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Is Quality Easy or Guaranteed?

Authored by:

Tom Noble

In an attempt to convey the core of quality, I kept coming back to a simple truth: quality is not easy, and it's not guaranteed. At first glance this might be an odd statement for a board member of an organization dedicated to quality in AV but, in honest practice, quality takes real work and dedication. Although it is true, it is achievable and the one who loves the journey more than the destination will go further.

Quality is Not Easy

The idea of quality or the academics of quality is in fact easy, but the execution is not. The world is full of great ideas but only when put into action do those ideas become realized. This is where most fall short. To make that shift from idea to action, a great explanation of the steps needed to get to quality is skillfully provided in a previous post by AQAV Founder, Mario Maltese. He does a great job breaking this down, giving great actionable ways to accomplish this.

I am not going to restate the steps but, as I read these steps, I was reminded of two important principles from the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey.

  • Focus like crazy on the wildly important parts. You still have a job, and you still have obligations, but it is important to narrow down the top priorities and focus on those. Doing so will help you to achieve your results much more efficiently. We all know that everything can’t be your top priority when someone says it, but it’s easy to fall into that trap if you don’t pay attention to it.

  • Act on the Lead Measures. By utilizing these lead measures, you can create leverage within your process and course-correct much earlier if required. While each organization’s leading measures will be different, they are like oil to a car: without it you definitely won't get very far, and if you wait until you get there to check it’s already too late!

Quality is Not Guaranteed

At any point in time if you take your eye off the end goal you can slip. Often we will accept exceptions to our standard because of a circumstance that appears novel or on an item that isn’t critical to the operation this time around. I am as guilty of this as anyone.

To give a recent non-AV anecdote, after years of not working out I joined a CrossFit gym.

After a few months, I showed up one morning, got warmed up, the coach explained the workout to us, and we started the daily workout. Afterward, I was excited because for the first time I was able to complete the workout fully to standard. However, when the coach wrote down my time on the whiteboard, he noted scaling on a particular portion of the workout. Scaling in and of itself is not a bad thing, it is intended to be used as a way to work up to the intended design of the workout.

Ultimately, it is there to help you gradually get better. However, I was frustrated, because even though I wasn't perfect, I was still at 95% of my goal or better.

When I confronted the coach about this, he told me that “the standard is set for a reason, and you did not meet that today”. I was frustrated I did not do as I had wanted, but I respected him for this. He was holding me to a standard that he knew I would meet but only when I met it fully would he allow me to say I had. He would not and does not compromise that standard.

The point is that to do extraordinary things, we must think extraordinarily. But there are a couple of keynotes to be pulled from this story.

  • The standard was clearly communicated and explained. Every morning the coach goes over the prescribed workout and asks for and answers any clarifying questions. When it is time to start there are no questions about what is expected. If your team doesn’t know the standard, how would you ever expect someone to hold to it? I'm not suggesting that each day you need to have a standup explaining the standards that are expected, but it should be a central narrative in your messaging.

  • We should hold our standards in high regard. If something does not meet our standard, we need to note it. This provides a clear understanding to both the customer and the team and will ultimately build overall trust and provide a better experience.

  • There is a scorecard or a record of meeting the standard. Every day that coach writes down the results of our workout and posts them to the internal Facebook group. We need to keep a visible way for our team to make sure they can easily see how they are doing compared to the standard.

Quality, by AQAV’s definition, is “conformance to requirements. Does it meet the stated definition? By examining if the project outcome conforms to the stated requirements you can start to continuously improve upon your own day-to-day operations. Over time while it might seem like small incremental changes, these changes will add up and you will be producing more quality work, which will have a direct impact on your business. When we pursue quality without shortcuts, we become that quality. And we could all use more of that.

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