Accidental standards can fall on either side of the positive/negative spectrum. Do not attempt to eliminate accidental standards as this can have unfavorable consequences. Attempting to control each decision and direction are traits of a micro-manager. It can be difficult to win over other team members with this approach. Accidental standards are a part of decision making. Every decision in life is either an implicit (unrecognized), or explicit (cognitively acknowledged) agreement. There is no in-between. This is similar to the concept "saying yes to one thing means saying no to another."
The good news is managing accidental standards is not difficult, but does require persistence and follow-through. Addressing accidental standards requires a two pronged approach. The first is on a simple ad-hoc basis. When someone recognizes a concern, they can bring it to the table immediately or schedule a meeting to discuss. The second approach is to invest in a recurring review/discussion cycle. This does not need to be a separate meeting or even a formal discussion. It can be included in an existing agenda or can be part of a cyclical fact finding mission. Be mindful to keep these conversations to a minimum and be aware that excessive focus can lead to frustration and inattentional blindness. The purpose for the second approach is to keep accidental standards in the frame of conversation for proper oversight.
While discussing accidental standards, encourage everyone to participate. It's important to communicate that a lack of commentary results in complicit acceptance. This is how accidental standards find their footing. Additionally, during these discussions discourage all attempts to point or assign blame. This is an unproductive activity which will ensure a negative outcome. Encourage others not only to discuss new topics, but also to revisit previous decisions if new concerns have arisen. If any decisions or conclusions are made, set a revisit/expiration date. This is an important key to successfully managing expectations and ensuring that those decisions don't create new accidental standards.
The Accidental Standard
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Published at DZone with permission of Zac Gery, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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