Quality is a term which is one of the most commonly used word in day to day context; majorly meaning goodness, expensive even used in comparative terms as better quality, even at times used in oxymoronic combination like bad quality, which is actually not possible, why? We will talk about in a while. But what does quality actually mean?
Quality has become a big business there are people and organizations giving consultancy in the field charging huge sums of money. There are various certifications in place which certify an organization as a quality organization. All right; but what is this Quality and how one can certify an organization system or process having quality, is quality an individual trait or an organizational feature or is it both, does former leads to later or vice versa?
Is quality a marketable characteristic? Is it a commodity if yes what is the cost of quality? How it can be measured? What is the system or process of quality?
Let’s take an example of fountain pens; we have pens priced at a vast range starting from Flair Inky Gold Liquid Fountain Pen costing Rs. 75/- to Montblanc Boehme Royal Pen costing $1.5 Million. Now which of these two pens have quality? Most of you definitely consider saying Montblanc has the quality because it’s more expensive but since I can’t AFFORD it, I would chose Flair. OK, now another question, do all the people who can afford Montblanc actually buy the pen. You would say probably no. Don’t these people need writing instruments? Yes sure they do; so, why they don’t buy the “best” pen which they can afford also. If you ask them they would probably answer they don’t NEED it. And if you can ask them further as to why they don’t NEED it? They might tell you, well I don’t really REQUIRE it or the pen which I use SATISFIES my REQUIREMENT; and if you ever get to meet the person who actually bought this $1.5 Million MontBlanc and ask him why did he buy this pen, he might say Oh I was waiting for this pen to come to the market as it suits my STYLE and has the RIGHT ATTITUDE, I just wanted to purchase this piece of jewelry.
The answer to definition of quality lies in the response that you and the person who purchased MontBlanc gave, that “the pen which I bought confirms to my requirement and need”. People like you and me buy pen just as a writing instrument, but people who can afford MontBlanc and purchase it, buy it as a social statement, a status symbol. The pen, when it’s a MontBlanc is no longer a pen; it’s a piece of jewelry.
So, different people look for different attributes in the pen, you may be rich and might afford a MontBlanc, a Cross, or a Scheaffer but you may still not purchase, or may not carry with you. Why? You may say, well many students borrow my pen, and I lose it quite often I would not like to lose such an expensive pen, hence I would use a pen which writes well and also not very expensive so that even if I lose it I don’t lose much.
So your requirement is “The pen has to write well, and it should come cheap” and MontBlanc or a Cross, or Scheaffer doesn’t fit into that requirement. Whereas for a CEO of an organization, he wants a pen “Which writes well, it should be expensive to match my status”
With this explanation we may say that the definition of Quality is – “Conformance to Requirement”, which actually it is.
Now what is the cost of quality?? Or is there any cost at all involved??
The answer to this is in the system for quality. The system of quality is doing things right the first time, every time. If one identifies the requirement from a product or service, and then confirms with it, every time it is delivered, there is no cost involved. We are talking about cost of quality not of the product. Product or service will have their cost anyway. But to make that product or service “quality”, one is simply required to adhere to the system of quality, which is doing things right the first time, every time. Quality happens, FREE. So Quality is free.
For example, who would you call a quality student? To find the answer to this question you need to think, what is the requirement from a quality student? One who attends classes daily, is attentive in his class, clarifies his doubts with his teacher, refers to books in the library to upgrade his knowledge, completes his assignments on time, is always inquisitive and seeking, uses his time judiciously, and above all is teachable and has a strong will to learn new things; there can be many more attributes which you might think in addition to those listed above.
So if a student confirms to all the above mentioned requirements, don’t you think he will get excellent grades in his examination, perform well in interviews and people would call him a quality student. He is paying the same fee, doesn’t have to pay anything extra to become quality student, hence QUALITY IS FREE.
But yes there is cost involved, suppose our student fails on one or many of the above mentioned criteria, DOESN’T CONFIRM TO THE REQUIREMENT of being a student. He may have to take extra classes, borrow notes from his friend work extra time, or may even fail his examination. This additional cost in terms of time, money, respect, and career is the PRICE which he will have to pay as Price Of Non-Conformance (PONC). So, the cost of quality is price of non-conformance. And system of quality is prevention of Non-Conformance, doing things right the first time, every time thereby setting the performance standard of quality as Zero Defect.
You can start with identifying the areas of your activity, behavior where you find you need improvement, and take personal quality initiative to get over those defects, and turn them into your strengths.
Best wishes. Let’s join the quality movement towards excellence and contribute towards building our nation.
Krishna kant Bajpai
School of Management Sciences, Varanasi