Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Quality Areas and Quality Factors

Last week, I shared some quick thoughts with you about quality development. Following on from that, in this my fourth blog on the topical quality series, I will discuss quality areas and quality factors. To get the full benefit from reading this, please ensure that you read the previous three posts first.

In order to be able to define the Ideal level of Performance (IP level) and measure the Actual level of Performance (AP level) respectively, it is necessary to determine what is to be measured, evaluated and improved regularly.

For this purpose I introduced the concepts of "quality areas" and "quality factors"

Quality Areas
A quality area can be defined as:

"An area within which measurements must be made in order to determine the quality level and ensure that the quality performed meets the demands and expectations of internal and external stakeholders"

Within each quality area there is at least one,and usually more than one, quality factor.

Quality Factors
A quality factor can be defined as:

"An element - a measuring point - whose quality level helps to determine whether the total quality within a quality area is experienced as good or bad"

In order to work specifically on quality development, the quality factors within each quality area need to be formulated unambiguously and to be measurable.

For each quality factor:

  • The IP level needs to be defined
  • The AP level needs to be measured
and, if there is a difference:
  • quality development should be initiated
Quality on Several Levels
Quality areas and quality factors are determined on various levels depending on where in the quality process you are, and on which level within the company the quality is to be measured.

An example: The year end result is a quality area, which ought to be of interest to top management. Profitability would be a quality factor within this area. If the profitability is unsatisfactory, this may be due to quality deficiencies on a lower level, for example customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction can be measured by the number of customers who stay and those who leave the organisation, i.e. the churn rate. If the churn rate is too high, this may be due to quality deficiencies on a lower level, e.g. complaint handling. The quality of complaint handling can be measured by the number of customers who remain customers after having complained. If these customers are too few, this may be due to quality deficiencies in e.g. the way a complaining customer is received and treated. The quality of that treatment can be measured e.g. by the degree with which the complaining customer feels welcome with their written or oral complain. If the customer does not feel welcome with their telephone, email or in-person complaint this may be due to the "time waiting on the telephone", or the "delay in email response times", or even the lack of "commitment" from the person with whom the customer is dealing.

Quality Hierarchy

As becomes quite clear from the example given above, in order to meet the quality demands and expectations from the external stakeholders, it is imperative to deal with quality factors at the lowest level. For this reason, it is necessary to work your way downwards in the "quality hierarchy". This way the causes of quality problems are cured, not just the symptoms!

In the next post I will discuss the 5 different kinds of quality that make up the overall quality concept.

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