Meaning of Quality: Different Things to Different People

In my first job following university, I sold financial products on commission.  In this role, I had to memorize a script which I can still remember more than 20 years later.

“Financial planning means different things to different people.  To some, it means three square meals a day and a six-pack at the end of the week.  To others, it refers to complicated investment portfolios.  What does financial planning mean to you?”  

plan pyramidThis part of the sales pitch was intended to engage the prospective customer, and pinpoint their level of financial need and sophistication.  Based on that need, the rest of the sales approach could be adjusted to respond to the preferences and priorities of the customer, leading to a sale of an appropriate financial package.

When I taught Software Quality, I would begin my classes with a similar approach, asking about the types of product and company represented in the classrooms.  This was done for two reasons:

  • Determine the relative level of knowledge and sophistication of my students
  • Identify where to emphasize and prioritize my message.

start chartThe outcome would be a quadrant chart reflective of the types of organizations and software applications.  This knowledge would be helpful for me as an instructor to know how to connect and establish the relevance of my subject material, and helping my students to connect what they learned in the classroom with their workplace challenges.

For example, topics like Configuration Management, Change Management, and Release Management can vary, depending on the complexity of the product, as well as the company culture.   An approach that would be suitable for managing software for Aerospace or Medical Imaging (with legal compliance issues) would be overkill and counterproductive for a more entrepreneurial operation in an unregulated environment.  For example, a two-person operation making mobile gaming apps would not serve its best interests by establishing a rigid Change Control Board, even though this approach is specified in ISO, IEEE, and CMMI references.

So while Quality can be defined at a high level, the application of those Quality principles will vary based on the context of the systems, solutions, regulatory environment, market demands, and capabilities of those providing deliverables to customers.  The optimal solution will be affected by the various inputs affecting outcomes.

This consideration is also important when a Quality practitioner is shifting across industries, product types, or  organizational cultures.    The expertise of a qualified and experienced Quality practitioner is necessary to make the appropriate determination of the optimal Quality solution, thus validating my proposed definition of Quality.

Pursuit of optimal solutions contributing to confirmed successes fulfilling accountabilities.

About Daniel Zrymiak

I am the ASQ Regional Director for ASQ Region 4, Canada, for the 2015-2016 term. I aspire to collaborate and support with all quality practitioners worldwide, but especially with my fellow Canadian ASQ members and Member Leaders. I am a distinguished professional in Quality, having attained multiple recognitions through the American Society for Quality and International Academy for Quality as a practitioner, leader, author, conference speaker, and influential voice. My professional experience is currently in management consulting, and over the last 20 years I have been engaged in increasingly complex and progressive work in financial services, manufacturing, medical device development, software delivery, telecommunications, resources, and professional services. I have also taught quality and operations management at several post-secondary institutions in the Metro Vancouver area. LinkedIn Profile
This entry was posted in  All, Planning for Quality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.