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Quality Matters Not Quantity Essay Definition

Nonpartisan Education Review / Essays: Volume 7, Number 6

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Quality vs. Quantity

Daniel M. Stamm

This essay compares American and Asian education and illustrates how quantity is chosen over quality in the U.S. in the areas of teacher training, research in education, curriculum and textbook design, and the level of education given highest priority. After demonstrating that Japanese teacher-conducted classroom research (lesson study) has resulted in more practical, higher quality curriculum, textbooks, and teachers manuals, it address the objections to the use of those materials in the United States to improve teacher training and student achievement.





    The misguided choice of quantity over quality is made nowhere more consistently than in American education. It occurs in teacher education, educational research, size of curricula and the length of textbooks. In addition, perhaps most important of all, primary schooling is emphasized far less than secondary and higher education, leading to a weak foundation revealed by poor results on comparative tests of mathematics achievement, and in the need for remedial coursework at the higher levels we favor so much.



Teacher Training


     It applies very strikingly to the education of teachers. In Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics (1999), Liping Ma relates that the Chinese elementary teachers she studied had only nine years of compulsory education and two or three years of normal (teacher training) school. The American teachers, in contrast, had bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Despite this, the Chinese teachers outperformed the Americans in content knowledge and understanding (p. xvii). Even more incredible was the fact that a sample of 20 ninth grade students also performed better than the American teachers (p. 146).


     Interviews of the teachers who possessed especially deep knowledge of fundamental mathematics revealed something very significant. They reported that they acquired their knowledge by studying their pupil textbooks “intensively”. They had not learned it in education courses or in advanced mathematics courses, but from their students’ textbooks, and she described in detail the kinds of things they studied. (p. 131) This, along with a sound education during their compulsory schooling, was the major source of the quality mathematics preparation of Chinese teachers.


     Students in Japan have consistently been among the top performers on international tests of achievement in mathematics, but the training of Japanese elementary teachers is not characterized by advanced coursework in mathematics. In 1997 less than 5% of elementary teachers had master’s degrees. (Shimahara 2002a, p.57). The primary source of their knowledge of mathematics for teaching and methods for teaching it is not college coursework, but contact with veteran teachers. “The training of Japanese teachers is not thought to begin until they start their first teaching job, at which point they begin a long period of apprenticeship-like training in which they are supervised closely by master teachers.” (Stigler et al, 1996, p. 217).


     Although Singapore ranked first in the world in mathematics achievement on the 1995 and 2003 TIMSS tests, its primary school teachers are even less likely than the Japanese to have advanced training in mathematics:


“Primary school teachers in Singapore typically have considerably less college education than their U.S. counterparts. Two of three Singaporean primary teachers have earned only a two-year college certificate, usually a general education certificate from the National Institute of Education (NIE). Of course, their sound pre-college mathematics preparation and passage of a rigorous screening exam mean that these teachers know the mathematics taught at primary school very well before they ever attend college.” (Ginsburg, et al., 2005, p.106)


These facts demonstrate that lengthy coursework and advanced subject matter are not the keys to effectively educating teachers. What really constitutes quality is instruction about the content that children are to be taught and practical, effective methods to teach it.



Classroom Research


A key factor affecting the quality of American education is the lack of a practical, teaching-related knowledge base. This stems from the fundamental difference between American and Asian research in education. Stigler and Hiebert explain in The Teaching Gap (1999) thataround 1900, a division of labor was created in which people with presumed expertise in educational matters took control of educational research and moved it out of the classroom, except for the testing of their ideas (p.173). Because the researchers were out of touch with the realities of the classroom, both their theories and their applications turned out to have limited utility (p. 126).


Japanese teachers, on the other hand, have for many decades routinely carried on research in their classrooms. “Kenkyu jugyo [research lesson] is a widespread popular practice embedded in the culture of teaching, an ethos that Japanese teachers cherish as a proven means to improve teaching.”(Shimahara 2002b, p.114). This practice simply involves testing a lesson under the exact conditions in which it is to be used, to see if it works. It requires no sampling and no statistics, only careful work in designing it, and observing and evaluating its effectiveness. (Lewis & Tsuchida 1998) “Because researchers, university-based mathematics educators, district mathematics supervisors, and even the officials from the Ministry of Education regularly participate in lesson study open houses, lesson study serves as an important feedback mechanism for curricular development, implementation, and revision.” (Watanabe 2007, p. 6). For this reason, it affects the choice of topics, their sequence in the curriculum, and the methods and materials used to teach them. The practical knowledge base which has resulted makes their approach to research clearly preferable to that of the American system described above by Stigler and Hiebert.



