But here’s another way to frame it: Quality is one of four ways to measure work – and often the most important.
1. Measures of Output
How much work was produced? You can usually identify and report the number of units, pounds, or other output measures, no matter what kind of work it is: The number of bricks laid, number of bags of pretzels shipped, number of ounces of gold mined, etc. Managers generally seek to increase quantity.
How good was the work produced? Were all the bricks plumb? Did each bag of pretzels contain 12 ounces? How pure was the gold? Managers almost always want better or higher quality.
How long did it take to do the work? It’s easy to measure this, though we don’t always do it too well. Managers like to see time savings.
What was the cost of doing the work? Good managers look for ways to save or reduce costs.
When we can increase output (quantity or quality) or reduce input (time or cost), it’s good, right? Maybe – and maybe not. When you push more work out the door (good), it usually takes longer and costs more (bad).
When you speed up the work or cut costs (good), the quantity and quality can – and usually do – suffer (bad). So movement in a desirable direction of one measure can give you offsetting and undesirable movement in others. There are countless examples of this.
One possible exception is emphasis on quality. Improved quality does not automatically reduce output, take longer, or cost more.
In fact, when you have fewer rejects, less re-do work, and better processes, you may actually get improvement – not offsets-in the other three. Is it guaranteed? No, but it’s a much safer bet than stressing one of the other three. And those are just the hard measures. When you think of employee buy-in, client acceptance, image, reputation, and other soft measures, it’s much easier to get buy-in.
There are scores of ways to improve quality. The smart manager is always looking for them. Ask Navigate about some great places to start at firstname.lastname@example.org. –Brad Malone, Partner, Navigate Management Consulting
Image by: Stuart Miles