Personally speaking, I find that by defining the idea of quality in a conventional way (conformance to standards) serves no end other than to set a negative mindset. For example, its well known that when people mention the word “quality,” the first thing that comes to thought is the idea of defects. Naturally, this point-of-view begets a detect-and-fix mentality. In practice, this particular quality scenario benefits the customer (somewhat) and leaves the provider paying the bill for poor quality.
On the flip side of the coin, we could just as easily rely on a definition of quality that centers our mind on the positive — like value creation, which is associated with positive things. With a value-centric mindset, quality can be viewed as win-win topic where the customer and provider both benefit.
For some time now (several years) I’ve been publishing an innovative way to better understand what quality really means. In the context of business: “Quality is a state in which the customer and provider realize value entitlement in every aspect of the business relationship.” Of course, this definition is geared toward the pursuit of a Quality Business whereas “conformance to standards” is about being in the Business of Quality.
Upon first reading, many people do not fully appreciate how big the philosophical difference actually is. To talk about creating a Quality Business is one thing. Its quite another to talk about being in the Business of Quality. Of course, the Business of Quality discussion is laced with the concepts of inspection and testing, as well as more advanced ideas like Statistical Process Control. However, when we change our mindset and center our thinking around what it means to have a Quality Business, many other things come to mind, not just shop-floor quality practices and tools.
To better understand the positive mindset, let’s say that Value = (Quality x Quantity) / Cost, or “Bang per Buck” as many would say. Of course, this translates to delivering the best product or service on time at the lowest possible cost.
When an organization strives to be in the business of quality, its entirely possible the overall business condition can remain poor even though product and service quality is improving. This is much akin to putting a Six Sigma component in a Four Sigma system. To what end would that serve?
In short, focusing on the quality of a business will raise the water level across the entire lake, not just at one end or the other. Thus, we must all move past the “defect mentality” from the 20th century and open our vision to a larger view of what a “quality business” means in the 21st century.
In my humble opinion, if we are to advance our respective businesses in the marketplace in a commanding way, we must look beyond the idea that quality equates to defects, we must focus on the idea that a quality business is a good business, a profitable business, a business that satisfies its customers and shareholders alike.
To realize this aim, we need to develop leaders that are continually focused on the quality of their business. In other words, we need leaders that are value-centric. We need leaders that know how to continuously improve their organization’s velocity-of-value.