Rational Curricula


For American teachers one of the most frustrating aspects of their job is the excessive length and irrational structure of the curricula they are expected to teach. “Coherent Curriculum” (Schmidt et al 2002) provides a composite view of state curricula in the U.S. which are compared with the curricula of the “A+” (i.e., high achieving) countries. Two straightforward conclusions we can draw from their study are that 1) the number of topics covered in each grade in the U.S. is greater (sometimes much greater) than in the A+ countries, and 2) the number of grades spent per topic (i.e., the amount of repetition) is almost double that of those countries.


 The data on topics per grade show emphasis on quantity carried to an extreme degree. In first and second grades the number of topics covered in the U.S. is almost five times that of the A+ countries. This is at a stage in a child’s development when the greatest care should be taken to foster understanding and mastery of the basic ideas that form the foundation of all later learning in mathematics. This excess in U.S. curricula precludes anything but the most superficial treatment of the topics studied.


 Through lesson study the Japanese have determined exactly which topics should be treated, in which grades, and for how long. With a reasonable curriculum, ample time is devoted to every topic at the correct stage in the development of a student’s mathematical understanding.



High Quality Textbooks


It will come as no surprise, then, given the bloated state of our curricula, that American textbooks are extremely large. In “Coherent Curriculum”, the photograph of a set of five A+ countries’ 8th grade math texts next to an equivalent set of American books, provides a graphic illustration of this fact (p. 10). The situation is similar for science texts, although it is due to the quality of the lesson design, rather than an oversized curriculum. A comparison of U.S. and Japanese elementary science textbooks revealed American texts that were three times the size of the Japanese. The difference in size is attributable almost solely to verbiage. “The greater use of language in the U.S. texts is striking… One of the U.S. texts devoted 165 sentences to the explanation of electricity, while the Japanese text used 18.” (Tsuchida & Lewis 2002, p. 37).


The quality of the Japanese texts, as well as that of the Chinese, stems from the fact that elementary texts are written by experienced classroom teachers. “Japanese elementary teachers are the primary architects and writers of Japanese elementary science textbooks…” (Lewis et al 2002, p. 57). “[Chinese t]extbooks and manuals are carefully composed by experienced teachers and experts in school curriculum.” (Ma 1999, p. 131).



Correct Priorities


The misplaced emphasis on later stages of education results in the neglect of primary preparation which other countries use to build a solid foundation for their children’s later learning. In The Challenge of Eastern Asian Education: Implications for America (1997), William K. Cummings writes:


“Reflecting the Eastern Asian conviction that excellence derives from a command of the basics, Eastern Asian educators placed special emphasis on the development of effective primary schools (Passin, 1965). Much care was devoted to the curriculum and teaching methods at this level. And adequate funding was provided to ensure a solid basic education for all.” (p. 283)


Harold Stevenson in “The Asian Advantage” (American Educator, Summer 1987) wrote “…There is ample evidence that insufficient attention is being directed to improvement of elementary school training.” (p. 25). That was almost a quarter century ago, but, although we are known throughout the world for our institutes of higher learning, the people most capable of using our colleges and universities are more and more frequently those from other countries who make primary education their first priority.



Culture is No Obstacle


Given the practical, content-oriented, and thoroughly classroom-tested nature of the Japanese elementary mathematics teaching knowledge base, the obvious question now is whether it can be used in the United States. The immediate objection to this always involves presumed cultural barriers which would preclude our doing so.


“Some people think that the purpose of an international comparison is to see which country is best and then get the U.S. to emulate its practices. That idea is naïve. You cannot lift something from one cultural context and expect it to work in another.” (Schmidt et al 2002, p.2)


In reality, there are several reasons for which using the Japanese knowledge base in elementary mathematics is neither naïve nor difficult. The first is that everything about their curriculum and related methods has been developed in mixed ability classrooms. The Japanese do not track in elementary school (Stevenson 2002, p. 104). Learning of this, most Americans immediately assume that the Japanese are simply superior intellectually, but this was shown not to be the case by Stevenson and Lee (1990, p. 4). Japanese teaching methods are designed to be effective with average students, and if used in a system where ability-grouping is the norm, would simply give brighter students a firmer grasp of the concepts in a shorter time. Slower students would benefit from the emphasis on understanding and the concrete methods used to develop it.


