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What determines quality within an organisation?

A motor vehicle such as Rolls-Royce is widely acknowledged by consumers as being a product of pure quality, therefore people are prepared to pay the high asking price of such a vehicle, but luxury products does not necessarily equate to quality. Walnut dashboards and white kid leather seats are not a lot of good if the engine fails when the weather begins to get bad. Alternatively, you can get relatively cheap goods that can be of a high quality. Take machine copying paper for example. This you can purchase for very little initial outlay and yet this smooth, white paper which is less then 0.

01 inches thick copies without showing the print on the reverse. Quality implies fitness for use, alternatively quality means conformance to requirements. So both the customer as well as the manufacturer have a say when trying to define the word quality. Most working definitions around today usually involve the concepts of consistency, reliability and lack of errors/defects worded somewhere in the definition. The principle of the quality professional has changed considerably in recent years.

From its modest beginnings in the manufacturing department, it is now expected along with other infrastructure professions such as IT, HR and Finance,

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to contribute at the level of the organisation in question. David Straker, the author of the article What is quality? That first appeared in Quality World, the Journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance which is found in the Harvard Business Review, 2000 considers both existing definitions of the word quality and tries to come up with a few new ideas of his own.

At its simplest level quality can be said to answer these two questions – ‘What is wanted? ‘ and ‘How do we do it? ‘. Alternatively, the area that has always been associated with the word quality is the area of processes. From the years of the ISO 9000, to the modern day techniques such as total quality management or (TQM) as it is more commonly known, quality professionals specify, measure, improve and re-engineer processes to ensure that people get what they want. Many spectators in the field of operations management believe that Crosby’s definition can easily be discarded.

In their views, if the requirements are wrong, then failure is almost certainly guaranteed. His focus is in the area of quality assurance. Crosby believed that ‘without a specification, quality can not be measured, therefore can not be controlled’ he went on ‘You can not have zero defects if you do not have a standard against which to measure the defectiveness’. This seemed to reflect the early days of operations management where quality was just purely all about the product without any consideration of other variables and processes.

However, Juran seemed to take a step a bit further down the value chain, to the use of the product or service (at which point customers had forced their way into the picture), he still presupposes that outsiders can fully understand how the product will be used, which is a great challenge, and not always possible! (Staker, Harvard Business Review:2000) As Deming himself said ‘Some things are unknown and unknowable’. On the other hand the definition given by ISO 8402 recognises this uncertainty with its ‘implied need’. It uses the word ‘entity’ as opposed to the ‘product or service’.

Never the less, this definition again suffers from a simplistic, single minded focus – all we need to do is to figure out what is wanted and then deliver it is what the definition seems to be implying. Lets face it, at the end of the day the concept and the definition of the word quality is extremely difficult to define in any one singular sentence. The Institute of Quality Assurance more commonly known as (IQA) deals with all the terms in this area on its website (www. iqa. org) demonstrating the difficulty of pin pointing the word quality.

In the same way that we know a good room when we use one is of quality, but can not define exactly what makes it good, we can in fact name the attributes of quality, but can not define quality itself. Effectiveness and efficiency are also words that we hear people use when talking about quality. Effectiveness is all about meeting requirements usually of the customers, whilst efficiency is doing this at a minimal cost, which meets the needs of people such as the stakeholders and shareholders in particular of the organisation.

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