Changing the Definition of Quality
A couple of years out of college in 1980 I bought my first brand new automobile, a blue Honda Accord LX hatchback. It came equipped with air conditioning, AM/FM radio, a digital clock and power steering.
In those days a $4,000 car never included such extravagant features. Only quality cars came so lavishly equipped, which meant more expensive..
Honda redefined quality. Quality went from meaning fancy to meaning good. Not only was the Accord nicely equipped, it was well built. Quality came to mean an automobile’s “fitness” for use. Today we know a top-end Lexus is a quality vehicle, but we also understand a Honda Civic is one as well.
The Accord upped the automobile game. It served as a marker for a fundamental shift in the industry to not only making things well, but to adding features as standard equipment.
Today we have much higher expectations for the cars we buy as well as everything else we consume. The Accord played its part in the history of quality.
I remember well the old belief that there were negative tradeoffs between cost, quality and time. In other words, if you want good quality you need more time and money to achieve it.
But the truth is that belief fails to appreciate the true nature of building things and serving customers. Poor quality costs more, not less. If things are done right the first time, the cost is always lower than if the work is done poorly. Time has the same relationship to quality. It takes less time to do things well than it does to have to redo them. Of course, time is cost.
The implications of this lesson are broad. Inside our organizations waste abounds because we so often have to rework things because they fail to meet the needs of the next step in the process and of the customer. We all count on each other. Understanding each others’ needs is precisely what makes for good quality interactions, which leads to less time spent and of course, less cost.
By the way, that Accord I bought in 1980 for $4,000, I sold in 1984 for $4,400. Quality is value, and we live in a world where creating value is what makes our world go round.