What is quality? We talk of the “quality of life.” We look for quality products and services when we shop. But what does quality mean?

A few decades ago there was a Total Quality Management initiative in the business world. At the beginning, quality was put in terms of specifications, measurements and tedious documentation.

As the quality movement progressed, the way quality was understood and defined changed drastically. It moved from a narrow technical focus to being focused on each individual's specific need and interest. Quality in some contexts, such as manufacturing, continues to include precise numbers, measurements and specifications.

Yet for most of us, at our work and in our personal life, quality is defined by the immediate context and with our own individual perspective, personal preference and unique set of needs and interests. Providing a quality product and service today is much more challenging and difficult because what quality means is different for each customer, each individual.

This sounds a bit crazy, yet it is true. I mentioned quality of life earlier. How you define quality of life will be different from most every other person. For one person it will focus on material things, clothes, gadgets and money in the bank. For another person it can be health, having a life partner, enjoying work and fulfilling a life dream.

What does quality of life mean for you and your family? The understanding of quality is a personal and professional quest and journey. It is the discovery of what is meaningful and important to you and what is important to others.

It has to do with value, worth and purpose. What are the areas where quality matters to you? Work on your automobile? The type of care you expect from your doctor? When you go to a restaurant, the food and service? When you shop at the grocery store, what the produce items look like?

If you have a business, what is the quality image you want to project to your customers? What does quality specifically mean to you in terms of the products and services you provide? Being friendly, cleanliness, freshness, being timely, accuracy, done right the first time, efficiency, hospitality, follow up or asking each customer what quality means to them — what is quality for you as compared to your customers’ expectations?

Quality is a person's unique and specific set of standards and expectations regarding a product or service. What does it look like and feel like? Does it work effectively and efficiently? Will it last? Is it the best as compared to other such products or services? Is it pleasing, impressive to the level of “wow”? Am I proud of it?

A few years ago, I was a part of an organization that had a “university” learning initiative for its employees. Each week we had a class on Monday morning focused on quality. Over the next few weeks, I'll share some of the topics, questions and my personal learning from my experience with that process.

Bernie Linnartz, senior partner of Empowerment Experts, can be reached at (575)-751-3777.

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