A frequently used definition of quality is "Delighting the customer by fully meeting their needs and expectations".

These may include performance, appearance, availability, delivery, reliability, maintainability, cost effectiveness and price. It is, therefore, imperative that the organization knows what these needs and expectations are. In addition, having identified them, the organization must understand them, and measure its own ability to meet them.

Quality starts with market research - to establish the true requirements for the product or service and the true needs of the customers. However, for an organization to be really effective, quality must span all functions, all people, all departments and all activities and be a common language for improvement.

The cooperation of everyone at every interface is necessary to achieve a total quality organization, in the same way that the Japanese achieve this with companywide quality control.


Customers and suppliers

There exist in each department, each office, and each home, a series of customers, suppliers and customer supplier interfaces. These are "the quality chains", and they can be broken at any point by one person or one piece of equipment not meeting the requirements of the customer, internal or external.

The failure usually finds its way to the interface between the organization and its external customer, or in the worst case, actually to the external customer. Failure to meet the requirements in any part of a quality chain has a way of multiplying, and failure in one part of the system creates problems elsewhere, leading to yet more failure and problems, and so the situation is exacerbated.

The ability to meet customers' (external and internal) requirements is vital. To achieve quality throughout an organization, every person in the quality chain must be trained to ask the following questions about every customer-supplier interface.


Customers (internal and external)

  • Who are my customers ?
  • What are their true needs and expectations ?
  • How do, or can, I find out what these are ?
  • How can I measure my ability to meet their needs and expectations ?
  • Do I have the capability to meet their needs and expectations ?
  • If not, what must I do to improve this capability ?
  • Do I continually meet their needs and expectations ?
  • If not, what prevents this from happening when the capability exists ?
  • How do I monitor changes in their needs and expectations ?


Suppliers (internal and external)

  • Who are my internal suppliers ?
  • What are my true needs and expectations ?
  • How do I communicate my needs and expectations to my suppliers ?
  • Do my suppliers have the capability to measure and meet these needs and expectations ?
  • How do I inform them of changes in my needs and expectations? As well as being fully aware of customers' needs and expectations, each person must respect the needs and expectations of their suppliers. The ideal situation is an open partnership style relationship, where both parties share and benefit.


Poor practices

To be able to become a total quality organization, some of the bad practices must be recognized and corrected. These may include:

  • Leaders not giving clear direction
  • Not understanding, or ignoring competitive positioning
  • Each department working only for itself
  • Trying to control people through systems
  • Confusing quality with grade
  • Accepting that a level of defects or errors is inevitable
  • Firefighting, reactive behavior
  • The "It's not my problem" attitude



(source: management programmes)