A second reason is that the vast majority of Japanese lessons are not culturally dependent, but founded on universal pedagogical principals such as using concrete materials to illustrate concepts; a finely graded, logically sequenced development of concepts and skills; attention to mastering material before proceeding to later topics; appealing to student’s interests and personal experiences; and the use of social interaction, carefully designed to teach concepts or skills. All of these factors apply equally well to American children as to Japanese.


Third is the fact that the widely held negative stereotypes of Japanese education do not apply at the elementary level. These are that children are pressured to achieve; that the subject matter is rigorous in quantity and quality; that creativity is totally neglected; and that lecturing and rote memorization are the dominant modes of teaching and learning. These characteristics are widespread in high school (Rohlen 1983), but the complete opposite holds true at the elementary level within the school and the public education system in general. (Lewis 1995; Benjamin 1997).


A final reason for the usefulness of their materials for us is that they are standardized and widely available from different sources in Japan. All the lessons and materials for all textbook series must be consistent with the national Course of Study. Even though there are six series of primary mathematic texts (Watanabe 2001, p.194), they have essentially the same content. (Stigler et al, 1996, p. 215). This has led to a uniformity in topics, methods of instruction, materials, and activities, which stems from the fact that they have all been shown to be effective in the classroom with lesson study.



A Well-developed Knowledge Base


The Japanese knowledge base for elementary mathematics consists of the national curriculum and the lessons and materials used to teach it. Because it is empirically tested, largely independent of Japanese culture and developed for students of average ability, it represents a gold mine of effective techniques and perfectly sequenced content. Our use of it in education at the elementarylevel would also serve to correct our neglect of primary education in the past.


Legitimate objections can be raised about how practical it would be to use in the context in which American teachers must work. Varying state requirements are a key problem, but since the Japanese curriculum is smaller than that of any state, supplementary materials could be devised for missing content. Another problem is the difficulty in preparing American teachers to use the materials, but the very fact that the lessons are designed for students of average ability means that our teachers could surely master the material, if they worked through all the texts in the series with proper guidance from instructors knowledgeable in using them. In addition, the accompanying teachers’ manuals, written by experienced Japanese teachers in a user friendly format, would be an invaluable resource (Lee & Zusho 2002).


My own examination of first thrrough fifth grade texts, and lessons from third through fifth grades, has revealed numerous examples of meticulously carefully sequenced lessons with multiple methods of developing basic concepts. For the earlier grades the methods include games and activities providing concrete experiences with the topics and repeated exposure to the ideas in different forms; for the later grades equally ingenious activities are used, centering on a single question for whole-class discussion. In all cases they show all the signs of development and testing through lesson study, which the authors, as experienced teachers, routinely engage in throughout their careers.





     It must seem strange to most people that after a career of teaching high school physics, I should be interested in elementary mathematics instruction. The reason is that I went to great lengths to base my own teaching on topic analysis, concrete experience, and correct sequencing of topics, only to find that these principles are much more important, and more effective, for younger children. This, combined with the fact that Japanese elementary teachers have spent decades researching the best methods to apply them, has resulted in a fascinating collection of pedagogica1 technology, which eventually could be used to teach American children. As a country that spends more than most others on education the United States would do well to invest in material of such superb quality by at least studying it and making the information available to our teachers, and possibly by completely adopting it for their training and use.



Citation: Stamm, D. M. (2011). Quality versus Quantity. Nonpartisan Education Review/Essays 7(6). Available at:


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Copyright © 2009 by Daniel M. Stamm


Definition of Quality

How do you define it?

This is how our readers define quality. (Note: these definitions are straight from our database and have not been edited.)

"Quality itself has been defined as fundamentally relational:  'Quality is the ongoing process of building and sustaining relationships by assessing, anticipating, and fulfilling stated and implied needs.'

"Even those quality definitions which are not expressly relational have an implicit relational character.  Why do we try to do the right thing right, on time, every time?  To build and sustain relationships.  Why do we seek zero defects and conformance to requirements (or their modern counterpart, six sigma)?  To build and sustain relationships.  Why do we seek to structure features or characteristics of a product or service that bear on their ability to satisfy stated and implied needs?  (ANSI/ASQC.)  To build and sustain relationships.  The focus of continuous improvement is, likewise, the building and sustaining of relationships.  It would be difficult to find a realistic definition of quality that did not have, implicit within the definition, a fundamental express or implied focus of building and sustaining relationships."

