More about Quality

Quality education is a simple enough question but one that is difficult to answer. A quality education depends on what your objectives are and what you are going to do with the education. For example, a quality education will differ depending on whether you want to get a management position at a small business or a PhD in philosophy. Defining a quality education depends on the stake you have in the institution that provides the education, whether you are a professor, student, administrator, or a company that hires students and graduates. In addition, a definition of a quality education must recognize that any education is part of a system. Quality in some part of the system may be fine, but poorer quality in other parts of the system still lead to reduction in the overall quality of the education.

Quality is complex concept that has become one of the most universally appealing in all of management theory. A quality revolution is truly afoot in business today. While this concern with quality has historical roosts (that we shall explore later), suffice it to say that every business today wants to have quality products and services, and by that they mean products and services that are better than average, perform to the level needed, and are affordable.

No two people talked to anywhere agree precisely on how to define quality. They quote John Stewart, a consultant at McKinsey There is no one definition of quality. Quality is a sense of appreciation that something is better than, something else. It changes in a lifetime, and it changes generation to generation, and it varies by facets of human activity. The meaning of quality changed at Motorola as people began to give it more importance.

With such an elusive definition, why is quality the subject of such emphasis? It is probably true that at least some of the companies or providers mentioned in the exercise are successful organizations, and that they are successful precisely because they focus on providing quality products and services to customers. Nevertheless, quality as it is used in management means more than our informal definition of a better than average product at a good price. It also means focusing on the production of increasingly better products and services at progressively more competitive prices. And it means doing things right in organizations on the first try rather than making and correcting mistaken. By focusing on doing things right the first time, organizations avoid the high costs associated with rework.

Recently Marshall Sashkin and Kenneth Kiser have attempted to define Total Quality Management (TQM), though they admit that their definition does not capture all of the necessary flavors for true understanding. Their definition attempts to capture the essence of W Edwards Deming’s philosophy of quality.

TQM means that the organization’s culture is defined by and supports the constant attainment of customer satisfaction through an integrated system of tools, techniques and training. This involves the continuous improvement of organizational processes, resulting to high quality products and services.

Many people consider attention to quality as one of the most important competitive issues of today and tomorrow. In fact, quality may be one of the most important ways a manager can add value to products and services to set them apart from those of a competitor. At one time, managers believed that there was an inevitable trade off between productivity and quality. They thought that the two were diametrically opposed that increasing one meant decreasing the other. Today, however, effective managers consider productivity and quality as two sides of the same coin one that can increase profits and build customer loyalty. As we saw in the case Motorola has learned this first hand. To understand how this new thinking about quality has shaped current management thinking we need to go back in time to the end of the Second World War.