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Almost-Quality

We all want and expect quality from the things, people, and ideas around us, but find only defects, exceptions, irregularities, risks, and imperfection ("almost-quality") everywhere.

If the thing doesn't break when you use it, it might next time. Maybe the thing is not a perfect match for the application you had in mind. Maybe that product or service only failed you in little ways. Maybe the color wasn't quite right, or the materials were second-rate, or the edges were too sharp. Maybe it's a choke-hazard, or blows up unexpectedly.

Maybe the person who made the product or provided the service missed the few crucial days at school when the quality aspects were covered. Maybe lawmakers or regulators forgot something important.

Don't worry, there's always room for improvement. (They're working on it right now.)


Types/Categories:

1. Defect: Product or Service defects. (Perhaps that gadget doesn't work properly.)

2. Mismatch: Product or service not appropriate for need. (Improper labeling, improper advertising, or improper application.)

3. Stupidity: User or provider does not know enough. (Failure to read the instructions. Failure to provide good instructions. The need for more education.)


The Benefits of Quality:

1. Improve and maintain reputation/name/brand.

2. Improve and maintain relationships (with customers, and the rest of the supply chain, government agencies, regulators, and employees).

3. Improve expected financial returns (reduce rework, testing, product returns, and write-offs.)

4. Enhance inertia, timeliness.

5. Improve predictability and reliability. Reduce risk.

6. Increase competitive advantage.


The Almost-Cynical View:

It is constant and never-ending innovation and novelty that feeds Capitalism. Said another way, Capitalism is founded upon the two cornerstones of planned obsolescence, and natural decay and disintegration. If we never needed to replace things, if we never sought out better ways of doing things, then that economic engine would stall.

But whenever we modify something, or build something new from scratch, we are prone to include errors, materials with weaknesses, bugs, and untested assumptions. The temptation is always to cut corners to keep costs low.

Consequently, there has emerged a field (almost an industry) called "Quality." Quality has it's gurus, and it's methodologies. Today, quality is everywhere, and in every industry.

The reason Capitalists rely on quality so much is that the tools can tell them precisely where the boundaries are. Producing shoddy work is no longer a hit-and-miss thing, it is calculated right down to the sixth sigma, and the last nickel. It is now possible to know "parts per million," and just how bad the decay or defect will be. (This in itself is an engineering marvel. We have created warranties, that counter precisely the lack of durability that is built into the product.) Teenagers are now worried about the quality of their YouTube videos. Doctors are now worried about the quality of their "waiting-room experience." And so on, in every arena of life.

Over the last hundred or so years, what we still call Capitalism has gone from almost-totally "laissez-faire" to almost-totally "regulated." Still, Quality is the almost-way of promise for the extension of almost-Capitalism into whatever form it may take in the future.

If a "better" -ism than Capitalism came along that allowed us to keep what we buy indefinitely, it wouldn't be sustainable (and that's a huge flaw for an ideology).

Actually, we must all hope for and expect to find defects, exceptions, irregularities, risks, and imperfections everywhere, so that someone will pay us to try to but then ultimately not add the desired and expected amount of quality into those things and systems.

Quality is one of those things you can have too much of, and so it's a very good thing that there is such a thing as almost-quality.




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