Definitions of Quality by the greats

From Deming, Edwards W., "Out of the Crisis - Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position", Cambridge University Press, Mass., 1986, pp.168-169:

What is quality? Quality can be defined only in terms of the agent. Who is the judge of quality?

In the mind of the production worker, he produces quality if he can take pride in his work. Poor quality, to him, means loss of business, and perhaps of his job. Good quality, he thinks, will keep the company in business. all this is as true in the service industries as it is in manufacturing.

Quality to the plant manager means to get the numbers out and to meet specifications. His job is also, whether he knows it or not, continual improvement of processes and continual improvement of leadership.

Concerning advertising, a clever observation by my friend Irwin Bross in his book Design for Decision (Macmillan, 1953), p.95:

The purpose of studies in consumer preference is to adjust the product to the public, rather than, as in advertising, to adjust the public to the product.

The problems inherent in attempts to define the quality of a product, almost any product, were stated by the master, Walter A. Shewhart. The difficulty in defining quality is to translate future needs of the user into measurable characteristics, so that a product can be designed and turned out to give satisfaction at a price that the user will pay. This is not easy, and as soon as one feels fairly successful in the endeavour, he finds that the needs of the consumer have changed, competitors have moved in, there are new materials to work with, some better than the old ones, some worse; some cheaper than the old ones, some dearer.

From Crosby, Philip B., "Quality is Free - The Art of Making Quality Certain", Mentor, New York, 1980. pp.15:

Requirements must be clearly stated so that they cannot be misunderstood. Measurements are then taken continually to determine conformance to those requirements. The nonconformance detected is the absence of quality. Quality problems become nonconformance problems, and quality becomes definable. All through this book, whenever you see the word "quality", read "conformance to requirements".

If a Cadillac conforms to all the requirements of a cadillac, then it is a quality car. If a Pinto conforms to all the requirements of a Pinto, then it is a quality car. Luxury or its absence is spelled out in specific requirements, such as carpeting or rubber mats. The next time someone says someone or something has "Lousy quality,"interrogate that person until you can determine just exactly what he or she means.

From Juran, J.M., "How to Think About Quality", pp.2.1 to 2.2, in Juran, Joseph M., Godfrey, Blanton A., Ed., Juran's Quality Handbook, Fifth International Edition, 2000, McGraw-Hill, Singapore:

The Meanings of "Quality"

Of the many meanings of the word "quality", two are of critical importance to managing for quality.

1. "Quality"means those features of products which meet customer needs and thereby provide customer satisfaction. In this sense, the meaning of quality is oriented to income. The purpose of such higher quality is to provide greater customer satisfaction and, one hopes, to increase income. However, providing more and/or better quality features usually requires an investment and hence usually involves increases in costs. Higher quality in this sense usually "costs more".

2. "Quality" means freedom from efficiencies -- freedom from errors that require doing work over again (rework) or that result in field failures, customer dissatisfaction, customer claims, and so on. In this sense, the meaning of quality is oriented to costs, and higher quality usually "costs less." Figure 2.1 elaborates on these two definitions.

FIGURE:2.1 The meanings of quality
Product features that meet customer needs. Freedom from deficiencies
Higher quality enables companies to:
Increase customer satisfaction
Make products saleable
Meet competition
Increase market share
Provide sales income
Secure premium prices
Higher quality enables companies to:
Reduce error rates
Reduce rework, waste
Reduce field failures, warranty charges
Reduce customer dissatisfaction
Reduce inspection, test
Shorten time to put new products on the market
Increase yields, capacity
Improve delivery performance
The major effect is on sales. Usually higher quality costs more.
The major effect is on sales. Usually, higher quality costs less.

Figure 2.1 helps to explain why some meetings on managing for quality end in confusion.

A meeting of managers is discussing, "Does higher quality cost more, or does it cost less?" Seemingly they disagree, but in fact some of them literally do not know what the others are talking about. The culprit is the word "quality," spelled the same way and pronounced the same way, but with two meanings.

At one bank the upper managers would not support a proposal to reduce waste beacuse it had the name "quality improvement." In their view, higher quality also meant higher cost. The subordinates were forced to relabel the proposal "productivity improvement" in order to secure approval.

Such confusion can be reduced if training programs and procedures manuals make clear the distinction between the two meanings of the word "quality." However, some confusion is inevitable as long as we use a single word to convey two very different meanings. There have been efforts to clarify matters by adding supplemental words, such as "positive quality" and "negative" quality. To date, none of these efforts has gained broad acceptance.

There also have been efforts to coin a short phrase that would clearly and simultaneously define both the major meanings of the word "quality". A popular example is "fitness for use." However it is unlikely that any short phrase can provide the depth of meaning needed by managers who are faced with choosing a course of action. The need is to understand the distinctions set out in Fig.2.1.