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Measuring the Intangible

Quality is a critical success factor for all kinds of business and a great challenge for many experts and business leaders. Here are some frameworks that can help you measure this all important aspect

Transformation Program Expert

My last article highlighted how to achieve Service Excellence and Customer Delight, the elusive holy grail of organizations! And if you missed it, then a quick recap – it is generally believed (academics, practitioners, etc.) that the customer perception or experience determines if service excellence has been achieved. There is so much more to it than that, so get last month’s edition of the magazine; it’s all there!

The next logical step is to figure out how to measure Quality, as focusing on Quality and underpinning everything you do with high standards also leads to Service Excellence and Customer Delight (seriously, read the last month’s article!). In fact, Quality is a critical success factor in all service, product, operational, transformation, innovation initiatives and should be a key focus throughout the whole lifecycle of all your activities, yet trying to measure Quality is still a great challenge for many experts and business leaders.

As I have done with all my articles (yep, those that you missed!), I will highlight and identify the key frameworks and tools available to help you understand and choose which framework (or bits of all) you can use to measure Quality and evidence your output as being of high Quality!

Context Is Everything

Let’s start with a quote, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Most of you would have heard this one, but it has been incorrectly attributed to Peter Drucker, then misattributed to Dr. W. Edwards Deming, one of the leading Gurus of Total Quality Management. His actual quote is, “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.” – W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics.

So, you can see the subtle difference, but the subtle difference makes a world of difference!

It would take more than two pages to go into all the factors and elements that you can measure to assess ‘Quality’, but I will highlight the key frameworks so that you can (I hope) dig deeper into the black hole that is ‘Measuring Quality’.

Because there is and cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach, each domain “leans” in a particular direction. Most of the founders of Total Quality Management leaned towards Customer Satisfaction being a key measure of Quality; however, some of them leaned more towards standardization of product/service and continuous improvement as the key determinant of a Quality offering.

Keep it simple, identify precisely what your output will be, and work backward from there, ensuring you can measure it throughout the lifecycle, and you will be in a strong position

These slight differences in opinion then mean that how you measure Quality will differ, and the tools or factors you use to measure Quality have to be fit for purpose and relevant to your field! So as always, Context is King (not the framework). Again, do not get stuck on the academics or the framework of measuring Quality. Mix and match to choose a process that is fit for purposes. These frameworks are there to help and guide, not constrain you.

The various variables, factors, and dimensions involved in getting the service or product to the customer (the end of the journey, where Quality is judged by the customer), means that to ‘Measure Quality’, you have to have measurement and evaluation processes in place throughout a service or product lifecycle – stages such as requirement analysis, design, delivery, and implementation.

Paving The Road To Quality

To make your lives easier, I have put together some of the key frameworks available to use that help measure Quality, so please review them at your leisure.

There is of course the ISO 9001 family, which is one of the most widely known Quality Management Systems.

  • The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is the most popular tool for performance measuring; its principle is to measure Financial (lagging) and Non-financial (leading indicators) using four key indicators (Customer, Learning and Growth, Internal Business Processes, and Financials).
  • Kirkpatrick’s model is still one of the most popular tools to evaluate training and training Quality, from the Trainees, the Trainers, and the Transfer of knowledge to the real-world perspective; this is also the most popular tool used for the measurement of Training quality.
  • SERVQUAL is seen as the most “commonly” used Service Quality Scale. The principle is to identify and measure the ‘gap’ between customer expectation and customer experience. This is realized by measuring the five dimensions, namely Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, and Empathy.
  • SERVPERF is a model that Cronin and Taylor (1992) designed by enhancing the SERVQUAL quality measurement tool to evaluate 11 elements (half of the SERVQUAL elements) across the same five dimensions of SERVQUAL; SERVPERF elements focus on the output of Performance (rather than perceived and expected delivery).

As you can see, there are many frameworks available, and they keep getting improved upon (standing on the shoulders of giants!). It’s very easy to spend a lot of time, energy, and money on researching and implementing Quality Management frameworks, and it’s very easy to get it wrong.

Keep it simple, identify precisely what your output will be, and work backward from there, ensuring you can measure it throughout the lifecycle, and you will be in a strong position to end up with something that is of high Quality, and you can be guaranteed of it!

Adil Hosgor can be reached at [email protected]

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