Finding Harmony

Abstract:This article maintains that the quality profession has not yet produced a meaningful universal definition of the word "quality". Evidence for this is provided by the results of the American Society for Quality's Global State of Quality Research survey, in which the respondents were asked to define quality from their organization’s perspective. To meet quality expert Joseph J. Juran's prediction that the 21st century would be the century of quality, it is essential and possible to develop a universal definition of quality that is meaningful, relevant and acceptable to people in all sectors of society. It starts with simply understanding what quality is and how it is achieved. The real problem is not the absence of a definition of quality, but that there are so many of them that some good ones have been lost. A new term is required to describe the pathway through which a quality outcome is defined, realized, delivered, and evaluated. To break the traditional duality of definitions of quality, …

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the definitions in the Quality Glossary of ASQ: are in alphabetical order.

Aylin N. M.
--Aylin N. Minikus, 12-17-2018

Bob has done an excellent job of framing the issues and providing background on an important topic. I would like to offer another perspective to consider. Quality may be considered to exist in either 4 principles or dimensions.
1. FEATURES - does the product have the features I want or need? (a lot of the article appears to focus on the challenges of identifying or desribing the features)
2. RELIABILITY - the product is manufactured or provided in a manner that allow it to continue to operate or is reasonable free of defect. What if it had the features you wanted but did not continue to function? That is also poor quality.
3. CUSTOMER SERVICE - I enjoyed the interactions with the organization that manufactured the product, this is the interpersonal aspect of service both during and after purchase.
4. EFFICIENCY - What if you manufactured something that was so incredible, so reliable, and had great staff but it cost so much, you went out of business. This is also an important quality aspect.

I would love to hear other perspectives.
--Jeff Worthington, 12-22-2014

A commonly accepted definition of quality would facilitate the continuous improvement of quality throughout all aspects of society.

Excellent quality has always been the result of doing the right things. The right thing is determined by individuals and groups in the near, mid and long term. Efficiency is doing things right and effectiveness is doing the right things.

Reducing variation has also always been the key to excellent quality. W. Edwards Deming remarked that if he was to reduce his message to management to just a few words, it all had to do with reducing variation.

A broader description of variation available at the following link:

Application examples for the expanded description of variation and definition of quality are available in my book and in articles available at:

Deming estimated in 1986 that it would be another 50 years (2036) before a broader knowledge of variation and its link to quality improvement would be more common. This understanding is critical in supporting the broader application of quality improvement in all aspects of society.

--Tim Clark, 11-11-2014

I think David Garvin's 1984 Article in Sloan Management Review, What Does "Product Quality" Really Mean? (26:1 = 1984:Fall) summed up both Quality and Excellence in the value-based approach to defining quality where he describe quality as "performance at an acceptable price and Conformance at an acceptable cost". This definition ties quality to the business and the finance side of satisfaction for both the customer and the supplier. In the 7th quality principle of Relationship Management if the customer is faced with an unsustainable price for product or the supplier for cost of manufacturing/service both eventually die to the demands for profit. Quality should be integrated into sustainable business practices. The concept of excellence as the right way to have the right out come helps in the thought process as does balancing performance and conformance to keep price and cost in check.
--Dale Carter, 11-07-2014

Outstanding article. It's been well tought-out, clearly written and explained. It'll help us clarifying the actual meaning of old still undefined concepts
--Blasco A. Nunez, 11-03-2014

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