Debanjan Mitra, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Marketing at the University of Florida, is a quality guru – whether quality professionals know it or not. Here’s why: have you ever been frustrated by all those definitions for quality (e.g. the transcendent “you know it when you see it”, Crosby’s “zero defects”, Juran’s “fitness for use”, or the ISO 8402 definition)? I’ve been frustrated too, but Mitra’s work has really helped me make sense of all these different perspectives on what quality is all about.
Mitra noticed that across many disciplines, there were different perspectives on what quality was all about. To understand the meaning of quality from the marketing perspective, which is his interest, he investigated over 300 journal articles in different fields. He found that there were five stages of the dynamic process of achieving and improving quality:
- Organizational antecedents – creating an organization whose capabilities can support achieving world-class quality in products and services
- Operational antecedents – designing quality into products, managing processes to achieve quality
- Production quality – meeting specifications for features, reliability and performance; adequately addressing aesthetics and customer taste preferences to create demand
- Customer consequences of quality – whether and how customers perceive quality, and how this impacts retention
- Market consequences of quality – in terms of market share, as well as the impact of quality and quality improvement on its contribution to profitability and global competitiveness
Here’s my rendition of Mitra’s original charts, showing the relationships between these areas:
“Zero defects” is an aspect of production quality. “Fitness for use” is part of the customer consequences of quality. Strategy, competitiveness and innovation can be related to any of these five categories, but particularly the market consequences of quality. The ISO 8402 definition is the only one that spans all five stages of the dynamic process.