Turns out I’m living longer than I was supposed to and I can’t help but notice that something is peculiar. It seems that every so often a repeating of events, philosophies, etc. occurs… and it’s really starting to bug me. Anyway as I was saying, it would appear I’ve seen all this before! The names have changed but the problems that seem to continually give birth to these “solutions” are still running rampant. We have had GURU’s rise in the Quality Revolution of the 80’s with no known survivors… At any rate we have a new generation that seem to be replowing the field of knowledge for some unknown reason. Take for example the definition of Quality.

Some time ago Quality Digest spent several weeks asking their readers to define quality. Their readership is from the Quality profession and below are some of the definitions they received:

  1. Error-free, value-added care and service that meets and/or exceeds both the needs and legitimate expectations of those served as well as those within the Medical Center.
  2. Quality is the customers’ perception of the value of the suppliers’ work output
  3. You cannot separate the process and the human factor; therefore I believe that Quality, when built into a product, generates emotions and feelings within those who have taken part in its creation. When you have made something that you are proud of, when you have produced a product that brings smiles to your customers, then you have achieved Quality. You’ll know it, they’ll know it, and each of you will prosper from it.
  4. The word “Quality” represents the properties of products and/or services that are valued by the consumer.
  5. Quality is a momentary perception that occurs when something in our environment interacts with us, in the pre-intellectual awareness that comes before rational thought takes over and begins establishing order. Judgment of the resulting order is then reported as good or bad quality value.
  6. Quality is doing the right things right and is uniquely defined by each individual.
  7. The degree to which something meets or exceeds the expectations of its consumers.
  8. “Quality is nothing more or less than the perception the customer has of you, your products, and your services”!
  9. When the customer returns and the product doesn’t
  10. Quality is in the eyes of the beholder. And in a business environment, the beholder is always the customer or client. In other words, quality is whatever the customer says it is.
  11. Suppose you were with your *soul mate*, *significant other*, *spouse* etc. and after a relationship that person looked longingly into your eyes and said “That met the requirements!” or “There were no defects there!” or “That had all the value I wanted!” or “The degree of excellence was acceptable! Wouldn’t you rather have that person look into your eyes and say “WOW!”?

While the editor of that magazine felt all the definitions were valid I would disagree that they’re even definitions! To define is “to describe exactly; to state the meaning”. Most of these definitions are subjective (expectations, perceptions, emotions, values) and therefore perceived and based on personal preference. Why even Webster’s defines quality as excellence and then defines excellence as virtue and virtue as quality, excellence and worth.

Well, what about the Quality consulting Guru’s? Surely they’ll state the meaning and describe exactly what quality is so it can be obtained and maintained. Listed below are definitions used by the some of the foremost experts in Quality past and present.

  •  “The efficient production of the quality that the market expects” (Deming)
  •  “Fitness for use“; “product performance and freedom from deficiencies” (Juran)
  •  “The total composite product and service characteristics of marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and maintenance through which the product and service in use will meet the expectations of the customer” (Felgenbaum)
  • “Anything that can be improved” (Imal)
  • “Meeting or exceeding customer expectations at a cost that represents value to them” (Harrington)
  • “Does not impart loss to society” (Taguchi)
  • “The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy a given need” (American Society for Quality Control)
  •  “Degree of excellence” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary)

I took the liberty to bold and italicize those subjective words that render the definition useless. No wonder Quality is difficult to achieve much less maintain!