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FREE Sample Magazine (Type Mailing Address into E-mail Message) | President's Column Archive
 June 2005 Plain Talk for a New Generation
James Thomas, President, ASTM

Go to other Plain Talk for a New Generation articles.

Hats Off

How many organizations actually know the value of good standardization? We know of at least one that gathers evidence of it every year: the U.S. Department of Defense. Not only has DoD made the connection between good standardization and dollars and cents, but it also recognizes and rewards its employees for using standards to improve the department and the way it functions.

Since 1987, the Defense Standardization Program Office has recognized these outstanding standards performers with a yearly formal awards ceremony. Over the years, DSPO has honored individuals and organizations of the military departments and defense agencies who have achieved significant improvements in interoperability, cost reduction, quality, reliability, and readiness through standardization. DSPO award recipients have not only brought about operational improvements and enhanced safety for DoD personnel around the world, but their achievements have avoided billions of dollars in costs. The DSPO’s purpose is to champion standardization — one way they do that is by recognizing the results of standardization. What a great idea. I say, hats off to them.

What if companies did this? Imagine a company making the connection between standards and reliability, interoperability, safety, efficiency, and — dare we say it — money. Suppose companies rewarded their employees for making the company better, more efficient, more profitable through standardization? What if business leaders used standardization as an incentive to improve not only the product, but the performance of the company as a whole?

According to Gregory E. Saunders, the director of the Defense Standardization Program Office (and a member of the ASTM International board of directors), the awards program has grown tremendously in popularity since the year of its inception. When this program was in its infancy, it awarded one individual and one team in each military department.

Getting people interested in it, according to Greg, was like “pulling teeth.” Now, the DSPO has to put all of its organizational skills into the almost overwhelming task of sifting through sometimes as many as 50 nominations. The awards are a source of pride in DoD. Evidence of earlier awards (banners) can still be seen on flagpoles, above work stations, and in trophy cases. And the idea may be catching on. Greg says he has been contacted by other U.S. government agency personnel who are thinking about starting a program in their own agencies.

A program like this is about recognition, yes. But more than that, it’s a way to instill the concept that good standardization works, that there are real benefits that can be quantified, not just in terms of dollars and cents, but in the accomplishments of an efficient, constantly improving organization. It’s a statement that standardization pays off.

What if companies did this? Would standardization assume a larger role in setting goals and devising strategies? You bet it would. Would the company perform better and save money? Greg says his office hasn’t added up the cost savings over the years. But it could. He knows it’s in the billions.

James A. Thomas
President, ASTM

 
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