Quality is conformance to specified standards. Goodness is an undefended term, even an emotional one. Even excellence is subjective, a value judgment that will vary according to one’s background and culture. Everyone’s definition of goodness or excellence is a personal one.

For an organization to achieve a uniform level of quality, it must be able to clearly communicate what constitutes quality.

For example, The Collier Companies manages apartment communities. Our clubhouses and amenities areas form prospective customers’ first impressions, yet keeping them pristine is a challenge.

Sample specified standards of quality

– Clubhouse doors shall be clean and free of dust and smudges. If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.

– Packages should be kept out of sight. Clubhouses’ open areas and marketing areas should not be used for storage.

– While litter is not tolerated anywhere on a Collier Community, we are especially vigilant in high impact areas such as entrances and clubhouses. While Service staff runs regular litter patrols, ALL Team Members are expected to pick up litter when they see it. Office Team Members are expected to be especially watchful during weekends when Service may not be on duty.

Obviously, standards can only be so specific, or you end up with a 25-foot long shelf of policy manuals. At some point you rely upon common sense and human
initiative. Pictures (particularly “not this” pictures) can go a long way to creating a clear understanding of desired quality standards. To hold someone to a standard, it must be clearly communicated, which includes training, reinforcement, and repetition. It’s a lot of hard work to unambiguously think through, write down, and communicate expectations. When an organization fails to achieve quality, a common cause is a lack of clarity around setting and communicating its standards.

The true meaning of any communication you attempt can be found in the response you receive.

Closing quotes:

“Quality is the result of a carefully constructed cultural environment. It has to be the fabric of the organization, not part of the fabric.”  — Philip Crosby; 1926–2001, “Quality is Free”

“Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing…layout, processes, and procedures.”  — Tom Peters; 1942–, “In Search of Excellence”

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”  — William A. Foster; 1917–1945

“Quality is everyone’s responsibility.”  — W. Edwards Deming; 1900–1993