Is quality too subjective?


Paul Borawski discusses a topic this month that isn’t so new to me, although I did enjoy the referenced Lifehacker article.  In fact, the idea that quality can’t be easily defined is something I discovered through ASQ’s LinkedIn group as being a primary misconception in the industry.  In an article I wrote for MasterControl, I offered my response curtailing someone else’s words:

“Even though quality cannot be defined, you know what it is.” ~Pirsig (Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Not being able to define quality might just be one of the most significant challenges the industry faces. As we know, if we can’t define (measure) it, we can’t manage it.  That’s a problem.

But, what is THE problem…

If you ask people of any age regardless of whether or not they work in quality, Pirsig is right.  We all know what it is, but we just can’t seem to find the right words.  It’s subjective, of course.  But, it’s true.  Knowing this, let’s move on.

In my opinion, it’s all about the basics.

“Quality is meeting or exceeding expectations.” ~Deming

This is a solid definition of quality that incorporates the bigger picture.  It’s not us getting lost in details.  It forces us to consider the value to the customer based on the very premise.  And, it covers the bases quite well.

We need to stop using our lack of knowledge about what quality is and move forward with continuous improvement.  Figure out what the customer’s expectations are and then work on a system that ensures that’s what they get.  There are more than enough quality tools out there that can get us to where we need (want) to be.

If you’re always striving to exceed expectations, meeting them shouldn’t be a problem.  Quality, in theory, is simple enough then.


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