top of page

Setting Standards for Success

The online journal bringing to life the real experiences of a Project Professional.

Success can be measured in many ways, it very much depends on the standard set. The Standards we set create markers which we can measure performance against, they define expectations to be met.

Standards themselves can be in many forms and may be quantitative, qualitative or behavioural. However if we are to take any meaningful measurement of the Standards we set it is important that they are tangible thus avoid subjective outcomes which will create differences of opinion over performance.


If we do not have clear standards how can we truly enable accountability?


The tricky part is how to define Standards explicitly so that ambiguity is removed or at least minimised. This can be particularly challenging when considering behavioural standards.

Challenges Setting Behavioural Standards

Behaviours are measured by what others around us experience as a result of such behaviours. Although this is subject to personal interpretation, expectations of standards can be made clear if bounded correctly, e.g. a standard that states bullying is not acceptable in any form is very clear, it is the interpretation of what is considered bullying which becomes a personal experience of the person in receipt of the behaviours exhibited. Therefore by bounding behavioural standards we can, by enlarge, create standards where crossing a line is clear and therefore measurable.


There are of course many ways of capturing standards. Some examples of tools or documents where standards can be made explicit are listed in the bullets below.

  • Personal Development Plan

  • Team Objectives

  • Personal Objectives

  • Meeting Etiquette Notices

  • Quality Plan

  • Company Values/Principles

Enforcing Standards

It is one thing to set clear, measurable standards but it another thing to enforce them consistently. Many organisations find enforcement in any form, consistent or otherwise, challenging. There will be many reasons for this, time pressures, workload or enabling people the means to perform.

Wendy Lambourne, in her book Legitimate Leadership, discussed the subject of setting standards and the need to provide the means to employees in order to hold people truly accountable.

I think this is a really important aspect of standard setting, think about it.....

  • By setting standards we are creating rules to which we expect people to adhere to

  • Adherence to standards implies accountability for one's actions

  • How can we hold people accountable if we do not provide the knowledge, skills, tools and equipment required to achieve the standard set?

This is what is meant by providing the means to perform.

As leaders it is not only essential to define standards but also to enable the means to achieve them.

For more information standard setting refer to:

Lambourne, W., (2012), Legitimate Leadership, Rogue Works LLC, Republic of South Africa.

ISBN 9781661476540

Play the video for a narrated version of this blog.

13 views0 comments
bottom of page