Quality, it seems, is harder to define than one might think. The article’s author, Tom Gaskell. takes yet another stab at defining this slippery term. He begins by presenting the widely accepted, intuitive definition of quality as goodness, luxury, or high priced exclusivity. While this is not incorrect, it is of limited use to those interested in improving the quality of their non-luxury product or service. Gaskell then alludes to the definitions of W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, Phillip Crosby and ISO 9000, all offering definitions based on customer requirements and demands.
This is, of course, the basis of quality as used in Six Sigma and Lean. As Gaskell correctly points out
“Quality is about meeting requirements, exactly and in full. It isn’t about providing more and more features, or complexity, or performance, or ‘goodness’ that increases cost, takes longer to provide or makes it more difficult to use, and may not be required or expected by the customer.”
Six Sigma broadens this definition by including quality “requirements” that the customer doesn’t even know about. By studying customers Design for Six Sigma (DfSS) identifies latent customer requirements and designs new products and services that deliver them. These unexpected and delightful features soon become requirements that customers demand in the future, thereby becoming quality requirements as defined by the quality gurus. If, on the other hand, customers see these as mere baubles that they don’t want to pay for, the new features become waste and are eliminated. Thus, in the end, it is the customer who decides on the definition of quality.