Talk About Quality

Tom Harris

Good is Better than Quality

with one comment

Many have either written about the power of meanings (e.g. Orwell’s “newspeak”) or manipulated them (e.g. Lenin having called his then-minority party “Bolsheviks” — the majority). Since this blog is about quality, I guess I have to say something about “quality”. There too, greater minds than I have gone. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is famous and a good read.

But looking anew at current usage in various fields, one thing stands out: almost nobody uses the chief dictionary definitions — character, feature, essential attribute. Yes, the popular meaning is there too. Merriam-Webster lists “superiority in kind” as definition 2b for “quality” with an example, “merchandise of quality“. Of course, M-W is right in listing it, because a good dictionary is comprehensive.

Well! There’s the word I would use instead right there! “Good”.

When people start talking about “quality products” any shared vision between the speaker and the listener begins to get fuzzy. What is “quality”? Less variation? Fit for use? Zero defects? Meets requirements? Satisfies the customer? Suddenly, anything goes.

An attempt at fixing things is saying, “No, no, let’s say what we really mean: good quality.” (As if anyone would have a long discussion about “bad quality”.)

It’s so much simpler, though, to just drop “quality” and say “good” when we mean good.

In every field, people know good when they see it. Nobody argues about it. It certainly doesn’t get to people claiming that “good” is “bad”. “Good” is good.

That’s why good is better than quality.


Written by Tom Harris

May 11, 2006 at 12:26 am

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