--from Winder, Richard E. and Judd, Daniel K., 1996, ORGANIZATIONAL ORIENTEERING:  Linking Deming, Covey, and Senge in an Integrated Five Dimension Quality Model, In ASQC Seventh National Quality Management Conference Transactions. American Society for Quality.


— Quality is the customers' perception of the value of the suppliers' work output. 


— You can not separate the process and the human factor, therefore I believe that Quality, when built into a product, generates emotions and feelings within those who have taken part in it's creation.  When you have made something that you are proud of, when you have produced a product that  brings smiles to your customers, then you have achieved Quality.  You'll know it, they'll know it, and each of you will prosper from it. 


— Error-free, value-added care and service that meets and/or exceeds both the needs and legitimate expectations of those served as well as those within the Medical Center. 


— The word "Quality" represents the properties of products and/or services that are valued by  the consumer. 


— Quality is a momentary perception that occurs when something in our environment interacts with us, in the pre-intellectual awareness that comes before rational thought takes over and begins establishing order. Judgment of the resulting order is then reported as good or bad quality value.  


— We at Navy Medicine define quality as: delivering products and services to our customers which are faster, better, cheaper and newer.  


— There are two definitive types of "quality".

Quality of design

Quality of the process

Whether you are in discrete manufacturing, process manufacturing or a service related industry you have design issues of usability, comfort, and tolerance of durability beyond prescribe use and identity of "status" of design quality. In this regard, you do not have the axiom of "variation is inherent..."

The ability to live up to the "quality of design" is maintained by the "quality of the process" 


— My definition of Quality is way off from the traditional concept of Quality. My definition of Quality is:  "Reducing the variation around the target".

That means, it is very basic that  process limits are within the spec limits and process average is very close to the target. I think " Quality" concept should be AFTER the above condition. If that's so, strive should be reduce the variation of the process while maintaining the process average close to the target.  


— All your actions aimed at the translation, transformation and realization of customer expectations , converting them to requirements, both qualitatively and quantitatively and measuring your process performance during and after the realization of these expectations and requirements . 


— Quality is doing the right things right and is uniquely defined by each individual. 


— A product or process that is Reliable, and that performs its intended function is said to be a quality product.  


— The degree to which something meets or exceeds the expectations of its consumers. 


— "Conformance to *Valid* Requirements"

where to be valid, the requirements must be proven (in advance by management) to:

1) be achievable in operation

2) meet the needs of the intended user

making this a universal, operational and easy-to-use definition for the quality for all outputs from any work activity or process. 


— The definition depends on the purpose and for whom you are talking:

If you talk for your customers, then it is what ever he says it is, what he expect from the product or service.

If you talk to your company, to your people, then I follow  the Kano Model. There are three part of Quality:

1.  The Basic Q.  What absolutely must be. w/o  the customers  is dissatisfied.

2.   The Customer expected Q. achieve all and the customer is satisfied. I.e Six Sigma        helps to do that.

3.  The exciting Q.  The customer does not know it exist, is possible.

      This becomes tomorrow's expectation.


— This is our slogan, and our policy..."Quality" is to satisfy the ever-changing needs of our customers, vendors and employees, with value added products and services emphasizing a continuous commitment to satisfaction through an ongoing process of education, communication, evaluation and constant improvement. 


— Quality is meeting the customer's needs in a way that exceeds the customer's expectations. 


— "Quality is nothing more or less than the perception the customer has of you, your products, and your services"!  


— Definition of Quality:  "WOW"

RATIONALE: Suppose you were with your *soul mate*, *significant other* *spouse* etc. and after a relationship that person looked longingly into your eyes and said "That met the requirements!" or "There were no defects there!" or "That had all the value I wanted!" or "The degree of excellence was acceptable!. Wouldn't you rather have that person look into your eyes and say  "WOW!"?

SOURCE: I wish I could remember the specific phrase from the book/article, but over the years this has been my approach to the tricky question of how to define quality.


— "Quality is the extent to which products, services, processes, and relationships are free from defects, constraints, and items which do not add value for customers."

My definition of quality is included in our textbook entitled Strategic Quality Management:  A Strategic, Systems Approach to Continuous Improvement, published by Dame Publishing Company, a Division of Southwestern Publishing Company. 


