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Define the standard

When a task needs to be performed in a business it is straightforward to write a standard operating procedure and then hope that the results obtained are the ones you want. One way to improve this haphazard approach to results is to define the standard expected of the result.

If you define the attributes of the result you can give people a far clearer picture to work with, this can help them to achieve your vision of the result more consistently.

Explain which areas need to be rigid, and allow the other areas to include flexibility. The parts that are vital and really shape the result needs to be rigid, whilst the other areas can be done in a style that suits the individual. For example, if your business has a sign-off sheet that needs to include a signature, explain that it will not be accepted if there is no signature on the sheet. Be flexible as to what colour pen the signature is in - the important thing is that the sheet is signed.

Maintain and measure the standard on a regular basis to make sure that the standard is being adhered to. Create 'dip sticks' - quick ways to tell if the standard is being maintained.

If the standard of a result is important then tell the people explicitly what is required. A set of instructions, even well written ones, can produce different results. If the result (or output) is important then define it properly.


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