On the last two Fridays, we looked at the first two of three key values: Integrity and Service. Today, we look at the third of these… Quality.
Quality can be defined in several ways:
· For a product or item, it means conformance to specifications, fitness for use, or attaining the level of performance required
· For a person, it means a level of satisfaction, contentment, enjoyment, pleasure, fulfillment, or meaning
· For an activity, it means that it is something attainable, provides value, but could have a cost associated with it
So, summed up, we might define quality as that level of fitness that provides a satisfying, enjoyable, or meaningful experience. When we carve up this concept, there are five key elements of Quality that could be called “critical factors.” Let’s take a look at each:
1. Attainment of a standard or expectation – Any definition of quality must include some element of calibration against a standard or some level of user expectation. One product is deemed a quality product when compared to another. One car is deemed quality because of its performance history compared to other cars. An individual is deemed a quality person when their life is judged against others or when the individual simply deems it so. A product has achieved a level of quality because it conforms to specifications or is deemed fit for its intended use. So, quality is always an attribute that is relative to other similar products, activities, or person.
2. Provides meaningful intrinsic value – Anything of quality provides value to the user, recipient, or observer. Often, that value is not something tangible, but is intrinsic. Another way of expressing this is to say that quality brings pleasure or satisfaction that might not be measurable, but is experienced, nonetheless. For example, a quality life might not be measurable, but is certainly felt and experienced by the person and those around him/her.
3. Provides a satisfactory or pleasurable experience – When I think of something of quality, I always get a positive or satisfying sensation. For example, when you think of a “quality” song, book, vacation, product, person, or experience, don’t you almost feel a smile bubbling up inside you? Who can’t smile when you think of a “quality” piece of pie with a scoop of ice cream on the side? Quality is a positive, satisfying, or pleasurable attribute that we should seek in everything we do, buy, or experience.
4. Is attainable with a specified level of effort – Some of quality should be something attainable, though with some effort exerted. Quality can be cheap and easy (e.g., beautiful sunset, laughter of a child, or holding hands with your spouse), but it may include a cost (e.g., training to run a marathon that you complete, learning and using a second language for the first time, achieving your lifetime best score in golf, etc.) worth paying.
5. Provides a benefit greater than the associated cost – Philip Crosby once wrote a book called Quality is Free. In it, he states that the value provided by top quality always offsets the price paid to achieve it. By spending the time, cost, or effort to achieve something of quality, we always get a payback. Certainly, there is a limit to this in the business world – no buyer of generics products will pay more to get high-gloss graphic photos on the carton that will be thrown away, for example. However, in my cases in business and in our personal lives, striving for and attaining something of quality is worth the cost and sacrifice paid to achieve it.
In our business, Quality of our products, our service, or the combination of the two often differentiates us from all the rest. In our personal lives, the quality of our life is never measured purely in the material success we attain, but by our family, our friends, and by the impact we have in the lives of others.
What does a Quality product look like? A Quality product:
· Provides more value than its competitors
· Is more satisfying to consumers than its competitors
· Meets the needs of the user
· Provides value (that is, the combination of benefit and cost) to the user/consumer/patient
· Does what it purports to do
What does a Quality activity look like? A Quality activity:
· Provides satisfaction or enjoyment
· Is memorable
· Is fun
· Makes a difference to someone
· Is better than other similar activities
What does a Quality life look like? A Quality life:
· Is one that makes a difference in the lives of others
· Is typified by service (a giver, not a taker)
· Loves well, laughs often, and leaves a mark
· Contributes to a better company, a better family, a better society, and a better neighborhood
· Exhibits integrity
These examples are only a few of the things that could be said about quality. It is so much more than you could convey on paper. However, we should desire quality in what we do, what we buy, and how we live. Without question, Quality is one of those character attributes and values that differentiate. Why accept anything less?