If you don’t have a common concept of ‘quality’ then you won’t achieve it

+44 (0)207 993 2287
Quality, like beauty, can be in the eye of the beholder. One person's 'acceptable limitation' is another's 'absolute flaw'. Common expectations need to be established so everyone aims for the same standards. A consolidated expression of the Quality Criteria you will apply to a piece of work gives everyone a stable frame of reference to refer to. Their key role is to influence what will be done in the future not to judge the past.

Qualities verses function

Think of the “qualities” of a system as the things that don’t get mentioned when you ask “What will it do?” but that start to appear when you have to ask “So what is wrong with it?”, things that can make or break its success in the real world. This is not always a black and white distinction but it is a pragmatic one. Examples of “qualities” could be how easy is to learn to use, how error prone is interaction, how quickly information be found or how easy is it to introduce a new organisational unit. Clearly defining quality requires some thought.

Quality Criteria

The foundation for achieving quality is a common understanding of what “qualities” are of interest, of ways each will be “measured” and of “how good” each is expected to be. In turn, a common understanding comes best when there is a common expression of these things as Quality Criteria. When quality criteria are implicit they are unrecognised by many and subject to conflicting opinions of others. Explicit criteria heal this wound.

To influence rather than judge

It is very important to recognise that the key role of quality criteria is to influence what will be done rather than to judge what has been done. They primarily act as a guide, their use for assessment is secondary. They need to be established as the work is being planned.

Solution agnostic and autonomous

These criteria are part of the “target” that the work is planned to achieve. As such, though not cast in stone, they do need to be defined upfront. This timing, in turn, helps to set the nature of the criteria, they need to be as agnostic to the solution itself as possible. The criteria definition set is a foundation artefact, along with Scope and Vision, it must be consistent with the other foundation artefacts but also autonomous. Quality criteria should not be solution dependent.

The art of quality criteria

There is an art to expressing quality criteria, to the practice of moving away from already establish solution views to get to the underlying characteristics that are important and to expressing these in solution agnostic terms. Analysis is needed to tease out what is important, creative thinking is needed to express these needs in a way that will influence how people work in the future and provide a pragmatic scale to judge success against.