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The "Definition of Quality"

Objective

PFCS has been contracted to compose a resource guide to aid owners and contractors in construction quality management. As the saying goes: If you can't measure it, then you can't manage it. Therefore, we need to define "quality" at the outset.

The Research

We simply applied PFCS' "Proving The Obvious Using Google Method" using the phrase "Definition of Quality." In reviewing the data and summarizing the top 10 results, thereby turning it into more usable, understandable information. In reviewing and summarizing the top 10 sources from Google, we also found a few more interesting articles, so we saved and sourced them as well. Then we drew simple conclusions from this research, reiterating some of the key information, and gaining a bit of wisdom in the process. Finally, we made recommendations for application of this newfound wisdom, to our situation at hand.

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Top 10 Proving the Obvious Results

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1. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary Definition of "Quality." I am starting to feel better already, because even M-W took 14 tries (literally) at defining "quality." Here they are (the numbering scheme is theirs): (1a.) peculiar and essential character : NATURE (1b.) an inherent feature : PROPERTY (1c.) CAPACITY, ROLE (2a.) degree of excellence : GRADE (2b.) superiority in kind (3a.) social status : RANK (3b.) ARISTOCRACY (4a.) a distinguishing attribute : CHARACTERISTIC (4b.) archaic : an acquired skill : ACCOMPLISHMENT (5.) the character in a logical proposition of being affirmative or negative (6.) vividness of hue (7a.) TIMBRE (7b.) the identifying character of a vowel sound determined chiefly by the resonance of the vocal chambers in uttering it (8.) the attribute of an elementary sensation that makes it fundamentally unlike any other sensation.

2. Business Dictionary Definition of Quality. "In manufacturing, a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations. It is brought about by strict and consistent commitment to certain standards that achieve uniformity of a product in order to satisfy specific customer or user requirements. 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." If an automobile company finds a defect in one of their cars and makes a product recall, customer reliability and therefore production will decrease because trust will be lost in the car's quality."

3. The website for Plant Wellness Way is hideous, but their article "What is Quality? What does Quality Mean? How do You Know When You Have Quality? - WHAT IS QUALITY? QUALITY IS THE DEGREE TO WHICH A COMMODITY MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE CUSTOMER AT THE START OF ITS LIFE. (ISO 9000)" is interesting. It is a discussion of Quality from the perspective of ISO 9001. "Quality is delivered when you achieve the minimum requirement of a specified performance standard. Quality is a specified performance range. Get into the range of required performance and you have ‘quality’. Both the most basic Toyota Corolla and a top-of-the-line Mercedes Benz are quality cars. They each have specific engineering design standards to meet, and once those standards are satisfied then quality is delivered." Another quote: "The late American Management guru Peter F. Drucker said, “Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.” It might be true that customers decide if they got quality results, but in the practical business world you have to embed quality into products and services so that customers can then experience it." The article goes on to list some of the common definitions for quality. This seems key: "...for quality to be embedded in a product or service there must be a set of measurable performance standards, which when achieved will guarantee the desired level of quality." There is also a discussion of how "reliability" is closely connected to quality, and a little sales pitch for consulting on "writing standard operating procedures (SOP) using the Accuracy Controlled Enterprise (ACE) approach for designing business processes..." Overall, this is a good, informative article.

4. Lesson 1: The Definition(s) of Quality is a module in MGT 481 Quality Assurance Management, a course at Sam Houston State University's College of Business Administration. There is NO ONE definition for the definition of quality in business. Joseph Juran: "fitness for intended use" and "meeting or exceeding customer expectations." Deming: "the customer's definition of quality is the only one that matters." Some have created (sensible) lists of 5 to 8 dimensions of quality. Discusses QA (big picture), QC (more specific), quality management (big picture). The article refers the reader to additional reading requirements for the class.

5. 7 Definitions of Quality by Simplicable: "Any business that can't manage the quality of its processes and products tends to fall apart... As important as quality is, there's little agreement as to its definition." 1. Fit for Purpose 2. Conformance to Requirements 3. Quality Is Cost 4. Quality is Price 5. Quality is a Standard 6. Quality is Value for Performance 7. Quality is An Experience. After each of the 7, there was a paragraph discussion that we don't need to elaborate here.

6. This link redirects to Lexico - Powered by Oxford with various dictionary definitions of Quality NOUN 1. The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something. 1.1 General excellence of standard or level. 1.2-4 are definitions related to paper and social standing. 2A. distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone or something. 2.1. Phonetics The distinguishing characteristic or characteristics of a speech sound. 2.2. [Astrology] Any of three properties (cardinal, fixed, or mutable), representing types of movement, that a zodiacal sign can possess.

7. How Do You Define Quality? by Shannon Connell is a wonderful, short post on the American Society for Quality's site, by a Quality management professional, about the difficulty of settling on "a single declarative definition" of Quality.

8. The Dictionary.com Definition of Quality Noun 1. an essential or distinctive characteristic, property, or attribute 2. character or nature, as belonging to or distinguishing a thing 3. character with respect to fineness, or grade of excellence 4. high grade; superiority; excellence. Adjective 1. of or having superior quality 2. producing or providing products or services of high quality or merit.

