In the days of digital everything, the perceived value of good old-fashioned Quality has taken a nosedive. Its heady days of Total Quality Management are long over, and we have settled into a world where entrepreneurs see Quality as a means of restraining, even throttling creativity.
So, Quality is dead? No, long live Quality.
When I speak with people who say ‘Google didn’t grow by using processes’ I have horrible flashbacks to my time in Quality, when people, good people, would say ‘the situation is too urgent to follow process’. The same well-intentioned people could never understand how a quality failure found its way to a customer or why they were forever fixing the mistakes of others.
But what is Quality? Here is a definition for this set of posts:
Quality is the set of attributes of our product or service that dictate how well we satisfy our customers.
I think this diagram says it all.
Each and every one of us wants the products and services we buy to be right first time (a blast from the past), this hasn’t and will never change. Sure, customer satisfaction gurus will tell you that a customer who has experienced a failure and had it fixed may end up even happier than someone who had no problem. Personally, I never feel that way – do you? And what about the internal customer? I hate that phrase, it conjures a hierarchy, after all the customer is king; I would rather think of my teammates. Just as I want a good pass from them, I want to make sure they are happy with what I do.
There is a second side to Quality that interests another group of stakeholders: those with a stake in the ongoing success of an organisation. Of course, this includes shareholders, but employees have just as much interest. Indeed, you could argue that poor quality wallops employees harder than it hits the average shareholder. When we produce poor quality, employees take two financial blows.
Think about that once grumpy, now super happy customer. They got two products, personal service and a refund or other form of compensation. Each of those items is money off the bottom line. If you are a shareholder, these losses influence your dividend and can impact the value of your shares. However, if you are an employee, these costs are eventually met by your salary and compromise your employment. Whether you caused the problem or not.