11/09/2014 08:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Principles to Define, Cascade and Embed Standards

In recent posts I have established 'Why Your Values Are Not Enough', the '10 Benefits for Turning Your Values Into Standards' and how to set your stakeholders up for success with a set of shared standards. But how do you define, cascade and embed those standards? Today I will provide some principles for doing just that.

To define powerful shared standards, ensure they:
  • Serve the aspirations and compliment the strategy.
  • Are simple and explicit. Avoid clichés and management jargon.
  • Can be a reference point for critical decisions.
  • Make a call to action.
  • Represent the critical few, with the biggest potential impact.
  • Represent the minimum expected behavior, not an aspiration.
  • Balance raising the bar, with creating a game you can win.
To cascade the standards, ensure:
  • Senior leaders are living, breathing role models first. Until this happens, there is no legitimacy in asking others to commit.
  • They are cascaded via 'in-tact' teams, rather than cross functionally. This encourages much higher levels of mutual accountability.
  • Teams in the cascade are allowed some room to define their own standards, within agreed boundaries. This encourages ownership and relevance.
  • Some level of central coordination to ensure that particular business units or teams aren't left behind.
To embed the standards:
  • Use them to set up and close meetings.
  • Use any discussion of the aspirations to create a connection to the standards.
  • Reflect them in your people and performance systems. If the standards and systems are in conflict, the systems will win.
  • Measure them for individuals and teams, and create forums for open and honest feedback among peers.
  • Hire, promote and fire in alignment with the standards. To emphasize this point, the single most powerful way to embed standards in an organization is to remove a senior leader who is getting results but not living the standards.
  • Review and revitalize them periodically to raise the bar.
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