Rethinking quality

What is “Quality”?

The ISO 9001 definition of quality is “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements”. This definition is very broad; in layman’s language, it says that quality is whatever the definer of quality (e.g. a client) says it is.

It follows that if a client says (and most clients would agree) that time and money are quality requirements, then they are – even though neither word, nor anything meaning those words, appears in the standard.

It also follows that when architects and engineers talk about “quality”, they are highly likely to be coming from a perspective different from their clients, and it is highly likely that the outcome will be miscommunication.

Why a Rethink is needed

Research from the global insurer XL Group shows that 39% of claims are caused by communication issues of various kinds, and another 25% are caused by inexperienced staff and/or inexperienced project managers. A further 6% are caused by negotiation failure and contract issues.

Together, these issues account for 70% of claims against design professionals. All of them, directly or indirectly, are quality issues. My years of experience with quality management systems and training for design professionals strongly supports this evidence.

I believe that the only solution to both lower risk and increase client satisfaction (they go together!) is to actively seek a far greater level of communication success across all issues of design practice.

There is an old saying “The devil is in the detail”. Mies van der Rohe observed that “God is in the details” as well. Quality is an issue in every aspect of design practice. Accordingly, I will return to this topic throughout this site.

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