What is Quality - Continuous Improvement
Test and Monitor | Posted March 25, 2013

We talk a lot about the importance of quality products. But what does the word "quality" really mean? Is it a subjective or objective trait? And how can anyone strive to achieve high quality without first understanding what that term actually entails? Over the next few weeks, we invite you to join us as we explore the meaning of the word "quality," and try to understand the role it plays in our everyday lives. In this post, Michael Giller gives his take on what the word "quality" means to him as a sales engineer at SmartBear.

What is quality? To me, quality is the perfect execution of the following steps:

  1. Devise a specific, attainable plan
  2. Work on the setup / put all the pieces together
  3. Execute according to plan
  4. Reap the rewards

Sounds simple (it really is), but I’m still amazed at how often this isn’t followed. Even with such simple paths, it is still tempting to stray off into other directions that will sway you from the path you set yourself. So, on your way to quality, keep the following points in mind:

quality life cycleFirst of all, reduce wasteful activity. Are you holding meetings to provide information that could have been delivered in a memo? Are there multiple documentation procedures that record the same thing? Do you have manual tasks that could easily be automated? Audit your own processes and simplify all of those activities that aren't as efficient as they possibly can be.

Make sure to avoid inconsistencies. This could be calling out someone for a mistake their counterpart makes routinely and gets away with. It could be a completely surprising overhaul of the product without prior notification to the users.

Foolproof everything. Foolproof your process so that if someone is deviating from the protocol, the monitoring process will raise a flag and allow for corrections. Also foolproof your product. Don’t underestimate your end users in the scenarios that could lead your product to break. For software, run everything with minimal permissions. For hardware, run it in the desert sun or arctic cold. Throw your product in a blender, get the sledgehammer out. This is where your QA processes really come in.

When you do find issues, address and fix root causes rather than symptoms. If you keep patching things with duct tape, your duct-taped product will not be nearly as attractive as competitors’. This, again, is a point where working twice as hard to fix root cause will avoid ten fixes in future findings.

Keep improvement process continuous. Rinse and repeat. Deviating from these simple principles a little bit will have a snowball effect. For example, hold a wasteful meeting, your coworkers will do the same. But when you try to chew out one of the coworkers to get the process back on track, your inconsistency will cause resentment and a drop in morale. In the meantime your competitor will do a better job, and now you're behind in the market place.

Of course, it’s a worst case scenario, but keeping to these principles will lead you ahead of the competition with a significant lead. This process involves continuous improvement, and the longer you keep this up, the more you instill this as part of the daily routine, and more quality will be built into your products and processes.

What do you think? Is there a way that you define "quality" at your job or in your personal life? Answer the quick survey below to let us know what it means from your perspective. 


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