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Friday, June 8, 2012

Lean Quote: Quality Defined, More Than Standards

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The problem of quality management is not what people don't know about it. The problem is what they think they do know." — Philip Crosby

"Quality" means different things to different people. We use the term but the concept and vocabulary of quality is elusive. If you ask someone to define the word "quality", you may get a variety of answers.

Manufacturing-based definitions are concerned primarily with engineering and manufacturing practices and use the universal definition of “conformance to requirements.” Requirements, or specifications, are established design, and any deviation implies a reduction in quality. In service industries, customer satisfaction is often the primary measure.

Excellence in quality is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder but rather in the standards set by the organization. This approach has serious weaknesses. The consumer’s perception of quality is equated with conformance and hence is internally focused. Emphasis on reliability in design and manufacturing tends to address cost reduction as the objective, and cost reduction is perceived in a limited way–invest in design and manufacturing improvement until these incremental costs equal the costs of non-quality such as rework or scrap.

Quality is important to businesses but can be quite hard to define. The meaning of quality differs depending upon circumstances and perceptions. For example, quality is a different concept when focusing on tangible products versus the perception of a quality service. Quality is built in to the very fiber of the organization.

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