Quality Definitions Views of the Gurus
Pradeep |

Quality has several definitions though the International Organization for Standardization gives one definition. Let's look at the ISO definition and also what the Guru's have to say about Quality.

ISO 9000 Definition: ISO currently defines quality as degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements. The earlier  definition by ISO 9000 standard stated quality as the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.


Let us also look at some of the views of the Gurus:

Phil Crosby's View

The word "quality" is used to signify the relative worth of things in such phrases as "good quality" "bad quality" and that brave new statement, "quality of life".  Quality of life is a cliché because each listener assumes that the speaker means exactly what he or she, the listener, means by the phrase.  . This is precisely the reason we must define quality as "conformance to requirements".

He says that we must measure the price of non-conformance and place Quality Management on the same level as everything else that is measured financially. Then we can see progress or lack of it; we can see where the problems originate and can contribute to the organization's financial success.

Deming's View-

According to Deming, the difficulty in defining quality is to translate future needs of the user into measurable characteristics, so that a product can be designed and turned out to give satisfaction at a price that the user will pay.   This is not easy, and as soon as one feels fairly successful in the endeavor, he finds that the needs of the consumer have changed, competitors have moved in, there are new materials to work with, some better than the old ones, some worse; some cheaper than the old ones, some dearer.

He say's that Quality can be defined only in terms of the agent.  Who is the judge of quality?  In the mind of the production worker, he produces quality if he can take pride in his work.  Poor quality, to him, means loss of business and perhaps of his job. 

Quality to the plant manager means to get the numbers out and to meet specifications.  He adds that there are different degrees of Quality; and it is multidimensional. It is virtually impossible to define quality in terms of a single characteristic or agent.

Kaoru Ishikawa says that Quality is essential to customer satisfaction and it must be defined comprehensively.  It is not enough to say the products is of high quality; we must focus attention on the quality of every facet of the organization and he says that consumer needs and requirements change.  Therefore, the definition of quality is ever changing.

The price of a product or service is an important part of its quality; and no matter how high the quality, if the product is overpriced, it cannot gain customer satisfaction.  Narrowly interpreted, quality means quality of product.  Broadly interpreted, quality means quality of work, quality of service, quality of information, quality of process, quality of division, quality of people, including workers, engineers, mangers and executives, quality of system, quality of company, quality of objectives, etc.

Juran writes that all humans societies make use of natural and artificial materials and forces to provide products which consists of Goods ( milk, chocolates, houses, vehicles) and Services ( electrical energy, bus rides, health care, education).  An essential requirement of these products is that they meet the needs of those members of society who will actually use them.  This concept of fitness for use is universal. It applies to all goods and services, without exception.  The popular term for fitness for use is Quality, and our basic definition becomes: quality means fitness for use.

According to him Quality consists of those products features which meet the needs of customers and thereby provide product satisfaction; and it consists of freedom from deficiencies. He believes that Quality improvements happen project by project

Taguchi defines Quality as the loss a product causes to society after being shipped other than any losses caused by its intrinsic function. Lower the loss, higher the Quality.

Loss caused by the product's or service's intrinsic function does not count toward the loss to society.  For example, an intervention program designed to get young girls to use computers may be a very high quality program ( the girls' parents are extremely satisfied with their daughters' increased interest in computers), even though the program's intrinsic function causes certain losses to society ( because some of the girls, when using the Internet, come into contact with unsavory adults whose intentions are far from honorable).

According to Walter Shewhart there are two sides to quality: subjective (what the customer wants) and objective (properties of the product, independent of what the customer wants). The difficulty in defining quality is to translate future needs of users into measurable characteristics so that product can be designed and built to give satisfaction at a price the user will pay. For example the "Customer Need" for a tape recorder is Hear beautiful music, not mechanical noise. The "Measurable Characteristics" is Very Low mechanical noise, during playing and also Soft Click, during shut off.

He writes that an important dimension of quality is value received for the price paid and Quality standards must be expressed in terms of physical, quantitatively measurable product characteristics. Statistics must be used to take information about the individual product or service wants of great many potential consumers and translate it into measurable characteristics of a specific product or service that will satisfy societal (market place) wants.

I do hope that the views mentioned in this article will give some food for thought and further introspection and analysis of how you look at Quality in your organization.

References:  Four Days with Dr.Deming, Out of Crisis by Deming, Quality Planning and Analysis by Juran and Gryna and Quality Progress published by ASQ. 

Pradeep Kumar E.T. A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma , is the Country Manager- Operational Excellence with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be e- mailed to pradeep@businessgyan.com