t fully achieve their ambitions, or they achieve initial success only to erode or fail at some point after implementation.  

It goes without saying that all usual methodologies and best practices for change programmes and project management apply to these programmes, but we’ recommend that programme managers pay special attention to five recommended actions to greatly improve the probability of success.     

1. Define and communicate the Scope of standardisation.

Scope is frequently under-described and misunderstood in standardisation programmes which can generate great friction and push-back from the business.  The most frequent cause of this is where current owner of a standard, a process or a role discovers their power and authority has been removed without their knowledge or consent, leaving them resentful and un-cooperative. This can spell disaster for the Programme Manager and the standardisation programme. Don’t fall into this trap.  Take the time to think the scope through (a level 1 and 2 process map is very helpful here); together with the implications for those currently executing the standard (a stakeholder analysis is very helpful here). Once the scope and implications of the change are clear, have the Steering Committee approve the scope. Once approved, communicate it to all parties affected. Actively invite feedback, listen to objectors and deal with their objections in a fair and respectful manner.   

2. Confirm that Management is willing to “Walk the Walk”. 

Often, a standardisation programme is the brainchild of an individual or a team working on strategy, but the reality is that standardisation programmes won’t deliver unless all managers “walk the walk” and in order to be successful, you (programme manager) must have their full and active support.  Confirm that this support is truly available by conducting a workshop with the key managers where you have an open discussion about the project, its goals and risks and your expectations of them.  As a group, have the managers identify the business drivers for the initiative, and then ask them to establish the priority of the standardisation programme vis-à-vis other projects that are vying for their attention.  If it emerges that the drivers are not strong, or that other projects have a higher priority, this probably means you won’t get management support when you need it and the programme is doomed before you start. Faced with this situation, be brave and recommend re-prioritisation, cancellation or a deferral. If management won’t take your advice, find another position as the project will fail and you don’t want to be part of a failure.

3. Create a strong Governance Model. 

Management resources are always scarce, so leverage them appropriately. Create a Steering Committee that has the authority to make decisions on strategy, policy, organisation and budget.  Keep this group away from operational issues such as timing, staff training and project management – they won’t have the detailed knowledge to contribute in a meaningful way. Create an Operational Committee to co-ordinate and lead the implementation across locations, departments and roles. Keep this group away from strategic issues – there are other routes available to them if they wish to influence strategy.

4. Accept legitimate variation(s).

Document the processes/standards and agree them with those who will have to rely on them.  Check for evidence of legitimate variation to the proposed standard. (Legitimate variation occurs where local legislation is different from the desired standard or a local condition will inhibit implementation e.g. systems cannot be changed in the given timeframe). Document the legitimate variations carefully and review them periodically in case they become amenable to standardisation at a future date. Reject all other forms of variation and, if necessary, leverage the authority of the Steering Committee in support of these decisions.

5. Maintain the Standard – Nurture and Improve.

Too often a standard is achieved but after a time the standard erodes and performance gains are lost. This is often the result of loss of knowledge between the implementation team and Line Management. This loss can be avoided by creating a Centre of Excellence (CoE) that retains knowledge about the standardisation and provides continuity as people and roles change within the organisation. The CoE activities will include: driving adoption of the standard, reviewing and sustaining performance; providing training for new users; managing change and driving continual improvement. To ensure continuing alignment between the standard and the business strategy, the CoE should be supported and advised by an Executive Sponsor (ideally a member of the previous Steering Committee but at least a Senior Key Stakeholder). 

Find out more about our business process management services, TPSoP® and/or Rapid System™  and how they can help you make your standardisation programme successful.   

Need to discuss your standardisation programme with an independent, objective advisor, contact us:






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