Quality is practical; it is also moral and aesthetic.
– Tom Peters – Management Guru
In the minds of men, Useful has succeeded the Beautiful.
– Benjamin Disraeli
(commenting on the transition from the pre-modern to modern age.)
True quality comes from the refinement of culture and the pursuit of beauty and quest for excellence.
Total Quality Management (TQM) may not be the present fad in Business. Jack Welch, the famed former CEO of GEC opted for Six Sigma instead of TQM! But the concept of Quality has an eternal relevance for management and human development.
What is precisely the meaning of Quality? The ancient thought viewed quality in terms of aesthetic refinement. The traditional management thought conceived quality in terms of reliability, durability, technical excellence or utility of the product or service. More recent trends of thought in management views quality in terms of customer perception or satisfaction. There is an element of truth in all these perceptions.
There are two dimensions to quality: inner and outer. The outer quality consists of external factors like reliability, durability, technical excellence, utility, aesthetic design and many others. Beauty or aesthetics is an important part of quality. Ancients valued Craftsmanship as an essential aspect of quality. Craftsmanship is a combination of professional skill with artistic excellence or in other words an inner vision of beauty expressing itself through a harmonious and skillful action, culminating in a product or service of extraordinary beauty and quality.
The inner dimension of quality depends on the quality of consciousness of the people who make the product and the environment in which the product is made. This is the invisible dimension of quality, which is not recognized, in modern thought. The other aspect of this psychological dimension of quality is the inner response which the product or service invoke in the customer or in other words, the nature and quality of the experience which the customer has in the act of looking, buying or using it. This aspect of quality is now increasingly recognized in modern management thinking. An integral approach to quality must take into consideration all these dimensions of quality.
The other aspect of quality is the quest for progressive perfection or excellence in every activity of life, not only in terms of outer efficiency, productivity or improvement but more importantly in terms of mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual refinement, which means a quest for truth, beauty, harmony, goodness in all the activities of the individual and collective life. This inner refinement is the essence of culture. In this deeper perspective culture is the outer expression of the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual genius of a community. The quality of the corporate life comes from the effort of culture, which means in practical terms, government of the outer material and pragmatic life of the community by the inner and higher mind and soul of the group.