What Is the Definition of Quality for Today’s Organizations?

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I’m sure most of you have an idea about Quality Management (QM). It has proven to be an excellent approach to increase productivity, performance, and profit, along with improved customer and employee satisfaction. This approach has seen successful in various organizations around the world. Companies have being using several quality improvement approaches including ISO 14000, ISO 9000:2000, AS9100, QS 9000, TL 9000, Lean management, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management and several other company-wide quality management systems to improve the quality of products and services.

When I did a quick Keyword research to see how many times “what is Quality” phrase have been searched on the Google, I found that approximately 25,000 to 30,000 times in a month, this phase has been requested. It shows lot of people wanted to know what really quality means is. Several different operational definitions of quality are commonly used in many industries. Quality Management literature says the Scholars mainly Philip Crosby, Edwards Deming, Armand Feigenbaum, Kaoru Ishikawa, Joseph Juran, Robert Pirsig, Walter Shewhart and Genichi Taguchi as the major contributors to QM.

Crosby has defined Quality as conformance to requirements. Both Deming and Ishikawa have defined Quality as customer satisfaction. Feigenbaum has defined Quality as satisfying the needs and expectations of Customers. Juran has defined Quality as fitness for use. Pirsig compared Quality with modern arts and he says we may not be able to define great modern art; but we almost always recognize it when we see it. According to Shewhart quality has two sides. One side is what the customer wants and other side is properties (or features) of a product independent of what the customer wants. Taguchi has bad quality as a loss to society.

If we closely look at the QM definitions from the management Scholars’ perspective, you can see a common phenomenon. Each QM definition begins its quality journey from a different perspective and drives toward the common goal of customer satisfaction. Another common phenomenon is that the time when they defined the definition for QM. These definitions were developed after the Second World War (Mid 1940s) where manufacturing industry dominated the businesses.

Well. Are the definitions still making sense for today’s organizations? The answer is yes. But in a different form. One definition won’t fit into all organizations. For example, if we look at the software development industry, the definition “conformance to requirements” would be a good fit. However, if we look at the Travel industry the definition “satisfying the needs and expectations of Customers” would be more suitable than other definitions. In this way, quality is more specific to the context and that’s why more operational definitions are used in today’s organizations.

OK. Then, how do we define a unique QM definition for an organization? Before discussing that, let us discuss measurement techniques. You might know the two major approaches such as Quantitative & Qualitative measurements which are commonly used to measure a product or a service. In Quantities approach, we use subjective measurements. Let’s say, if you have delivered a product to a customer and the customer found 3 problems within a month of delivery, you can quantify the quality of your product. But in Qualitative approach, we get the customer opinions. For example, in a travel industry, the company might approach the customer and ask “How do you feel about our service”. The customer might say “Oh. Yes. It was fantastic. Thank you! ” Or “I am not fully satisfied with your service. I think you can do better”. In this case, you can’t quantify the quality of your products and services.

Now you can guess how I would define QM for today’s organizations. If an organization can quantify the quality of their products and services, they can use “Quality is conformance to requirements” as a definition for quality. If an organization can’t quantify, they can use “Quality is satisfying the needs and expectations of Customers”. If there is a way to measure a product using both quantitative and qualitative techniques, I would suggest “Quality as conformance to requirements and satisfying the needs and expectations of Customers” when defining quality.

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Source by Dr. Joseline Edward, Ph.D.