— Clean, precise and flawless 


— Quality is a perceived degree of excellence with a minimum usually set forth by the customer. 


— Quality-The production of a commodity which conforms to standards applied to said commodity,be they mechanical standards, society's standards etc. 


— When the customer returns and the product doesn't. 


— When something is what you expect it to be then it is perceived as quality.

Thus, quality is a fulfillment of expectation.


— DFN for "Today's" Quality:

(Applies to all goods and services)

Quality =

Maximization of Perceived Value =

Fulfillment of Tangible and Intangible Expectations =

(Good or Service Performance + Customer Service)Attributes; Divided by Cost


— "Quality is the expression of human excellence."


— I came up with this concept at the AQC back in 1986.  We used it occasionally as a motto for the old Human Resources Division   


— Quality is... do what you have to do when you have to do it well done to satisfy your customer needs and make your product or service do what they suppose to do.    


— Quality is the the ability of a product or service to meet a customer's expectations for that product or service. 




— The manufacture/distribution of a product/service which provides both tangible(quality product/service, low cost$$$) and intangible(customer satisfaction) value to the internal and external customer. 


— All those planned and systemic actions required to provide adequate confidence that a product or service will satisfy given requirements. 


— Never having to say you're sorry. 


— Consistent conformance to customer expectations 


— There are two forms of quality, and therefore two definitions and two forms of measurement.

1. OBJECTIVE quality is the degree of compliance of a process or its outcome with a predetermined set of criteria, which are presumed essential to the ultimate value it provides. Example: proper formulation of a medication.

2. SUBJECTIVE quality is the level of perceived value reported by the person who benefits from a process or its outcome. It may subsume various intermediate quality measures, both objective and subjective. Example: pain relief provided by a medication.


— Satisfy or exceed customer expectations at the minimum possible cost.


— Quality is to reach the costumer needs at low rates (costs) to the company and achieving employee satisfaction. 

Quality is an ever evolving perception by the customer of the value provided by a product.  It is not a static perception that never changes but a fluid process that changes as a product matures (innovation) and other alternatives (competition) are made available as a basis of comparison.


Just as the Model T was once thought of as a quality product, by today's standards, it is perceived by the customer as no longer fit for use as a general purpose item.  The product (a car) has evolved to something beyond the Model T both because of innovation and satisfying customer demand. 


— Crosby, Deming, Juran provide us a foundation.

Drucker then builds on the foundation to refer to products that a market accepts as value and is willing to pay for it.

To the quality department responsible for testing the product; quality (value) is awareness of defects and getting fixes or workarounds for customers

To the company that produces the product, quality (value) is measured by profit, forecasted opportunities and customer satisfaction.

To the companies that purchase the product, quality (value)is ease of use, performance and solving the business problem at hand.

Every definition has apparent "holes" in it, as Scott Paton often points out, but 

the bottom line is: once a customer has purchased your product do you get return business/referrals or do they look somewhere else ? obtaining customers is easier than maintain them.

My definition starts with Deming's:

"Variation is the enemy of Quality";(and I add)

"Uniformity is the enemy of Knowledge".

Given current status vis a vis expectations this couplet provides us a sense of direction. 

My definition appeared in "Last Word" in your October issue.  Essentially it boiled down to "Attention to Detail", I have been collecting definitions for awhile:

Quality is neither mind nor matter, but a third entity independent of the two, even though Quality cannot be defined, you know what it is.  (Persig, 1974)

Quality is fitness for use.  (Juran, 1974)

Quality means conformance to requirements.  (Crosby, 1979)

[Quality is] a system of means to economically produce goods or services which satisfy customers' requirements.  (Japanese Industrial Standards Committee, 1981)

Quality refers to the amounts of the unpriced attributes contained in each unit of the priced attribute. (Leffler, 1982)

Quality means best for certain conditions...(a) the actual use and (b) the selling price.  (Feigenbaum, 1983)

Quality] means that the organization's culture is defined by and supports the constant attainment of customer satisfaction through an integrated system of tools, techniques, and training.  (Sashkin & Kiser, 1993)

Quality is Job #1.

Quality First.

Quality, It's a Way of Life.

Quality Is Our Most Important Product.

