Ten Commandments for Effective Standards

About six months ago, I bought an Amazon Kindle. For those unfamiliar with this piece of technology it is an electronic book reader. About a week later, I bought a second Kindle for AJ who was taken with mine and complained that she did not have one herself! There are many discussions about Kindles and their ilk being the death of traditional paper books. All I can say is that I have read more as a result of buying the Kindle than I did before I had it and I have spent more on books as a result. I would recommend them.

Because they are so convenient, I recently read, “The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards” by Karen Bartleson. It is available in hardback and paperback as well as an eBook from Amazon. Other sellers are available (I wouldn’t want you to think I favour any seller!). I am not sure how I came across the book and it’s a little irritating that I cannot give due credit to the person who led me to this excellent read. Whoever you are, thank you.

As the title suggests, it presents 10 rules for standards development. I found the book intriguing and thought provoking and I recommend that anyone involved in standards development should read it. The commandments are pretty clear and should not be forgotten but sadly they are too easily ignored. Some of those engaged in the medical research and healthcare standards fields will dismiss the text because the experiences are based on “technical” standards, as the subtitle “Practical Insights for Creating Technical Standards” suggests. They should not. The commandments are as relevant to our world as any other and they struck a loud chord as I read the book with growing interest.

The 10 commandments presented in the book are as follows:

  1. Cooperate on Standards, Compete on Products
  2. Use Caution When Mixing Patents and Standards
  3. Know When to Stop
  4. Be Truly Open
  5. Realize There Is No Neutral Party
  6. Leverage Existing Organizations and Proven Processes
  7. Think Relevance
  8. Recognize There Is More than One Way to Create Standards
  9. Start With Contributions, Not From Scratch
  10. Know That Standards Have Technical and Business Aspects

I already sense people smiling as they read.

  • Commandment One: don’t develop competing standard solutions. Seems obvious but I can think of one or two instances today, where such events are taking place. Think of the Blue Ray v HD DVD debacle. Huge amounts of money wasted.
  • Commandment Three: know when to stop when things may not be going well, when to kill something off rather than press on for no real gain. This is always difficult when you have worked hard on something, the human factors play large. But sometimes hard decisions have to be made.
  • Commandment Four: Be Truly Open. This is always a difficult thing for a standards group. Being open means welcoming all comers. However, we all know that a bigger group means slower progress. But yes, we must remain open. Nothing must be hidden.
  • Commandment Five: Realize There Is No Neutral Party. I agree entirely and there is no such thing as a neutral party and that includes those charged with running the standards development organisations. We all have an interest in some way, shape or form and I happily include myself in this. Politics plays large in standards development.
  • Commandment Ten: Is particularly pertinent. There are many in standards development who believe that just because a standard is produced the game is over. In reality it has only just begun, like any other product, the standard needs to be sold, it must be fit for purpose and have business benefit. This is rarely, if ever, mentioned during standards gatherings.

As a final thought, I actually bought my Kindle to read work-related PDFs whilst travelling to save carrying around a great weight of paper. In that role it has not been a great success, PDFs look too small on the screen. May be I need an iPad …

Post was amended 10th May 2011, typo corrected.

2 comments on “Ten Commandments for Effective Standards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *