Sunday, July 12, 2009

Is Seth Godin right about Quality?

In Seth Godin's blog of July 10, 2009 entitled "Quality, scale and the regular kind", Seth defines two types of quality.

1) He discusses the classic definition of quality which is commonly referred to as fitness for use or to meet specifications. According to Juran's Quality Handbook this would be called "Freedom from Deficiencies".

2) He defines a second type of quality as, " 'is it worth doing?'. The quality of specialness and humanity, of passion and remarkability." Paraphrasing from Juran the second type of Quality is really the features of products that provide customer satisfaction. In general this type of Quality costs more.

Seth uses an illustration in his blog about making breakfast from standard eggs and free range eggs to make his point. The free range eggs cost more, and provide him more personal satisfaction than the standard eggs. Because the free range eggs have the features of happier chickens, home preparation, David's salt it provides Seth more personal satisfaction with the meal. To this extent his example does meet the definition of higher quality according to Juran.

However, Seth leaves out customer in his definition by saying, " 'is it worth doing?'. The quality of specialness and humanity, of passion and remarkability." He is making judgements about what customers want such by adding the terms - specialness, passion and remarkability. These things are only important as long as the customer desires them and will pay the extra cost for them. Dr. Juran has made the correct assessment. It is the features of a product or service that lead to satisfaction. These features are what customers are willing to pay for.

Seth seems to imply that the second definition of quality is a more nobler pursuit in business.
My contention is that both definitions of quality have their time and place. Different products and services meet different market needs. All products and services come with both features and deficiencies/lack of deficiencies.

Please refer to Juran's Quality Handbook, 1999, 5th Edition, McGraw-Hill pages 2.1 and 2.2 for Juran's definitions of Quality.
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