Meaning from the Professor, the Journalist and the Producer

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?


Writing my master’s thesis helped me discover that quality has many definitions. Unfortunately, with little consensus among leading authorities regarding its definition, meaning has eluded many professionals in all functions. Confusion about the meaning of quality is the legacy of management.

In the fall of 1984, David A. Garvin, professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, published an article in the Sloan Management Review (a product of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The title of the article is “What Does ’Product Quality’ Really Mean?” His conclusions offer a glimpse of quality that is still relevant today. “Quality is a complex and multifaceted concept. It is also a source of great confusion: managers—particularly those in different functions—frequently fail to communicate precisely what they mean by the term. The result is often endless debate, and inability to show real progress on the quality front.”

Others have also tackled the meaning of quality.

Lloyd Dobyns, an award winning journalist, and Clare Crawford-Mason, a senior producer at NBC, collaborated with Dr. W. Edwards Deming on the best-selling twenty-volume Deming Video Library. Following up in 1991, they wrote Quality or Else, and in 1994, Thinking About Quality.

Dobyns and Crawford-Mason have outlined the contributions of the most successful and prescient authorities on the subject of quality. Two of their observations got my attention. In Quality or Else they state: “What is interesting years later is that no two of those men—indeed, no two people we have talked to anywhere—agree precisely on how to define quality.”  In Thinking about Quality, they added: “people remain suspicious of the concept of quality”. . .“part of the problem, we think is that the word ’quality‘ doesn’t mean anything concrete.” Perhaps my book will move quality in the direction of concrete from the abstract; but we may miss what is intended, a component of meaning. Keeping quality in the abstract realm avoids defining it as a concrete noun.


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