Seth Godin reaffirms the importance of first defining “Quality” before it can be achieved

Quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Having been involved in evaluating quality at more than 10,000 building units over the past two decades, the definition of the word quality is something I’ve spent many, many hours contemplating.

When it comes to quality in the marketing world, and particularly in writing about marketing, Seth Godin is unparalleled. His books have arguably influenced as many professional marketers as the legendary David Ogilvy — the inspiration for Don Draper’s character in Mad Men.

So it should be no surprise that when Godin’s post about Quality came across my feed reader this morning, I couldn’t click fast enough. He opens with the following:

There are at least three ways we use the word ‘quality’ at work:

Quality as defined by Deming and Crosby: Meeting spec.

This first application of the word quality is the one most relevant to the built environment. Did the completed work meet the requirements and specifications established by law, code, industry standard of care, or contractual agreement?

Another interpretation of quality:

Quality as defined by Ralph Lauren or Tiffany: The quality of deluxeness.

Yet another interpretation:

And finally, there’s the quality of right effort, of “I did my best,” of the sweat and vulnerability that happens when a human has given it her all.

In the end, Godin reaches the same conclusion that myself and others have come to when contemplating the meaning of quality: Before you can evaluate quality, you have to first define the applicable criteria for quality.

In other words, what does “done” look like? How do we know if we did it right? Or as Godin says, “what sort of quality are we seeking here?”