In a few days I’m starting to teach my next Total Quality Management class at the Bachelor level. As it happens every semester, first I need to make my students think what quality in fact means.
What is it? How to define it? What is this “thing” which they are supposed to know how to manage and improve?
Often I start my talks on quality with a description which basically says that quality is simply indefinable – it’s like love*. “Everybody knows and feels when there is love. Everybody recognises it. But when we try to give a definition of it, we are left standing with empty hands” (Vroeijenstijn, 1995).
In 1997 I went with my friends to Croatia. We were driving from Poland and back. We didn’t have enough money to be able to afford everything we wanted. At the same time we wanted to have fun. Such a dilemma made us choose between different options of our diet. The main component of it happened to be a watermelon. These were very cheap comparing to everything else. Nevertheless, after a week of our holidays, we basically were starving, lacking a concrete food.
We started our return trip to Poland. I can remember it was heavily raining when we reached the outskirts of Zagreb. Suddenly we saw it – a big billboard, informing that there would be McDonald’s only a few kilometers ahead. All of us were so excited. We started planning what we would eat at the venue. You probably know the McDonald’s menu. You can imagine what options we had. My friends and I, we all decided what we wanted, and at the same time – what we expected to have. We arrived, we ordered what we had planned to eat, we ate it, and guess what happened next?
We were extremely happy! Our expectations were met.
The point is that it doesn’t matter where you order your McRoyal, whether it is Zagreb, Warsaw or Fujairah. It always tastes the same. Genichi Taguchi would say that this is a “uniformity around a target value”. I’m saying, if you want to reach such a state of quality, you need to be aware of different kinds of requirements, standards, procedures, approaches… You’ll have your high quality McRoyal, meaning a consistent quality of your product or service, only if you know what you are doing and what the measurable standards are. Once you know that, you can manage quality since quality is a result – the result of being aware!
If you think I’m saying that McDonald’s offers higher quality food or is of higher quality than your favorite restaurant, you didn’t understand what I had to say.
*Note: there are circumstances under which you must not start your lecture in this particular way.