Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize – The Best Lesson My Mentor Ever Taught Me



Contributed by Kevin Bautz, Senior Project Manager


Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize – The Best Lesson My Mentor Ever Taught Me

Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize - H+M Industrial EPC

Several years ago, I met a gentleman who had achieved great successes throughout his career. He had held various positions of responsibility, created and marketed useful products for his companies, owned and operated businesses, and mentored young professionals providing advice and guidance. I was one of those fortunate enough to receive mentoring from this man.  He was my Jonah (If this doesn’t ring a bell, I recommend you read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt).

It was through many interactions and deep discussions that I learned why mentoring had become his latest passion.  He had achieved all he personally desired and realized he could have an exponentially greater impact by mentoring those who had similar traits.  He always said if he only knew in his 30’s what he learned by his 60’s, his career would have been even more successful and come with greater ease.  I share this to show that he was deeply committed to his projects.

I, being one of his “projects”, felt the level of commitment and value immediately.  It was early on in my mentorship that I became responsible for my department and began feeling the effects of years of neglectful “leadership”.  My mentor provided the grounding needed to evaluate my department. He provided the knowledge to help shape a vision and he had the experience to make it even better.  He shared three words: Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize.  You cannot put the cart before the horse.  You must be stable before you attempt to standardize.  You must be standardized before you optimize.  He explained to me that being a simple man, he liked to keep things simple.  He also said that old age made him forget things so he tried to remember as little as possible. I sometimes think this was just a ploy to play-down the outward simplicity of what he shared.

So what was the impact of those three words?  Well, for starters, they straightened up the department and put it on the path to success. That path included:

  • Stabilize. The department had vacancies in key positions, other positions only had temporary support, interdepartmental relationships were strained, expectations were unclear and/or not being followed, and the list goes on and on. Being the first goal, these received immediate attention and were corrected.
  • Standardize. Each shift operated in its own manner. Expectations were clear but still varied between individuals. Reporting and formatting differed day-to-day and procedures lacked details.  With some focus, teamwork, and additional time these items were standardized.
  • Optimize. We strove to achieve this step and knew that optimization would be ongoing.  Optimization would be sustainable as long as stability and standardization had been established.  When we reached this stage, it felt like the sky was the limit.  Creativity, decision-making, results, teamwork…everything seemed to just click while being positioned on a solid base.

As for the lasting impact of Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize, much like my seasoned mentor, it is simple enough for me to remember.  It is applicable in more instances than I first realized.  I have used it for work assignments, large projects, leading departments, life events, and even seemingly simple tasks.  It is a shared vision that helps people to see and achieve opportunities without falling victim to constant inefficiency, confusion, or a “flavor-of-the-month” feel.

These three words are also, as I found out later on, what my mentor was using to guide me.  He evaluated me, determined my current stage, and worked a plan to move me through the stages.  He knew that he could not mold me and teach me effectively (Standardize) if I lacked a solid foundation (Stabilize).  He knew that he could not push the limits and test my ceiling (Optimize) if he could not understand or anticipate my thoughts and actions (Standardize).  The realization that my mentor used this to achieve success in so many situations left an even greater impact on me.  How can three words that we hear all of time in business (but usually separately) be brought together to drive success?

Try it for yourself.  Think of a current situation, assignment, or project.  Evaluate it to determine whether it is stabilized, standardized, or optimized.  Plan your path to move it from one stage to the next and act.



Kevin Bautz – Senior Project Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering

Kevin has more than 13 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. His past experience ranges from process and equipment engineering in semiconductors, process simulation engineer for the oil & gas and chemical industries, and key management roles in engineering and operations for The Sun Products Corporation in Pasadena, TX and Bowling Green, KY. Kevin joined H+M in 2014.