One of the topics that pop up quite regularly in the data viz and in particular the tableau world is to what degree do you control the look and feel of the outputs – do you put standards in place and if you do what kind of controls do you have?
For those that do not know what parkrun is – it is a free 5k timed run that happens every Saturday morning at parks up and down the UK and more increasingly beyond. One of the things that makes it so popular is that you can go to any parkrun and they all operate more or less the same. There are very few rules but the rules that are there are all about making it work.
The rules (borrowed from Banbury parkrun):
Don’t forget your barcode
The barcode is part of the magic that makes parkrun work – it links you with the position with the time – it cuts out the need to take down peoples names and makes processing results simple.
Only cross the finish line once
Simply you cross twice it messes up the results and is a headache to sort out
Do not funnel duck & Always stay in line in the funnel
Once you have crossed the line you are in the system – do not change order and do not leave the tunnel without taking a token and then handing that it.
Always take a token & Don’t take the tokens with you
Another part of the magic – the total is your position which is matched with the time which is matched with your barcode to you – don’t take them with you as they are needed the next week.
All under 11’s run with an adult
For insurance purposes – simple
1 dog per adult on a short lead
Not to trip people up – simple
What you will notice is that there are only a few simple rules that have to be adhered to and each one has a very good whys to them – once explained they make sense and ultimately the pain of them not being adhered to is very evident to the people who should be following the rules. There are no extraneous rules about running in running kit, doing a proper warm up or even that you need to talk to anyone – it is just enough to make it work.
This is key as it not only makes it easy to enter for the first time but it also makes it easy to go to any other parkrun and participate without fear of them doing things differently.
This brings me onto the thing that led me to write this blog – what I have seen on my various travels visiting different parkruns is that they indeed do things differently but it is innovation around these core set of rules whether that be having pacer events, having ice pops at the finish in hot weather, having running buddies for first timers and the less confident and so on and so on. I believe that the simple core set of enabling rules has fostered this culture for innovation – people feel empowered to put things in place as they are not told how to do everything.
What has this got to do with design standards?
My thoughts are that you do need some standards/guidelines in place and they should be that and not good practice as people need to know what is needed to make things work. The level of this will be dependent on your businesses culture (i.e. very brand driven etc). You also need to enforce those standards with almost military precision – if you have said things will not work if that is not in place you need to stick to your guns.
Once you have this in place and working people should recognise the envelope in which they are working and innovation and creativity should flow. You can then capture this by creating a community of practice (Parkrun links up through their governance structure and shares ideas and associated challenges) but also recognise that one size does not fit all and what works in one area may not in another but it will all still work.