Quantity or Quality? Speed or Accuracy? Performance or Reliability? Questions where the answer can be situation dependent but one thing that can be considered each time is ‘What are you willing to accept?’
What standards are you going to apply before you give yourself an answer? Because whatever you’re faced with, the question truly becomes—What is right?
Because after all a standard is by definition ‘the minimum level of what can be accepted.’
One phrase that I’ve noticed has become a personal mantra is ‘Don’t cut corners.’ And that simply means doing things right.
My father used to drive me up the wall when he’d keep saying that if you’re going to do something make sure you do it right the first time. Like all people it was one of those back handed pieces of advice that you never really truly appreciated until you became responsible for something . . . anything that you put your name to.
It really became clear to me, when people started to really reinforce ‘standards’ or ‘minimal levels of acceptance’ during my time in defense.
Everything that I did in my career at the time revolved around accuracy. In fact so much so that we used completely different units of measurement than what was taught at school to ensure that we were nothing less than 100% spot on, every time. Lives could depend on it.
Even the slightest bit of inaccuracy resulted in immediate rejection and when speed mattered, the need to rework anything meant delays, and when everything was time sensitive, cutting corners or being below standard meant being last and worst. Not an ideal result when the aim was to consistently be the best.
The standards became even more stringent in my next position. When everything that was said and done was recorded with pencil and paper as a legal document. Formatting, Spelling, Abbreviations . . . absolutely everything had to be perfection.
I remember my manager watching me like a hawk, looking for the slightest imperfection, waiting for me to slip up before he’d immediately find a mistake and force me to initial the mistakes and re-record the message. The attention to detail took up twice as much effort as the job itself.
After much Reflection
But looking back, I’m glad that the attention to detail was so stringent. Because you see no matter how much effort it took to get things right, doing things right the first time—being up to standard meant you knew that you weren’t going to have problems later.
The issue for everyone is it can depend on what side of the standard that you’re on. It’s very easy to be on the ‘client’ side of a standard and to refuse to accept something because it’s not up to scratch, but at the same time, making sure that you’re up to standards at all times in everything you do, to prevent client rejection can be a time consuming endeavor.
One of the main reasons that we always see for corners being cut, is lack of time. Everyone knows about it in one way or another.
One time I took my motorbike in for a service, and when I went to pick it up, I asked them if everything was okay, and how it went when they took it out of the shop for a quick ride.
I got told that the bike was perfect and that it was ready to go. But it wasn’t, from the moment I got it going and got it out the door—things weren’t right. It was sluggish, with almost no response which left me with an enormous trust issue with the service center.
After some close calls on the way, I finally got home, before I managed to do some investigation on the bike. It sounded horrendous, and didn’t feel balanced. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the service center had given me back my bike with only one firing cylinder.
“The bikes perfect and its ready to go.” They said when they should have confessed, “Nah we cut every corner we could because we couldn’t be bothered doing it right the first time.”
One person, who didn’t achieve a standard cost that company a repeat customer! A corner cut meant losing business!
She’ll be right!
You see it’s incredibly easy to save a minute or so, in a busy place because one thing may not matter. To send an order to a company without a specific delivery address, or to leave a high tension lead disconnected, but failing to meet standards does have immediate impacts.
As a manager or a leader, it’s absurdly easy to let something slide. After all you can see something wrong, but it’s only minor right? Nothing that will cause any issues? “She’ll be right mate!”
I’ve been called an ‘Attention to detail’ person who sometimes misses the bigger picture, but the point is; “Little things matter.” No one wants to be the person who looks for the corner that got cut so that things can go back to be fixed before they become a problem, but making sure that a minute is taken now to prevent hours, days or even weeks lost down the track with the financial penalty that comes with it, will save you in the long run.
Adhering to a minimal level of acceptance and making sure others around you do too, will likely see you facing some stiff opposition, in fact people will probably call you a pain in the a***. But having standards is what makes people better. Having standards is what allows us to progress and to make a better tomorrow, today. Sticking to standards is like the ultimate investment.
It always pays off in the long run.