Throw Out Quality – And Tell Me What You Really Want

October 11, 2011

In an open space session a couple of days ago, a colleague of mine said that we’re using the word quality a bit carelessly. I’d like to go one step further and say that it is a careless word. It is a careless, sloppy, non-specific word that leads to careless decisions and sloppy measurements, and I want to take it out back and put it to sleep.

We have pondered the question of what quality is for years and years. A number of smart people have come up with several good definitions of quality such as:

  • Fitness for use
  • Meeting and exceeding customer expectations
  • Satisfied stakeholders
  • etc …

These are all fine but they’re not very precise. Quality seems to be almost synonymous with “good”.
“Yes, I’m with the good assurance department. We make sure that the level of good in the product is at an acceptable level.”

Of course we want to make sure that our product is fit for use and satisfies our stakeholders but that won’t happen unless we become more explicit. What happens though when we use such a sloppy word is that management gets a non- or at least ill-defined parameter to negotiate with and to measure.
“At this point we must let costs take priority over good.”
“How is the good coming along in our product?”
“What KPIs do we have for measuring good in our product?”

I’m sorry, but I won’t answer one more question regarding quality from now on. You will have to be a lot more specific if you want to know how good the product is. If you want to know about usability, you will have to ask me about usability. If you want to know about maintainability, you will have to ask me about maintainability. If you want to know about errors in programming, you will have to ask me about errors in programming. I will probably keep probing even more about what you want to know and why you want to know it, but if you ask me about quality again, my answer will be … 42.

“So tell me what you want, what you really really want” – Spice Girls

One Response to “Throw Out Quality – And Tell Me What You Really Want”

  1. […] you’ve read my blog before you might have seen that I’m not particularly fond of the word “quality” because of it’s fuzziness but in this case I left it to the team to decide what they meant by […]

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