Quality is a degree of excellence... (Webster)

Quality is the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy given needs. (American Society for Quality)

Quality, an inherent or distinguishing characteristic, a degree or grade of excellence.  (American Heritage Dictionary, 1996)


— All aspects/features of a product (a good or a service) that bears on its ability to satisfy fitness for use, safety, and effectiveness.

This is the FDA's medical device regulations def'n of quality -and a pretty good one at that, as long as Juran's fitness for use is also defined and the word "grade" is defined close by to avoid excellence being used as a quality definition, e.g., Holiday Inn is a lower grade but not necessarily lower quality than Hyatt Hotel.  We need to weed out the definitions of quality that accidentally incur the notion of grade or excellence, since those can be purposefully set at a reduced level for pricing advantages without harm to quality (e.g., Honda Accord EX versus LX). 


— "That we shall get the right product to the right place at the right time while exceeding our customers expectations."


— Shorewood Packaging is a company dedicated to providing high quality, cost effective packaging products and services that satisfy customer requirements in a timely manner while achieving our profit, growth and leadership objective in selected markets.

Leadership in quality can only be accomplished by ongoing improvements and through the active participation of all employees.



— Working without hassles.


— Quality is unobtrusively meeting the needs of the customer. 


— Quality means providing customer with innovative products or services characteristics/attributes and defects free which provide fitness for use. 


— "Fitness for use" which I believe is actually one of Dr. Juran's definitions.  While it is simple in words the subtleties and nuances of its meaning is rather profound.  For example a well made ice box at the turn of this century (i.e., 1900s) was an exciting invention but refrigeration was more fit for use.  Yet, if the modern refrigerator can't maintain the proper temperature it is not quality, because it is not fit for the use it it intended. 

All that being said, I work in government, specifically a environmental regulatory agency dependent on highly technical and scientific information. Many refuse to believe that quality, by anyone's definition, does not fit in with how government works.  I believe that until it does then government will continue to lose the respect of "we the people."


— Having numerous customers in various different industries, "Quality" can mean different things to each Customer. To satisfy every customer "Quality Requirement" it simply comes down to "Conformance to Customer Specified Requirements."


— Exceeding the customer's product or service expectations by delighting them.  


— "Quality" is achieved by meeting or exceeding established process guidelines so that, regardless of the type of industry, a consistent outcome can be predicted.


— "Peace of Mind" 


— Quality is conformance to specified requirement & is never an accident 


— Quality goes beyond customer expectations.  Usually customers define the expectations or requirements based on what they know about the product or service and they do not take into consideration what they do not know about it (the error that does not exist cannot be missed should be part of the requirements).


— Quality today is a moving target because we ask for new requirements when something goes wrong and this is wrong. What is not part of the product or service, should be taken into consideration when Quality is defined.  


— I have to go along with Philip Crosby in defining quality as conformance to requirements. As a customer, there are certain things(requirements) that you expect in a product or service. When those things are not there then the customer is not satisfied and unhappy. 

Webster's definition of quality as "the degree of excellence which a thing possesses" is way to vague. Excellence is another term that is hard to define.

My boss loves to scuba dive. Recently he went on a deep dive of of the coast of Mexico. He also loves to collect watches. He had purchased an expensive Rolex divers watch. At a certain depth it leaked and was useless. He had to resurface and go back to using the old Timex that was deemed to be considerably less excellent or "quality". 

If the product or service does what the supplier says it will do and what the customer wants it to do, then it is a "quality" product or service. That's meeting requirements.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this always subject. I look forward to reading the results.


— Best value for the money 


— Our customers and competition define our quality status.


— When we can keep and acquire new customers/business, that shows an overall picture of our how well we are doing with the quality of our products.  Comments & Complaints from customers are the measuring system.


— Continuously improving upon our practices helps us to stay "in" with the competition.


— Quality is in the eyes of the beholder.  And in a business environment, the beholder is always the customer or client. In other words, quality is whatever the customer says it is.   


— My definition of Quality is production satisfactory to the customer and making a profit for the manufacturer.


— Quality Control is all the means by which the frequency of defects is reduced.  It includes quality planning, quality measuring and quality analysis. 


— A product or service that surpasses all requirements and endeavors beyond expectations. 




— Quality simply means delivering to the customer what they expected. Thus, for example, if a product:

- has the right configuration/features,

- does what it's supposed to do,

- is reliable,

- is delivered on-time, and

- is well-supported, then . . .

. . . it's a quality product! 


— 1. WOW!

