Monday, March 15, 2010

The 8 Dimensions of Quality

According to David Garvin, a Harvard professor and author of the volume “Managing Quality”, quality can be divided into 8 dimensions. The division of quality into sub dimensions provides a way to easily design, manage, deliver and measure the product or service to the customer. Perhaps the best thing about this division of Quality into 8 sub dimensions is the better understanding of the customer requirements that is gleaned from it (sometimes an understanding of the customer is achieved that the customer themselves are not consciously aware of themselves).

Let us consider the proposed dimensions of quality as suggested by Garvin. They are:

  • Performance (or the primary operating characteristics of a product or service): As might be expected, the characteristic of the product or service to deliver on what it primarily does would be on the list. For a car, the torque, horsepower, brake specifications etc. would be characteristics of performance.

  • Features (or the secondary characteristics of a product or service): The extra features available or delivered by the product and service are also a characteristic that determine quality. For example, leather seats and a high-end sound system in a car would be attractive features.

  • Conformance with specifications: The traditional understanding of quality in the old paradigm where the primary importance is given to ensuring that the product or service meets specifications accurately. However, this is useful only if the specifications are correct (i.e. the previous 2 dimensions are accurate).

  • Durability (or Product Life): How long the product or service functions before failure. This is an important characteristic even if not specifically stated by the customer. After all who doesn’t like a product that works for a long time? This was displayed during the 80s when the Japanese Auto makers successfully penetrated the US market with only superior durability on their side.

  • Reliability (or frequency with which a product or service fails): Mercedes Benz automobiles require less frequent oil changes. This is an attractive feature to most customers.

  • Serviceability (or the speed, courtesy and competence of repair): If a product or service requires a great deal of disruption and cost to the customer to repair then even if the frequency of failure is low, it could be unattractive to the customer. Luxury sport cars are very expensive to maintain and are a factor in the decision of the customer to purchase them, over and above the purchase price.

  • Appearance/Aesthetics: A good example of the importance of aesthetics are Apple’s products that bring a distinctive style to the customers which is definitely a part of their success.

  • Image/Brand/Perceived Quality: The positive or negative feelings customers associate with the company based on previous interactions. Ford “Quality Is Job One” and Maytag “the Lonely Repairman” even used Quality as a marketing slogan and positioned themselves strategically in the marketplace with this characteristic.

With the 8 dimensions of quality defined, we may observe that this breakdown provides a useful tool to assist with determining the customer requirements, especially when the customers are unclear on what they want. Furthermore, the design and delivery of the product or service is simplified as well due to the separation of quality characteristics that can then be separately administered. The organization’s marketing and selling strategy can also be influenced with a well defined understanding of the quality characteristics that are being offered. The benefits of paying attention to the 8 dimensions of quality are significant and should be emphasized in all organizations.

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