I’ve been using the word “quality” in this blog for quite some time. I throw terms around like “quality-minded”, “quality management system”, and “Quality with a capital Q” like everyone knows exactly what I mean by them. But do you?
If I said, “We use quality processes to meet our clients’ needs,” what does that really mean to you? I think many people associate the word “quality” with other marketing gobbledygook terms, so it might mean absolutely nothing to you. Some other people might misinterpret that statement to mean we use gold-plated cable strippers and bedazzle our rack gear to make it sparkle. “Oh, you fancy, huh?”
Part of the problem is that the definition of quality is not all that sexy. For example, ISO 8402-1986 standard defines quality as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.” Huh? Like I said, not very sexy.
At its essence, “quality” just means that the client’s needs have been met and the system works 100%.
Even without the accurate and precise language, the definition of quality is still a snoozer. This is mostly because it’s a “no duh!” Ask anyone with pride in their job and their organization if they are meeting their clients’ needs and delivering complete systems and they will answer with a resounding YES! But are they?
- That means that when you say a system is ready for use, there are no punch list items and the system is 100% complete.
- That means that the service department is not tasked with finishing up all the nitty-gritty items that the installation department didn’t have time to complete.
- That means there are no delays in the schedule due to firmware issues, improperly ordered equipment, or equipment that was sent directly to the job site and is DOA.
- That means that the system was delivered with accurate as-built documentation, user manuals, source code, site files and any other documentation specified in 99% of the contracts out there.
- That means that when the system is introduced to the users, there are no comments overheard like “I thought Iris said she needed that wireless thingy to make her presentations” or “Why do we have a codec in here? We never use a codec in our other rooms.”
These are all examples of the clients’ needs not being met. They are also extraordinarily common in our industry. The fact that they are so common leads me to believe that being quality minded is not a priority for many organizations. People (usually sales people) assume that systems are turned over complete and ready for use, but they rarely are.
Quality means zero defects. It means fit for use. It means satisfied clients. It means profits for everyone involved. It is often assumed and promised, but rarely delivered. It doesn’t mean flashy or fancy. Discussing it doesn’t get your heart racing (well…mine does, but I am far from normal). However, ignoring quality will catch up to you. “Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.” (Deming)