The Misperception of QUALITY

The word “misperception” means a wrong or incorrect understanding or interpretation, whereas the word “quality” means the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.

So, what IS the “standard”, the “measurement”, or the “degree of excellence” that is being misperceived? Let’s investigate.

What IS Quality?

Robert Pirsig argues in his epic book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, that quality cannot be defined. We recognize quality by analogy with previous personal experiences. We know what it is, we can describe it using examples but we cannot define it. Pirsig describes quality as:

The continual stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live.

Pirsig explains that everyone sees quality differently because we perceive quality through the lens of our own experiences or analogues of quality. Hence, quality is often used in conjunction with a descriptor such as high, superior, and low, poor, or average. Alternatively, quality is used as a descriptor such as a quality car or person.

Creating the World in Which We Live

If quality is an event, and its “standard”, “measurement”, or “degree of excellence” is a personal experience of that event, then we should ask ourselves what caused that event to come into existence? What’s the origin of that event? In other words, if that event is an effect, then what is its cause—what is the cause and effect relationship?

How a branded product or service is experienced by its users—the effect—is determined by the process—the cause—by which that product or service was created and delivered. That process is a means-to-an-end. I can rephrase this by saying that the PURPOSE of a production and delivery processes is to create a quality event or experience for every member of its intended target audience, knowing that it will resonate with them. This is how the world in which we live is changed. Only you can answer the question why you feel compelled to do it; what it is in our environment that stimulated, pushed, or prodded you to jump into action.

Being successful at creating and sustaining brand experiences with which users resonate is measured in brand loyalty; the number of users who are, what Guy Kawasaki calls “Evangelists” for your brand; the price buyers/users are willing to pay; and the number of warranty claims you receive. Buyers/users who resonate with your analogues of quality don’t quibble about price, which means you don’t have to reduce your profit margin with promotional discounts and rebates.

Success is thus a function of operating quality production and delivery processes. Creation and delivery of quality events will have to be incorporated and continually developed into the design, structure or organization, operation or implementation, maintenance, and management of those processes. Quality processes are not only effective but also efficient because they afford workers pride of workmanship, who cause less re-work or waste, and fewer warranty claims. Happy workers are engaged and loyal, thus saving you from the vagaries of the so called War-for-Talent.

Upside Down and Inside Out

Decision makers whose analogues of quality is to make money, will seek to minimize the cost of their production and delivery processes—including employee wages and benefits—thus reducing their brand’s ability to create quality events for its intended target audience.

Decision makers whose analogues of quality is to make money, believe that continual improvement of the capability and capacity of their production and delivery processes increases cost, thus decreasing profit margins. That’s why they won’t do it.

Decision makers whose analogues of quality is to make money, choose to grow bottom-line results by engaging in merger and acquisition transactions; raising their bottom-line results with that of newly acquired businesses. Alternatively, they engage in stock-buy-back programs because they believe there is no better investment available.

Do these decision makers deliberately undermine their business’ capability and capacity for creating quality events for their target audience? Do they genuinely hope or even expect to become more profitable by not investing in process development of their current business?

Incorrect Understanding

Misperception refers to what one believes regarding the purpose of one’s business:

    • Growing bottom-line results; increasing the business’ form and size.
      or . . . . .
    • Developing the business as a system; increasing its capability and capacity for realizing the vision or purpose for which it was created.

Dr. Albert Einstein described the current misperception of purpose as follows:

Perfection of means and the confusion of ends seem to characterize our age.

The “end” (or purpose of a business) has become making money, and the “means” for making more money is cutting corners, and gambling that nobody will notice, trusting that marketing will spin it successfully. By under-estimating their target audience, they end up reducing their brand experience—quality—for its buyers/users.

Moreover, employees are no suckers either, they see what’s going on, and they lose their pride of workmanship and respect for their employer, they disengage from their job that has become nothing more than a pay-check, and they start looking for another employer.

Let me try another way to get my point across, using motor sports as an analogy. In order to be a successful race car driver, you’ll have to negotiate the track, complete the requisite number of laps before crossing the finish line in first, second, or third position. Then, and only then will you qualify to stand on the podium with a laurel wreath over your shoulder and the coveted trophy in your hand. That’s when you can claim the prize money.

In short, you’ll have to become successful first before you can become profitable. Attempting to snatch the trophy and prize money without winning the race, without concerted efforts, dedication and investment in the development of a vehicle worthy of success is . . . what’s the appropriate word here, or better still, what are the analogues for such experiences from your life?

Remember, profitability is the applause for a job well-done. So, endeavor to create the world in which we live in your personal way that is worthy of a standing ovation!

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