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Consistent Where [Cough] Critical; Variable Where [Achoo] Valued

My_way It's cold and flu season at the Johnson house.

We expect it.  We have two grade school children (petri dishes with legs), and a high school teacher (a clearing house for teenage germs).  Hence, it's no surprise when we start sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.

But let's face it: who has time to be sick?  At the first sign of sniffles, I was hitting the Zycam.  When the cold became evident, I started on the Emergen-C fizzy drink packages.  Even with cold remedies, nothing is easy.  My wife and I got into a discussion about whether one should add the powder to a glass of water, or put the powder in first and pour the water over it.  She has her way of doing it; I have mine.  It wasn't a huge issue.

The bottom line is the end result:  we needed to get the contents of the packet into our bodies.  Everything else is just fluff.

We tend to lose sight of that issue in our businesses.  We all work with those people whose mantra is "my way or the highway" or "but we've always done it that way" or "you're not following proper procedure" ...AAARG!  You can even show them that another way may work equally well, if not better, but it won't matter.

When I consult with clients, I always remind them of the phrase "consistent where critical; variable where valued."  In essence, you only need the micromanaging level of consistency if different techniques will affect the outcome (adversely).  We all have our own way of doing things, so if adding some variability is valued by the end customer, then it should be considered.  I worked with a business analyst who insisted her template for an implementation plan was the one and only way it could be done, and she quit talking to me when I chose another format which communicated better with the people on the front lines.  The project was still implemented; the end result was not affected.

So, what battles are you fighting over process?  Do these squabbles fall into "consistent where critical" or are they more "variable where valued"?  By figuring this out, you may save yourselves hours of meetings and hundreds of argumentative emails.

As for us, the Zycam/Emergen-C cocktail seems to be working; our colds are subsiding... regardless of how we combine medicine with water.


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Crysta Wille

Here, here. Consistent (meaning standards or controls) where critical and variable when it needs to count. I can tell you a horror story about this: I got a subpoena for a project I worked on because the company I was with, had hoped to cut corners and outsource a website. I kept every email and meeting minute and several control points (signatures). I found myself in a deposition laying out the entire project's autopsy. We won--consistency, where critical.

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