Navigating Changing Expectations: The Evolution from Quality 1.0 to Quality 2.0

In the times before the industrial revolution, the concept of quality was subjective, based on personal aesthetics. Beauty, excellence, and artistry drove the demands of consumers, with creators shaping unique products catering to individual tastes. However, there was a clear absence of quality professionals – only creators and consumers existed.

The inception of Quality 1.0, dating back to the late 18th century, ushered in an era where customer requirements took center stage. Quality started to emphasize replicability, precision, and uniformity. Thus, the role of quality professionals was born. These individuals had to unravel customer needs, transform them into internal guidelines known as specifications, and ensure compliance to these standards. The focus was on satisfying customers’ “expected” and “must-have” needs – those needs that customers were consciously aware of. This was a demanding task, yet, as we transition into Quality 2.0, the stakes are becoming even higher.

Quality 2.0 calls for a comprehensive approach towards meeting the expectations of all critical stakeholders, not just the customers. This means understanding not only the known demands but also uncovering the latent desires that make our products or services unique. These unknown desires, or “Wow” factors, are attributes that stakeholders never explicitly requested but, once experienced, leave them amazed. Identifying these “Wow” requirements that stakeholders didn’t even know they had can be the game-changer in a competitive business environment.

But how can we unveil these hidden requirements?

One approach is to harness the power of visionaries. Consider the example of Alexander Graham Bell; before him, nobody realized they needed a telephone. Each one of us can play the visionary by tapping into our shared human experiences. Reflect on your desires in your job, your purchases, your investments. What is missing that you wish was there? Your answers might spark an idea for a Wow requirement.

Intuit Inc., the company behind Quicken and TurboTax software, suggests another method known as “follow me home.” This strategy involves observing customers in their natural environments, understanding their struggles, and identifying ways to enhance their experience. By doing so, we can unlock potential solutions that make their lives easier, more efficient, or more fulfilling.

Quality 2.0 has significantly reshaped the role of quality professionals. In the past, their role was somewhat passive, mainly concerned with understanding customer requirements and ensuring that products and services met those expectations. They depended on marketing to identify product requirements, engineering to translate those requirements into specifications, and manufacturing to produce the goods.

Moving forward, the role of quality professionals needs to evolve from being reactive to proactive. The modern quality professional must guide the organization in capturing stakeholder requirements, translating them into tangible metrics, and constantly monitoring performance against these metrics.

These metrics, categorized as key requirements and differentiators, form the backbone of the organization’s balanced scorecards. While key requirements are operational metrics that need to be competitive, differentiators are strategic metrics that should set us apart as industry leaders. These are tracked using a dashboard that helps identify strategic change projects and drives operational plans. By carefully monitoring the dashboard, leadership can make informed decisions, altering strategies as necessary.

Welcome to Quality 2.0 – an invigorating and demanding new era for quality professionals. This evolution brings with it a whole host of challenges, but also boundless opportunities to exceed stakeholder expectations and create unique value.