Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Standard makers and standard takers

In the movie the Godfather, Vito Corleone, the mafia boss (Godfather) played by Marlon Brando, is asked by his godson Jonny Fontane to help to secure a film role that will boost his fading career. The head of the film studio, has previously refused to give Fontane the part. The Godfather tells Johnny:
"I'll make him an offer he can't refuse."
The studio head later wakes to find the head of his expensive racehorse in his bed. Fontane is subsequently given the part.

Standards are necessary tools for the globalized market, based on unlimited competition between exchangeable economic units, be it companies or individuals.  Production is increasingly organized in so called value chains. And what the chain leaders have done is to give suppliers an offer they can't refuse –follow the standard. Suppliers in the chain, all the way to the farmers, and sometimes even the suppliers to the farmers, should follow the standards developed by the chain leaders. In many cases the standards also shift the costs away from the chain leader to the suppliers. I order to enforce compliance, suppliers have to use the verification mechanisms, normally private certification bodies, authorized by the chain leaders or auditors from the chain leader. 

Far to seldom do we ask questions about power when discussing standards. 
Read more in my review of the book Standards, recipes for reality.  

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