Quality is one of the evergreen topics for discussion in business world. I attended yet another session on quality a few days back and that made me think a bit deeper – more on concept and perceptions. Our instructor described quality as conformance to requirements and fitness for use, the common definitions from Philip Crosby and Joseph Juran. Next, our instructor mentioned that the need for quality is to survive in competition and to get repeat business – with heavy overtones from sales and marketing.

Many talk about product and process qualities further complicating the matter. They point out the competing objectives in product and process qualities (e.g. beyond a point an increase in efficiency of product decreases efficiency of process). It is much easier consider quality of product alone, and create a scope based on limitations in the process – such as budget, schedule, resources or techniques. The concept cost of quality is more useful than dealing with multiple perspectives of quality. I also prefer the word maturity over quality when talking about processes.

In my opinion, the word qualification suits better to the descriptions of quality mentioned above. It’s high time we should differentiate quality and ‘quality management/control/assurance’. The latter is more associated with qualification – ensuring that the product/process is qualified according to the requirements.

The dictionary defines quality as

  • An essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone
  • A degree or grade of excellence or worth
  • A characteristic property that defines the apparent individual nature of something
  • Of superior grade

A few synonyms for quality are caliber, character and select. These phrases and words give a more accurate definition – devoid of sales and marketing pressures – making us understand that quality is more of a character of products and processes than a set of methodologies and tools. ISO defines quality as degree to which a set of inherent characteristic fulfills requirements.

In my opinion, achieving quality thus becomes part of work-culture. Methods and tools are important because it is difficult and time-consuming to permeate the concepts and organizational philosophies into individuals. However, those are just some means to and end, and the importance of quality as part of organization’s culture should not be overlooked. The success of Toyota is not their methods or lean tools, but the quality that is instilled into organization’s culture.

Thus I would say, “make quality as the character of your organization or product and qualify your services (and products) to suit customer’s requirements”.