9. Cambridge Dictionary Definition of Quality: 1A. the degree of excellence of something, often a high degree of it 1B. Quality often refers to how good or bad something is 2. a characteristic or feature of someone or something 3. of a high standard; excellent 4A. how good or bad something is 4B. a high standard 5. a characteristic or feature of someone or something 6A. of a high standard 6B. very good 7A. how good or bad something is 7B. a high standard 7C. a good feature of a person's character 7D. a characteristic or feature of something, that makes it different from other things 8. of a high standard.

10. Definition of Quality - How do you define it? by Quality Digest is an unedited list of definitions from their database, totaling almost 3,900 words. Many of these are long-winded engineer-speak that do not help. But some are awesome.

Some of the most interesting definitions, to me:

  • "Doing the right things right, every time."

  • "There are two definitive types of "quality". Quality of design. Quality of the process..."

  • "Reducing variation around the target."

  • "Quality is doing the right things right..."

  • "Quality is the extent to which products, services, processes, and relationships are free from defects, constraints, and items which do not add value for customers."

  • "Never having to say you're sorry."

  • "Satisfy or exceed customer expectations at the minimum possible cost."

  • "Variation is the enemy of Quality" - Deming

  • "Attention to Detail"

  • "Quality is fitness for use." - Juran, 1974

  • "[Quality is] a system of means to economically produce goods or services which satisfy customers' requirements." - Japanese Industrial Standards Committee, 1981

  • "Quality means best for certain conditions...(a) the actual use and (b) the selling price." - Feigenbaum, 1983

  • "Quality is conformance to specified requirement & is never an accident."

  • "Quality cannot be defined in principle."

  • "The ability of a company to identify their customers' requirements, then meet or exceed their expectations to the mutual benefit and satisfaction of both organizations."

  • "Quality is doing right things right. It is customer orientation, innovation, teamwork, and everyone's responsibility."

  • "Quality is a ‘system’ which produces a product, service, information or delivery, on target with minimal variance which meet or exceeds the customer’s needs, now and in the future."

Further Findings During the Proving the Obvious Research

A. How Does One Define Quality? By Allison Gibson on LifeHacker (Linked in Item 7 above). This is a good article that agrees with all the others in concluding that a single definition of "quality," while not at all entirely subjective, is impossible.

B. Emergence - 2011 Future of Quality Study. A free 48 page ebook, but it requires registration. I did not read this yet, but I am going to ;-)

C. How to Define and Measure the Quality of Your Product* by Daniel Elizalde (Recommended by GetPocket.com when item A. above was added)

D. Defining Quality* By thewirecutter.com

E. Quality Score: What Is Quality Score & How Does it Affect PPC?* By optimizing your Qualitywordstream.com

* Recommended by GetPocket.com as suggested reading to item A. I did not read this yet, but I am going to this week ;-)

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Conclusions

We have found, in our search for a definitive definition of "quality," that a single definition is impossible. Even the dictionary has 14 definitions! The definition depends on who you are, and what you're talking about.

The best single definition I found, for our purposes is from item 2. above: "In manufacturing, a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations. It is brought about by strict and consistent commitment to certain standards that achieve uniformity of a product in order to satisfy specific customer or user requirements."

More Thoughts on the Research

  • "Doing the right things right, every time."

  • "Quality is a ‘system’ which produces a product, service, information or delivery, on target with minimal variance which meet or exceeds the customers needs, now and in the future."

  • "Quality is doing right things right. It is customer orientation, innovation, teamwork, and everyone's responsibility."

  • Meeting requirements

  • Consistency/Reduction in Variation

  • Defect free

  • It's not JUST asking clients what they want

  • Cost and price ARE part of the definition

  • Reliability

  • Durability

  • Solutions

Recommendations

Our Working Definition of Quality

For the purpose of aiding owners and contractors in construction quality management, we propose the following definition of "quality" and a "Quality Product."

Quality is fitness for use (Juran 1974), including meeting or exceeding needs, now and in the future, reliably, durably, with limited variation, and virtually defect free; and it helps if joy is sparked in those who recognize excellence.

A Quality Product meets or exceeds the customers needs, now and in the future. Aspects of a Quality Product include it being: (1.) fit for its intended use, (2.) cost effective, (3.) delivered on time, (4.) reliable, (5.) durable, (6.) with limited variation, (7.) virtually defect free; and (8.) it helps if joy is sparked in people who are able to recognize excellence. To deliver a Quality Product a system, with the objective to deliver a Quality Product, must be employed. Components of the system must include definition of: (A.) the customer needs; (B.) the product itself and acceptable variation; (C.) the budget/costs; (D.) the time of delivery; (E.) the process for creating the product; (F.) the process for verifying the parties are capable of "doing the right things right, every time"; (G.) the process for verifying the parties involved are actually "doing the right things right, every time" during creation of the product; (H.) and the process for verifying that the right things were done right, at the time of delivery.