When last we heard from Cecil, Destructor, 19 pound hell-kitty, he had taught me all he knew about code review. He’s a smart feline and is able to impart his wisdom in ways that make me smile. All this recent talk about quality made me realize that it was time for another heart-to-heart chat with my single-minded cat.
As I sit in the kitchen drinking my tea, I watch as Cecil approaches the counter, stands on his hind legs, places his big paws carefully on the edge of the granite, and stretches. It’s a long stretch… gratifying and obviously of high quality. He meows with pleasure and plops down in the sun beams streaming through the window blinds. He’s satisfied. Replete. Serene. Sleepy—which makes me very happy; it means he’s uninterested in attacking the curtains.
This gets me thinking. From Cecil’s perspective, I have a job to do. As a responsible pet parent, my role is to pat, stroke, love, adore, provide excellent food, tolerate what often borderlines on exasperating kitty antics and scoop the poop - this last part is an unappealing task since he is a big cat! Cecil’s job is to be a spoiled kitty, sleep all day, attack his sister’s in the middle of night (only on weeknights—how does he know?), complain loudly over nothing in particular, and share his insight on life and how to live it.
The fact that Cecil experiences a high quality home life is the result of my tireless efforts to make him happy and my ability to tolerate bad-kitty behavior manifested at a relentless pace. Perhaps in his view, “quality” is reflected by his ability to get away with the heinous acts in which he regularly indulges that disregard even minimum standards of decorum. Cecil has no respect for etiquette—none. He displays his disdain for decency daily by performing personal hygiene on the kitchen table, his kitty butt carefully situated in the middle of whichever placement has been freshly laundered, his legs extended in fascinatingly impossible yoga positions. Such improprieties are unacceptable! It makes me crazy when he so overtly thumbs his paw at social graces! I race around the house chasing him with a squirt bottle.
Back to the point.
My job is to keep Cecil happy. When I do my job well, I am greeted with much kitty love and playfulness. When I fail, someone throws a hissy fit and directs waves of destruction toward home furnishings and anything fleece.
Software has a job to do as well. Prospects entertain the notion of purchasing and implementing a tool or solution based on their need, the job they want done, and the underlying pain driving their desire to learn about the product now. Quality in this context is often expressed by a customer’s delight in discovering that, after the software is implemented, it actually performs the job that was promised. When it doesn’t, the software is considered to be either of “poor quality,” meaning that it was buggy or sub-standard, or the result of deceptive sales or marketing tactics, in that additional and unanticipated investment was required to achieve the desired goal—if the goal is ever even met.
Neither of these scenarios is good, and both are unacceptable from the customer perspective.
I pat Cecil and ponder. Does the perception of quality derive from the reality of quality within the product or from the customer’s belief that it exists and in the anticipation of experiencing it?
I think aloud.
Is quality sometimes so associated with brand that people place their want (a desired experience) before their need (what job the product must perform)? And if the user experience is substantially better than expected, does that imply higher quality? By cleaning his paw nonchalantly, Cecil adroitly communicates his view that one’s wants are one’s needs for those with a discerning palette and exceptional taste—quality is an expectation.
Leave it to the “lazy boy” to offer that single-minded perspective! Begrudgingly, I tell Cecil that I think he is right. When we can, most of us associate the result of quality with a memorable or worthwhile experience… a smooth ride on leather seats, cigar smoke that wafts mellow, HDTV, a breeze—just the right temperature— whispering through kitty fur, and software that meets customer expectations.
The product not only gets the job done, but also engenders something more: satisfaction; reward; trust; that relaxing sensation one feels after ingesting more than his share of tuna flavored kitty snacks. Here, the essence of quality lingers and encourages you to share, discuss and return for more of whatever provided the quality experience— such experiences are pursued with varying levels of enthusiasm, of course, depending on whether you are human or feline. The point is that they all result from some level of quality.
I stare at Cecil lovingly. We’ve shared yet another meaningful and quality interaction. He mews. I smile. I kiss my kitten.