Producing consistency in complex environments

(An edited version of a post to Bob Lewis's Advice Line)

CMMI has evolved to handle the complexities of trying to standardize processes across a large enterprise.

Beyond a certain size, even finding out the current state of play is difficult, let alone trying to co-ordinate standards through a centralized body. Attempts to do this include Enterprise Architecture, CMMI, Six Sigma etc etc.

The problem is that "one size fits all" can easily turn into "one size fits none". Innovation is easily stifled when all changes have to go through layers of bureaucracy (which I presume CMMI imposes).

A thought: with the World Wide Web, we have seen extraordinary innovation combined with evolving standards for process standardization and interchange *without* a mandated policy. (W3C recommends, it doesn't mandate.)

So let's propose a continuum:

(1) At one end, we have small companies where policy should be constructed and rolled out centrally. This works because (a) all affected users can directly work with policy-makers to identify problems; and (b) solutions are comparatively cheap and quick to implement.

(2) At the other end, we have globalized phenomenons like the World Wide Web where standards and policies emerge organically because there is a mutual benefit for all parties to co-operate at a baseline level.

Corporations operate at a complexity which is somewhere in-between. So my question is this: what's the smallest level of intervention required in a corporation to maximise productivity through consistency?