What does quality mean and why should everyone be involved?

Tim Akerman
Categories:   Process Improvement   Quality   Quality Management System  

Everyone knows what quality is don’t they?

Or do we? I suspect there are a few words missing from that statement.

Everyone knows what quality means to them.

So why do we run into quality issues in business? In my experience it is usually because the person making promises (specifications) doesn’t have to deliver against them (product or service provision).  The meaning of quality is variable, depending on the purpose of the product or service, and the customers need. For example, if I want a quality car, my criteria are very different if I am a lottery winner, or earning minimum wage.

It goes hand in hand with the idea of “fit for purpose”. Often when judging if something is fit for purpose we are making a commercial judgement of risk to our business of receiving a complaint, when a product is outside of the agreed specification. If his commercial question becomes a technical question the standards drift. By the time our customer complains we are a long way from what was agreed and often don’t understand how we got here, and more importantly how to fix it.  I believe the question we should really be asking is this

“If I was the customer receiving this product or service, with the customers standards, would I accept it?” . If the answer is yes, check you are right. Respect your customer enough to ask them.

We must always remember that decisions about fitness for purpose and quality will always belong to the customer.

It is vital to ensure everyone is involved. If our employees understand why the specification is important to our customer, and the impact of being out of specification, they are more likely to ensure the specifications are met.


Simple. Tell me I forget, show me I remember, involve me I understand. It is only through open communication and transparent understanding that we can engage all of employees in delivering excellence for the customer.

Let’s engage all of our employees in delivering the customer’s vision of excellence within the cost constraints agreed.