What is Quality?

How can such a simple question have so many answers. ISO has an answer, Crosby has an answer, Juran has an answer, Weinberg has an answer, and thousands of others have their own answers or variations on the answer. The problem with most answers is that they are as vague as the question. The problem with the question is that quality means so many different things to so many different people.

Taguchi gets it close by defining quality as “The loss a product imposes on society after it is shipped". The key thing I draw from this statement is that many aspects of quality seem to be unknown until after a customer uses the product. The challenge in defining quality in any field is coming up with a definition that can help create quality in the first place.

I sit here looking around my desk – I see a phone, some headphones, pens and paperclips. What is it that defines quality for these items. What makes one paperclip better than another, what defines quality in headphones or a telephone? Would your answer be the same as the person across the hall? What is quality? I think I hate that question.

Comments (7)
  1. Doug says:

    Quality must be one of those words which has been abused so much over the years that it lost its original meaning.

  2. Doug says:

    When speaking of quality, do you not also need to say which quality?

    Otherwise it would be like saying this C# class has "property". You need to know which property.

  3. Have you read, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"?  Various philosophical views and constructions on Quality found throughout the book, but ultimately I believe the author finds that it is impossible to define.  Could be the most subjective element in all the world.

  4. Alan Page says:

    Ahh yes – I’ve read that book and it’s one of my favorites. Although I wasn’t thinking of it directly when I wrote this post, I’m sure it was in my subconscious. I think you’ve nailed the core of the issue.

  5. Adam White says:

    Alan – you hit it spot on.

    I love it when people say "We have a quality problem" and then can’t describe what they mean. I love it mainly because it gives me a chance to solve the real problem.  The real problem, as i interpret it, is how do we get them to stop using the word quality and start talking about what they really mean.

    I’ve actually tried to remove the word quality completely from vocabulary so i don’t cause the same confusion, panic  or false confidence that others do when they say "This software is high quality. Or this software is low Quality"

    Your post also speaks to why I call myself and my team software testers and not QA. 🙂

  6. Alan Page says:

    Thanks Adam for "getting it". You would not believe how many times in discussions about metrics, people have asked me "how to measure quality".

    This post really has me spinning on this topic – probably more to come on this as I get it figured out.

  7. Rachel Paul says:

    Quality :

    It is an ongoing process in an organization in order to improve internal and external services to build and sustain good relationship with the customers.

    Doing right thing at right time and providing timely information to the customer will develop relationship.

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