Quality must be viewed very differently in the white-collar world. The traditional view simply doesn’t fit.
In Henry Ford’s day, for example, central to the concept of mass production was standardization of parts. That idea leads directly to the notion of manufacturing tolerances – i.e., upper and lower limits for parts in 3-dimensional space. The goal is to ensure physical
interchangeability of physical
parts. That idea is now standard practice, of course, across manufacturing and production sectors.
But what are the ‘parts’ in white-collar work? White-collar processes simply don’t deal with physical things. How can you identify tolerances for them in 3-dimensional space? You can’t!
In a very real sense, the ‘parts’ in white-collar work are literally just bits and bytes.
If not tolerances as a basis for quality, then what’s the proper focus? My answer: consistency and reliability of results
For example, if I visit ten different branches of the same bank about getting a mortgage for my dream home, shouldn’t I get the same answer on my application from all 10 branches?! As you perhaps have experienced yourself, that’s not
the way it works in many banks today. So one aspect of quality in white-collar work is the consistency and reliability of operational business decisions
Another aspect of quality concerns compliance. Every business is subject to ever growing numbers of (take a deep breath here) … acts, laws, statutes, regulations, contracts, MOUs, agreements, terms & conditions, deals, bids, deeds of sale, warranties, prospectuses, citations, certifications, receipts, legal notices … and the list goes on.
Shouldn’t I expect consistency and reliability of results with respect to all those obligations and commitments? I believe we should. If it’s not about quality, then what?!
My conclusion:When there isn’t any physical product from a business process, quality and defects must be measured by consistency and reliability of results, which are in turn always purely a matter of business rules.
For background on this post, see: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/27/measuring-quality-and-defects-in-the-knowledge-economy/