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Achieving quality delivery in Products, service or projects

By Okechukwu Onwuka
Quality connotes different things to different people. In fact, the issue of what constitutes quality         can be as diverse as life as itself. What one man considers to be of top quality might be absolute rubbish to another.

Working on projects such as residential buildings, it is common to have supervisors have extensive arguments and disputes with craftsmen such as masons who claim the tasks have been completed despite the visibility of obvious defects in finishing and quality. Even in football, definition of quality can vary widely.

This is interesting given the fact that it is the absolute measure of who scores the higher number of goals that wins a match; there are many football coaches, managers and even fans who will never accept their team’s performance in victory if not achieved with flowing and beautiful soccer display. Arsenal, Manchester United (A team I dislike with passion though…because of their logo and inscription), Barcelona, and Brazil are examples of teams whose supporters cannot accept nor sacrifice skills and fluidity of soccer for score victory.

For these teams and their fans, minimum quality delivery is winning by playing beautiful football. Although I’m a huge fan of Jose Maurinho, particularly when he started with Chelsea FC, I cannot say his teams play beautiful football. You have the feeling though that his teams will win but not a function of the quality of football.

His current team, Inter Milan is following the same pattern. The type of football that Barcelona currently plays is one major reason that Manchester United is seriously considering Pep Guardola, Barcelona coach as potential successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. When Leventis United, many years ago stormed the Nigerian League scene winning the League a number of times with many of their victories ending as 1-0 score line, very few accepted their approach to the game which was viewed as being ultra defensive.

The diversity of views regarding what is acceptable quality has given rise to the development of systems, standards and definitions for what constitutes quality in a number of fields. Many organizations such as International Standards Organization (ISO), American Petroleum Institute(API), Project Management Institute (PMI) have helped shape the way that individuals and companies handle the issue of Quality Definition, Management and Control.

The Business Dictionary defines Quality in four broad areas namely: General, Manufacturing, Objective, and Subjective. We’ll look at these definitions together with practical application and tips.

GENERAL: Measure of excellence or state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations. ISO 8402-1986 standard defines quality as “the total of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy rated or implied needs. To be able to detect whether a product or service is free from defects, deficiencies or variations, the end-user, owner or manager must first state in writing all measurable features of the product and their expected standard of completion and finishing.

This information must be clearly communicated to the contractor, labourer or implementing party before work commences. The group or person executing the task must also accept responsibility in writing for achieving the desired quality standards as part of the job completion scope. It is these documents and agreements that make it easy to verify compliance with minimum friction.

It is common to hear contractors or craftsmen say that they have years of experience in executing similar tasks. While that may be true, it is possible that they may not have worked for people whose Quality Assurance standards are as high as yours.

MANUFACTURING: Strict and consistent adherence to measurable and verifiable standards to achieve uniformity of output that satisfies specific customer or user requirements. The Quality value of toothpaste is not in its colour or packaging.

The real quality in addition to taste and external visual appeal includes the ability to remove teeth stains, clear bad breath, prevent tooth decay, keep gums healthy and leave the mouth fresh all day long. In other words, a toothpaste brand with a beautiful pack, lovely gel colour, wonderful taste, nice smell but still fails to prevent tooth decay or leave the mouth fresh will still be considered a poor quality product. Spending millions in advertising and branding without correcting these flaws in quality will be simply foolish.

The results will always show in reduced sales or poor market penetration. What use is a cell phone whose battery life is less than 1 hour in Nigeria?  What use is a beautifully designed shoe that deteriorates sharply after being worn a few times? What good is bottled water if it has taste? Who wants to buy a beautiful car that is known to break down every month or requires frequent and expensive maintenance?

OBJECTIVE: Measurable and verifiable aspect of a thing or phenomenon, expressed in numbers or quantities, such as lightness or heaviness, thickness or thinness, softness or hardness. Regulations require concrete to achieve minimum strength using standard tests. Writing contract agreements that require successful crushing tests before civil contractors are paid is one way to enforce compliance.

SUBJECTIVE: Attribute, characteristic, or property of a thing or phenomenon that can be observed and interpreted, and may be approximated (Quantified) but cannot be measured, such as beauty, feel, flavor, taste. A good towel should absorb water easily from the body. What good is a consultant or customer relations person who lacks courtesy, is self centered or seen to be brash, insensitive or shallow?

Of course you cannot measure the quality of skills on display in a football match but the oohs, aahs,…and type of sounds that erupt from fans when a match is going on say a lot about the quality. Maradona, Ronaldinho, Pele, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, JJ Okocha, Zinedine Zidane, Segun Odegbami, Beckam, Fabregas, Adokie Amasiemeka, Seidou Keita, Stoichov are some footballers whose quality cannot be contested. Michael Jackson, R Kelly, Bebe and Cece Winans, Celine Dion, TuFace Idibia, StylPlus, Buchi, Midnight Crew are  just a few of the many musicians whose quality cannot be denied.

Whatever you do, be sure that you understand what constitutes quality to the customer and commit to go the extra mile to achieve it. The rewards will bring smiles to your face. And to your bank account too.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.