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Scott Paton

Quality Defined

Quality Digest readers consider the definition of quality.

In my December 1999 editorial, I asked our readers to give me their definitions of quality. The response has been impressive. To date, we've received more than 80 responses. The definitions range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from a few words to a few pages.

 Apparently, my innocent request caused quite a stir, even throwing quality guru and Quality Digest Online columnist Philip Crosby into a swivet. In his March column, Crosby questions why we need to even discuss what quality really means. "Can you imagine Accounting Digest asking for a definition of accounting?" he writes.

 Those of us who rely on accountants to calculate our taxes, write our paychecks and manage our investments hope that they have a uniform definition of accounting. Crosby insists that quality be defined as conformance to requirements, which is certainly a valid definition. Although I don't want to argue with his definition, I don't think quality should be limited to one definition. Quality rightly means different things to different people in different industries in different job functions.

 I thought I'd share a few of the definitions of quality here. The rest can be found on our Web site.

 Here are some of the more light-hearted definitions:

 Jim Taglieber of Miami Valley Steel Service Inc. says, "Quality is when the customer returns and the product doesn't."

  David Laschinger of Siemens ElectroCom LP tells us, "Quality is never having to say you're sorry."

 Mihail Liviu Iliescu of North American Detectors Inc. believes, "Quality is peace of mind."

  Satish Pendharkar of Thermax Babcock & Wilcox thinks, "Quality is working without hassles."

Here are few of the more serious definitions:

  Ginny Leutgeb of Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare tells us, "Quality is meeting the customer's needs in a way that exceeds the customer's expectations."

 Dr. Mildred Golden Pryor of Golden Pryor Consulting and Training says, "Quality is the extent to which products, services, processes and relationships are free from defects, constraints and items that do not add value for customers."

 Karl Albrecht of Karl Albrecht International defines quality in two ways:

"1. Objective quality is the degree of compliance of a process or its outcome with a predetermined set of criteria that are presumed essential to the ultimate value it provides. Example: the proper formulation of medicine.

2. Subjective quality is the level of perceived value reported by the person who benefits from a process or its outcome. It may subsume various intermediate quality measures, both objective and subjective. Example: the pain relief provided by medication."

 Dave Wiemer of Supervalu Inc. says, "Quality = Maximization of perceived value = Fulfillment of tangible and intangible expectations = (Good product or service performance + customer service)Attributes/Cost."

 As you can see, there are quite a number of different, yet valid, ways to define quality. Check out all of the responses and post your own definition of quality on our Web site at

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