Academic journal article Review of Business

The Definition and Perception of Quality in ISO-9000 Firms

Academic journal article Review of Business

The Definition and Perception of Quality in ISO-9000 Firms

Article excerpt

There are both distinctions and similarities of conceptual and perceptual definitions of quality. The theoretical perspectives of quality can be compared to the quality approaches used in several ISO-9000 certified firms. There is support for an integrated theory of quality that explicitly considers customers needs, delivered value to customers, and social costs and benefits.


It is difficult to find any organization today that is not aware of quality and the increased emphasis placed on quality and value by consumers. Products as varied as automobiles, super-computers and even candy are all subject to the demands of real or perceived quality. Indeed, Townley proposes that quality has become a strategic component in organizational performance [24]. Flynn et al. state that "high quality, well designed, manufacturable products" tied to supporting processes where "built-in quality" along with an environment that fosters continuous improvement are necessary conditions to establish a competitive advantage [4]. In this study, quality was found to be the most critical strategic manufacturing issue for the 1990s.

Hill suggests that the role of quality has "changed from an order winner to a qualifier" [10]. Hill's order winners are the attributes of a marketing mix that are important to the customer and that an organization excels in, which result in customer satisfaction and long-term relationships. Order qualifiers are attributes which when absent result in a product being removed from consideration.

Further evidence of the importance of quality is provided in Deming's famous Fourteen Points, stating that management must "adopt a new (quality) philosophy" that "create (s) constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service" [3]. Deming believed that quality should be the underlying philosophy of a business rather than simply a component of the strategic plan. Miles et al. who suggested quality orientation as an emerging business philosophy also supported this view [16].

The purpose of this study is to assess empirically the quality construct proposed in Miles et al. It explores the variance in theoretical definitions of quality, assesses how quality is defined in businesses that have a formal organizational commitment to quality and compares the theoretical definitions with a limited qualitative assessment of practitioner perspectives.

Definitions of Quality

Definitions of a quality construct are by nature cross-disciplinary and encompass operations, strategy, marketing, engineering and philosophy. Although researchers cannot agree on a particular definition for quality, a conceptual framework for categorizing divergent approaches to defining quality was developed by Garvin [7].

An adaptation of Garvin's classification framework used by Forker defines quality from the following perspective: (1) transcendent, (2) product based, (3) user based, (4) manufacturing based and (5) value based [5]. Taguchi offers a sixth approach to defining quality, quality as a loss to society [22]. This study adapts Forker's framework in evaluating the quality orientation construct developed by Miles et al.

Transcendent perspective. The transcendent perspective of quality seeks to define it in terms of some abstract philosophical, perceptual, moral or religious entity. The transcendent or philosophical perspective appears to be the foundation from which all other quality perspectives are ultimately derived - from Deming's 14 steps, Pirsig's quality as the Budda, Shewhart's quality as "goodness" and ultimately to Taguchi's explicit consideration of societal welfare [3,18,20,22].

A philosophical approach is grounded in the cultural context and myths of the quality construct. In a PBS series focusing on Germany's obsession with quality, Peters implied that quality is a core cultural value and becomes a measure of personal and societal worth [17]. …

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