20 August 2017

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Norman's legacy of standards

21 May 2007  |  2225 views  |  0

My wife came back from her mother’s last night – her father, Norman, passed away last year, and they had been cleaning out his sheds.  Norman was a two-sheds man.  He had something for everything.  She had brought back some of his tools in an old wooden ammunition box, full of odds and ends.

It was like stepping back into the 1960s, when I first learnt about car mechanics – so stand by for some nostalgia.

Four different sets of spanners.  BSF (British Standard Fine) for truly British cars like Rileys and Wolseleys.  Whitworth for cars built by engineers, like Armstrong Siddeley and Lanchester.  American Fine for fixing Packards and Studebakers.  And Metric for fixing those quirky continental Renaults and Peugeots.

Some of them were the kind that bend and snap when you’re doing some really heavy work.  One or two had obviously been hand-made, and the jaws had stretched and didn’t fit properly.

The 1960s – those days of “we’ll get by” and “make do and mend”.

Most of those old tools are now museum pieces – no practical use unless you’re a vintage car collector.  But tucked away in the bottom of the box was a sparkling set of Metric sockets, the kind that any car-mad teenager would have given their left arm for back in the 1960s.

One standard won through to today – Metric.  Most of those car manufacturers have disappeared.   Today there’s one standard to fit every type of car.  Standards changed the shape of the car industry.

It obviously made me think about today’s standards in the financial services sector.  We still try to get by with tools that are as antiquated, out-of-date and parochial as a BSF spanner, when sat there in the toolbox is a set of international-standard tools that can fix our problems.

Thanks for the reminder, Norman – international standards define the future.

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