On Quality

by on June 27, 2013
in book, design

An Excerpt taken from, The Value of The Finite

When you experience quality it is unmistakable. The hours of design, engineering, quality assurance, and production processes and standards that go into the sound that a car door makes when it is closed. The seamless fit-and-finish between the unibody chasis and backplate being rounded to the nearest nano-meter so that the device doesn’t collect lint from your back pocket. Being politely and promtly greeted with a smile, the music level is just right, you’re able to move through the tables without discomfort, the table is clean and set, it’s not too hot or too cold, there is a hook for your coat, the type on the menu is legible, it’s not too bright or too dim, you’re greeted again warmly, given just enough time to order, but never pressured, hurried, or neglected.

  • Quality is quiet and confident.
  • Quality has an element of suprise, it’s about getting more than you expected.
  • Quality has an element of balance, it’s never too much, nor too little.
  • Quality is paying attention to all of the small details, and ensuring that they are taken care of.
  • Quality is about giving a damn.
  • Quality is about getting it right most of the time.
  • Quality is about always, always making it right when something goes wrong.
  • Quality is about consistency so that you’re expectations aren’t lowered next time.
  • Quality is unmistakable because it is rare.

So how do you capture this rare and wild creature? How do you build quality world class design solutions, design teams, products?

Quality requires three simple things.

  1. Quality people
  2. Quality attitudes
  3. Quality priorities

Delivering quality requires people that care about quality. People who care about, pay attention to, and are sensitive to quality are pre-requisite to deliver it. From this perspective with this attitude and set of values, decisions get made a little differently, tradeoffs are made differently, and delivery is generally consittently at a higher-bar. You need people who understand and have experience in exchanging the currencies of quality within complex projects to be able to deliver quality products. Without them, you don’t have “it.”

Quality is an attitude. Some might even call it a religion. It’s a core value, like honesty or integrity, it’s not compromisable. It’s about getting it done right, not just getting it done. People who don’t understand this simply “don’t get-it.” Therefore when transalating this prespective value into the workplace, a aptitude and belief in quality is also required. This can lead to value conflicts as well so be careful if you really want “it.”

Finally quality is completely dependant on having clearly established priorities. Quality means knowing what is important, and conversely what is not important. By being laser-focused on what matters and equally aware of what doesn’t you can quite effectively drive quality into a product, and through to completion. If you don’t know what matters, and what doesn’t matter, you will be completely paralysed, you will never get a team aligned, and you will never ship.

Myths about quality:

  • Quality is expensive
  • Quality takes longer or can’t be done on time
  • Quality is subjective
  • Quality isn’t achievable
  • Quality is a hinderance to productivity
  • Quality can’t be measured

Things that compromise quality:

  • People that really don’t care
  • Not knowing what is important
  • Not knowing what isn’t important
  • Not taking the time to discuss and agree on what is important
  • Taking on too much
  • Underestimating how long things actually take
  • Having and maintaining a low standard for defects
  • Maintaining a bar of acceptable defects, rather than maintaining a acceptable quality bar
  • Only QA/test is there to ensure quality

Steps to build quality:

  • Make quality a core team value or principle
  • Manage folks out that don’t care enough to make “it” happen
  • Hire people that understand, and have a track record for successfully delivering high-quality
  • Be really, really clear with the team about what matters and what doesn’t – don’t deviate
  • Do a few things that are tangible, understandable, and do them really, really well – don’t deviate
  • Figure out how long it will really take to deliver – get quality estimates
  • Set a date – don’t deviate
  • Set a quality standard – meet it everyday
  • Everyone is accountable

Share Your Thoughts