One again I find myself motivated by a Blog post by a fellow blogger and AUGI cohort the Kung Fu Drafter (KFD) at KungFuDrafter.com on the topic of Standards or more so what they should be called. KFD discussed how one should consider changing the more common name of “Standards” to “Best Practices”. In the post, KFD made some good points about the struggles we face with Standards – like the big one of “those things that your management always tell you that you need but never got around to developing”. One that he did not mention directly, but inferred is that of the frustration some feel with having to follow standards, especially if they do not like them or had no input to their creation. In the post, KFD made the statement that:
“…there is almost nothing good that comes of calling your documented processes standards.”
And to this I agree one hundred percent! I have seen many places where management, business owners or newby CADD managers with a big ego think that they know best on “how” to do something. Sometimes they are right, but often they are wrong. As KFD said in his intro – “…there is more than one way to draw a polyline.”
But two statements that I struggled with the most were that “the difference between “standards” and “best practices” is minimal.” And “A ‘standard’ is a documented process…” I struggled with these because I see them as completely separate things. My view of ‘Standards’ maybe somewhat limited, but I look at them as a production result or something ‘used’ vs ‘done’ to create a desired result. We have standards to create something uniform and consistent. But the processes, techniques, or practices that we use may not be the same.
Standards vs Best Practices
In looking at some definitions of Best Practices on the web I found the following on Wikipedia:
A best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a “best” practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. Best practice is considered by some as a business buzzword, used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use.
Some consulting firms specialize in the area of Best Practice and offer pre-made ‘templates’ to standardize business process documentation.
And on the BusinessDictionary.com:
A method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark.
The first definition mentions ‘standard’ and ‘standardize’ with the first being about “a way of doing things”, while the second usage discusses “templates to standardize business process documentation” i.e. creating a document that standardise how you do things, both of which would follow KFD’s line of thinking.
When looking for a definition of Standards” on Dictionary.com:
- Something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model.
- An object that is regarded as the usual or most common size or form of its kind
- A rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment: They tried to establish standards for a new philosophical approach.
- An average or normal requirement, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc.
And on BusinessDictionary.com:
- General: Written definition, limit, or rule, approved and monitored for compliance by an authoritative agency or professional or recognized body as a minimum acceptable benchmark.
- GATT definition: “Technical specifications contained in a document that lays characteristics of a product such as levels of quality, performance, safety, or dimensions. Standards may include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, testing and methods, packaging, or labeling requirements as they apply to a product.”
So, my definitions would be that:
- “Best Practices” are the best known method, technique or proven processes used to achieve an end goal – a ’standard’.
- “Standards: are usually established by an authority (a rule or principle) or by general consent (defacto standards) as a basis of comparison. Typically used to achieve a specific look, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc. or obtain specific results or create a safer environment.
I think every AEC firm company needs some form of ‘Standards’ but where I look at things a little different from KFD is that rather than setting up the processes as the standards, I believe a company needs both a set of ‘Standards’ AND a set of ‘Best Practices’. Things that I would see in a set of Standards include: (Think National CAD Standards)
- A Standard set of Layers
- Standard line weights used for the Standard layers
- Standard Fonts used for standard Company Styles
- Standard Title Blocks, drawing Blocks, and annotation Symbology
Basically – A standard looking set of documents for your company.
Now, as to how you get there, i.e. what process you use, I can recommend some ways, by doing certain tasks or steps – kinda like best practices. But, if you want to use scripts or layer states to control your layers, or if you use toolbars in lieu of the Ribbons – I don’t care if it achieves the same results.
CADD managers may document steps to get a result, and may be it is a non-flexible result so that a specific process has to be used, but this may be where some good automation get’s setup. The more arduous things are and the more steps one has to use, the more likely they will find their own way or shortcut to get a result (like exploding in lieu of redefining blocks).
CADD Managers beware – by labeling your company “Standards” as “Best Practices”, I believe you are offering up that the desired result is flexible or has ‘elasticity’ not something I would want too many people interpreting on their own.
Standards are something necessary and need to be defined, monitored and controlled while Best Practices can be taught but may vary by individual. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes what some users may choose to use as a process is less than optimal…. Because there are many different ways of doing things, we can teach “Best Practices” and encourage them to be used, but in the end we require “Standards”.