Revising the definition of quality

Today i was pondering on one of the definitions which originates from Jerry Weinberg, but was expanded by James Bach. The definition of “Quality” goes:

Quality is value to some person(s) who matter

Now, i do like this statement. It’s not as complex as many other definitions on quality. It’s easy to explain to someone. However, like i’m doing now, it’s still debated by many bloggers. It’s time i started my first blogpost and address what’s on my mind, instead of trying to squeeze everything in a 140 character Twitter message.

To me, there are some vital components missing in this definition. For this blogpost i want to address at least two of these components which, i think, add more value to this definition:

  1. Context
  2. What is valued

The value according to something/someone is depending on the actual context. We need a context to actually value something. While modeling a context, we are all making a whole load of assumptions around the context that you probably didn’t realize. When something alters this modeled context, the value to some person(s) might also be altered.
In addition, in his blog Markus Gärtner added the time element to the definition of quality. I agree with him that the time factor is also important for quality. But basically this is also an element related to the context.

Next, we can’t value thin air (well, actually we can, but metaphorically speaking). The value has to apply to something or someone. What is/are the person(s) that matter valuing? Are they valuing a specific piece of software? Are they valuing someone’s opinion? The “what” isn’t addressed in this definition.

My suggestion for an improved definition of quality:

 “Quality is contextual value of something or someone, to some person(s) who matter

Any additional thoughts are welcome. Feel free to reply…

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6 Responses to Revising the definition of quality

  1. Sometimes people get confused by the "value" part. Jerry Weinberg points out that value is "what someone will do (or pay) to have his (her) requirements met." It's interesting to watch that.—Michael B.

  2. Simon Morley says:

    Interesting first blog. Congrats!I'd prefer to find a formulation for the values of the customer/stakeholder without using the word "quality". I think it has so many interpretations even by people talking to each other about it.Quality is something that primes us into a certain expectation or rememberance of what we've thought about it before – it has a range of meanings in QA & QC – so I think the word itself is problematical. I think it will be an area that will always be difficult on which to reach a consensus of meaning.If we started discussing the values of the stakeholder/customer within the time constraints that they have commisioned a piece of work and within the set parameters that we scope that product (it's early release, to full launch, to end-of-life) then we have a framework in which the product sits and which to think about working towards those values. We can then start talking about whether the product is fit-for-purpose for it's early release and full launch.

  3. I don't get the 'who matter' part.It sounds a bit as if the working-class are not allowed to value quality. As if only the president, queen, CEO, etc can value quality.What is probably meant is that people who are not (pottentially) customers or users of the product, do not matter. But in the definition, that is irrelevant, because the 'some person' already makes it subjective. I.e. that the value differs from person to person.Or am I missing something else?

  4. Ray says:

    Hi Michel,TU for your first post ;-)I think it can be read as: "Quality is value to some person(s) who matter [in this case]" Adding 'contextual', doesn't add clarity, to my mind. Or I already assume that implicitly. Or maybe replace 'case' with 'situation' and you might also have the time component? In which case it is contextualized, I think…Regards,Ray

  5. First of all… thanks everybody for commenting on my first blogpost! I'm already brainstorming on my second one, so stay tuned! :)@Michael: It's not that the value part is confusing. But "value" points out to something. Just like "money" has "value" to someone. In Jerry's statement it's about "meeting requirements". Valuable requirements to him.@Arjan: Everybody is able to value something. Just like i value your comment. Why do i? Because i wrote the blogpost, i like comments and i'm passionate in talking about testing. So your comment is of value to me. Does it have the same value to our queen? I don't know. I dare to say she doesn't value it like i do, but does it matter?@Ray: To me, adding *in this case* is a pleonasm. Is the same person still relevant in a different case? It might. Or it might not. A person might matter in several cases. Or just in this case.

  6. Ray says:

    Hi Michel,Isn't that the point? I don't interpret 'Quality is….' as 'THE quality law, which is valid for all and everything, is…' in that case the answer would probably be '42' anyway.So quality is always subject to context. And yes it could be the same person. Or another. But also the subject under scrutiny is part of the context.A paper made by my 11 year old is valued differently then one made by my 38 year old sister, implying a different purpose and audience, ofcourse. So I think I understand your reasoning but I feel the 'original' definition still says it all (to me).Regards,Ray

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