ASQ Influential Voices Contribution: Definition of Quality

In his January blog post titled “What is Quality?,” Paul Borawski, CEO of ASQ, writes “If someone has a single declarative definition, it would be a real service to the quality community.’” Paul asks, “What is your definition of quality?”

How My Students Define Quality

Week 2 of this semester I asked my MGMT 370 Quality/Operations Management students to take a stab at defining quality. Seven groups with 5 students each put their heads together to craft their own definition of quality. Students were allowed to reference other definitions but if their definition turned out to be even loosely based on someone else’s they were required to credit the source.
Below are my student’s submissions. Some liberty was taken with regard to editing their statements, but not much. Any resemblance to someone else’s definition of quality is purely happenstance.

  • Quality is meeting and/or exceeding customer expectations of form, function, and service. Quality is the voice [an expression or outcome] of a company which can be measured by applying statistical tools.
  • Quality is a degree of excellence of product or service when compared to the competition and standards.
  • Quality is the total best cost for the best product; you get what you pay for! Quality is meeting and exceeding customer expectations and an ongoing process of building and sustaining relationships by anticipating needs. Quality varies from company to company and within companies.
  • Quality means a product or service has exceeded standards of what is expected in an industry; accepted/acceptable by the customer. A reputation for quality sets a standard for what is expected. Quality results from tested, processes of research and development. Quality continually improves through change. Quality sets you apart from your competitors, has appeal, is durable, and meets standards set by industries.
  • Quality is subjective, a level of excellence, is reliable, maintainable or sustainable, and is durable.
  • Quality means getting what you pay for as a consumer and creating a product that lasts as a producer. It is a Utopian idea of how a product is made or service produced by obtaining the finest ingredients to produce the highest quality product or service. Quality is a comparative measure by which other products or services are judged. Invoking the perception of quality; the gold standard; the Cadillac of…
  • Quality has two different prongs: consumer quality and producer quality. Consumer quality is a subjective perception of quality surpassing that of the competitors. Producer quality is the measurable aspects working toward a final predetermined outcome.
  • Quality is the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind. In order to know something is quality we need to have a standard of something to measure it against. Everything has a different standard of quality so that is why we need different standards for which to make comparisons.
How My ASQ Student Branch Members Define Quality

I challenged our ASQ student branch members at Ferris State University – Grand Rapids to take a stab at defining Quality. Find our student branch on Facebook at!/groups/asqrsofsu/.
To jump start the topic I asked: Is Quality defined as Function and fit? Customer satisfaction? Compliance with requirements? Meeting customer specifications? Producing parts within tolerance? Defect free? On-time delivery of product or services? Or is quality more of an abstract such as: Luxury? A gut feeling? Or the "wow" factor? A couple student branch members' responses follow:
  • Quality is all of the above. There is requirement from the customer and without satisfaction the customer will go somewhere else. I work with Ford components for the F150, 250, and 350, one of the earlier customers changed the machine without Ford's knowledge, which then created a defect on our end. It took two months to discover where the problem stemmed from, and a lot of money involved. Therefore production, meeting requirements, defect free, and on-time delivery are all a part of quality.
  • I perceive Quality as the end user’s (consumer) perception of the goods. Fit/function requirements, design specifications and customer satisfaction data points (on-time delivery, defect free) are all driven back from there. Even if you produce goods to specification for your “customer” and they are satisfied, if the end user or consumer does not like it, quality is still perceived as low. This is where the emphasis within manufacturing to watch JD Power initial quality ratings and consumer satisfaction surveys come from. These items will drive tighter tolerances or new designs in order for that customer to stay in front of their competition to catch the highest share of the market in quality. However, the inverse of this, too tight of customer satisfaction requirements, drive unnecessary cost into a product that the end user would never perceive as being low in quality. Voice of the end consumer is key.
My Single Declarative Definition of Quality

Like beauty, quality is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe more accurately, the “definition of quality” is in the eye of the beholder. Most of us, in my opinion, recognize quality when we experience it. We know what “Wows!” us. Below is my single, declarative definition of quality.
  • Quality is an abstract state of excellence or goodness characterized by the extent to which discriminating consumers are satisfied with the particular product and/or service consumed.
Paul Borawski suggested we test our definition of quality against a variety of questions. These include: “Does your definition cover the difference between cassette tapes and CDs? Does it cover an explanation between a low-cost vehicle and a luxury vehicle? Could you use your definition in explaining quality to the CEO of your company? Does your definition embrace what benefit quality brings to humanity if fully realized?”
Does my definition of quality, or any of these definitions of quality listed above, stand the test of Paul’s questions? I welcome your comments.

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