2. Doing the right thing right, every time from the first time.

3. Working according to five elements:

a. Quality leadership

b. The customer is in the center

c. personal responsibility

d. measurement & improvement

e. Infrastructure


— The inherent features possessed by a product or service. 


— Quality, like truth is in the mind of believer. To define it is to misunderstand the infinite possibilities we are capable of achieving. There is no universal definition. Robert Pirsig went crazy trying to define it in his famous book; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There will always be rule-based thinkers who will attempt to regulate and proceduralize the rest of us who know there is no such thing as the right answer, only that which works for each of us. 


— Quality is being:



                   Fluid and



— Quality is a customer perception of the value received for the price paid for the attributes of a product or service as they related to its fit, form, or function.  


— A degree of excellence. 


— "The ability of a company to identify their customers' requirements, then meet or exceed their expectations to the mutual benefit and satisfaction of both organizations." 


— Quality is doing right things right.  It is customer orientation, innovation, teamwork, and everyone's responsibility. 


— Quality is a "system" which produces a product, service, information or delivery, on target with minimal variance which meet or exceeds the customers needs, now and in the future.


— The reason that Deming (and thousands of others) "dance around a definition of quality" is that quality cannot be defined in principle.

1. Quality has no essence. To understand the implication of this point, ask yourself: Why would it be odd to conduct a survey of the meaning of the word bachelor? The answer is that the essence of the word bachelor, i.e., a man not yet married, is totally contained within the word. Quality contains no such essence. A dictionary definition such as "the degree of excellence a thing possesses" begs a slew of other questions.

2. Quality is abstract. Thinkers and writers have been trying to tackle big abstract words like knowledge and beauty for thousands of words. Why should quality be open to an absolute definition in a way that other abstract words are not?

3. The distinction between quality and quantity has become blurred. We once distinguished between quantity, that which could be measured and quality, that which could only be judged. Now quality, as far as the quality industry is concerned, is all about measurement. So what word do we have for that which cannot be measured? Has the idea of simply judging quality totally disappeared?


— The result of this inability to define quality is that most definitions will bear a resemblance to one another but none of them will be THE definition.


— In the face of this barrier, what are organizations to do? Rather than fruitlessly wrestling with a definition, they would be better off simply identifying what they want the world to look like once quality is better, e.g., the ratio of defects to opportunities will be improving, customers will be coming back and saying, unprompted, how much they value the product or service.


— The point is not to define quality but to produce it. And we can produce it even without a definition! 

1.  "Quality is variability."  Shewart

2.  "Quality is predictability."  Deming

3.  "Quality is a conformance to  

     requirements."  Crosby

4.  "Quality is a fitness for use."  Juran

5.  "Quality is the customer's opinion."  


For references, call me on (703)360-9134.

                               Henry Kling 


— Quality is complete satisfaction (Performance, Appearance & Longevity) at the lowest possible cost. 


— At Crescent Drilling & Production, Inc., we define Quality as, "the pursuit of excellence."  To always be reaching for a higher goal. 


— Quality is performance excellence as viewed by all stakeholders.  This is a Baldrige influenced definition and has profound implications.  We know that meeting end user needs relative to competitors is good but  not enough.  We must also meet societal, producer, owner and supplier needs.  Further, these needs reflect future as well as present needs.  Our smaller world requires this system view of quality. 


— Quality is meeting customer expectations. 


— Your quality level shows  the gap between your company and your dreams.


— Closer you are you know the meaning better.... 


— Quality is meeting the "stated" and "implied" needs of the customer.

- It is by Quality a customer can be satisfied, delighted and be retained for mutual benefit.

- "Face is the index of mind" , "Quality is the index of a product or service".

- Quality is not something extraordinary. It is something ordinary extraordinarily well. 


— "...When who comes back is the client, not the product..." 


— la bonne r�ponse � une demande 

A good answer to a demand 


— Providing product and service features which are free of deficiencies that create value for your customers and stakeholders.  


— I like the old standard definition of quality: Quality is meeting or exceeding your customers' expectations. 


— My simple definition follows me around no matter where I am, work, home, pleasure, etc.

         NO SURPRISES!!

If you really think about what goes on in your life, this works.   


— Reduction in variation. 


— The customers definition of Quality is the only one that counts. 


— The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy given needs. 



About The Author

Quality Digest

For 35 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. With more than 30,000 opted-in subscribers, our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995.We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.