High Standards

Jeff Bezos argues1 that high standards are foundational to the success of his company, and are driven by the ever increasing standards of consumers. He notes that high standards in a business should have the following features:

  1. Recognizable - People within (and outside) the organization should be able to recognize what excellent looks like within a domain
  2. Teachable - People will be able to acquire and rise to the standards of their environment
  3. Domain Specific - One must learn and acquire high standards across the scope of experience, they are not a universal set for everything.
  4. Realistic in Scope - It must be understandable how much work it takes to meet those standards

Skill is not necessarily important for meeting high standards in a team context. The team must understand the standards and have members who can accomplish them, but every member does not need to have the skills to meet a given standard.

More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the “invisible” but crucial work that goes on in every company. I’m talking about the work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching. In a high standards culture, doing that work well is its own reward – it’s part of what it means to be a professional.


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