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.