Rethink the “standards”

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

20%=73% By Arne Hendriks on flickrIn the world of IT, we love processes and standards.  We’ve built certifications and standards and processes.

For the most part, this is a necessary thing. Without standards, processes and ‘best practices’, it’d be extremely difficult to control what’s going on within an organizations technology realm.  Before I continue…that word ‘control’ is a tough one…does IT control anything anymore?  That’s worth a post in itself…but this one is about something else.

These standards and processes have been built for a reason. And for the most part, they work well.  The problem with standards/processes is when something/someone comes along that cannot or doesn’t want to conform to them.

What do we do when we get the ‘outlier’?  Do we force them to conform? Do we shut down whatever it is they are doing?  Or…do we avert our gaze so as to not ‘see’ these non-conformists?   Shadow IT has been created for a reason…and our love of standards and processes has driven these shadowy creations.

My main question to you is this: What do you do when you find someone within your organization not conforming to the IT processes and standards?  Do you shut them down…or do you work with them to understand their requirements/needs and try to make things work?

I’ve got a nice little story to help us think through an approach to handling those folks outside of your current standards.

The “standard” height/weight conundrum

For informational purposes…I currently weigh 245 pounds.

If you were to meet me in person, you’d probably think I weight much less than that.  Sure…over 200 pounds not 245.

The reason that I’m heavier than I look is that I was a powerlifter in high school.  I won the National High School Championship and the National Teenage Championship when I was 16 years old competing in the Natural Athlete Strength Association (NASA).

I lifted heavy weights from the time I was about 12 until I was 17. At one point, I had 1000 pounds on my back doing box squats.  When I won the two championships, I bench pressed 325, squatted 550 and deadlifted 525.

Even though I won these championships…I was never the perfect specimen of what people think of when they think of strongmen.  Think of someone lifting weigths and you immediately think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or someone like him.  You would never have looked at me then (or now) and thought “now there’s a natural athlete with a lot of strength”.    Now…if you had taken some time to take a longer look at me, you would have seen the power and muscle…but I wasn’t a bodybuilder. I didn’t care what i looked like…I only cared about how much I could lift using proper form.

So today…my weight doesn’t fit into the standards.  Sure…I have a few pounds that I can  lose. In fact, its my goal to drop 20 to 30 pounds this year and get back to a more healthier weight. Let’s say I drop 30 pounds. this year. I’d weight in at about 215 or so.  I haven’t weighed 215 since I was 14 years old. I think I can get there too…and it would be a nice, healthy weight for me.

According to the ‘experts‘, my ideal weight is 148 pounds (with a range between 132 and 164).   Now…if I were to allow my body to start consuming muscle mass during a weight loss regimen, I might be able to get down to that body-weight – but without going to that extreme, I’d probably never be able to get below 200 pounds even if I lost every ounce of fat on my body.

Last week, I went to the doctor for a checkup. I expected him to tell me that I needed to lose a lot of weight to get to my ‘ideal weight’.  But…he didn’t do that.  He told me to drop a few pounds…10 or 20 and he’d be happy. I was quite surprised by his statement and asked him why he broke from the ‘standard’ ideal weight charts.

His response is something that can help us all in every aspect of our lives.  He said:

Everyone’s different. The ideal weight for one person, isn’t ideal for another.  You can’t force everyone into the same mold.

Powerful words.

What if we took those words to heart and applied them to every aspect of life?

What if you look at yourself and your team-mates with that “everyone’s different” filter?  What if you look at your organization with that same filter?

Applying “everyone’s different” to IT

It would be extremely difficult to throw your IT standards in the trash and let everyone do their own thing in your organization. But…we could take a more open and inclusive approach to those people that don’t (or won’t) fit into our standards and/or processes. Couldn’t we?

Sure…there are some things that you’ve got to tighten down and really ‘control’ (i..e, personally identifiable information, credit card processes, etc) but outside of some of the real key security related issues, does it really matter if your marketing team is using LiveBall to manage and optimize landing pages or an in-house product that’s owned/operated by IT? Does it matter that your communications team is using a hosted WordPress blog to run a communication channel target at partners?

In the past, most IT leaders would try to squash the use of outside systems not managed by IT. But…its harder and harder to stop these “shadow” systems…so why try?  Why not take the “Everyone’s differnet” mindset to heart and try to be inclusive of everyone within the organization. Reach out and understand their needs. Understand their ‘wants’.

Let’s stop trying make everyone in our organization fit into the standard height/weight chart.  Everyone’s different.

Its a big job…but we can’t continue to force everyone into our old ‘standards’. Let’s take some time to at least create new standards and processes that allow everyone to get their job done.

The challenge for the CIO and IT staff today and in the future is to find out how to allow everyone to be different…while keeping a handle on those things that need to be secured and protected.

Image Credit: 20%=73% By Arne Hendriks on flickr

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

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