The quality of any product is measured in standards by the customer and not by the manufacturer, and the standards and wants of the customer can change often and drastically. As such, quality is not a static state of being. It is dynamic, ever-changing, and has to be measured continuously. To appreciate what world class quality is, you must first know that in the current world it is very difficult to define.

World class quality is not just one thing. It is many things — a position and accolade to win, a rating, and a descriptor. It is also a methodology, and it’s a philosophical mindset. It’s a major differentiation in not only the ways that organizations do business, but also the beliefs and ethics that are the driving forces behind those ways. The right to claim the “world class” title may be earned by companies who demonstrate excellence in the areas of design and innovation, process and production, and quality management systems, but their excellence starts way before and ends long after the parameters of those areas as most people understand them.

Overview: what is world class quality?

There is no one definitive answer to this question. In general, however, world class quality is considered to be the highest level of quality achievable in any given field or area. This means that world class quality is not simply a matter of meeting minimum standards, but of consistently exceeding expectations in terms of both quality and performance.

This may sound straightforward, but it is multi-faceted and nuanced. It takes the highest level of optimal resource allocation you could imagine, and improves exponentially on that.

Ultimately, world class quality is an experience that, when had, people remember for a lifetime. It is possible only when there is a tireless commitment to excellence and a dedication to continuous improvement. World class quality also demands the use of best practices and the latest technology. The entire workforce must be skilled and of like mind in upholding core company values such as honesty, transparency, and empathy. And perhaps most significantly, it is an operating level only reached when there is leadership in place that is motivated less by profit margins, and more by engineering authentic, connected human experiences.

3 Benefits of world class quality in lean business

1. Being a part of something bigger

The single, most obvious benefit to operating with world class quality in mind is that it forces you to be honest with yourself and those who work for you about what you are truly capable of delivering. It makes you set goals that seem unattainable, but when met, can produce results unlike anything else you are likely to achieve. It forces a level of honesty that is not only good business, but also sets a precedent for the type of working relationship and environment you want to foster within your organization. These organizations have eschewed small picture thinking and “doing their own thing;” instead they recognize the bigger picture, know their place in it, and have mastered what their role is in contributing to the greater good.

2. Customers are fiercely loyal

If your organization has the intangibles required for success, there is no question this approach can lead to unimaginable success. “Intangibles” are traits such as inherent honesty, passion for people over profits, and an instinctual understanding of how the company’s products or services fit into and impact the worlds of their end user customers or end consumer customers. When these traits are embedded within an organization’s culture from day one, customers feel heard and understood on a level that not only solidifies a relationship, it creates a bond. They will never even consider taking their business elsewhere.

3. The opportunity to spread success

The traits employees need to thrive within such a company cannot be taught; they must instead come from within on a deeply personal level. This transcends the things people do and say, which can change depending on motives; instead, it speaks to the kind of person they are, consistently and without motives. Such reliability leads to implicit trust, which in turn leads to autonomy and unfettered access to company resources. Leadership is able to set employees up for success, and watch as they flourish.

Why is world class quality important to understand?

The term “world-class quality” has been bandied about for decades, but what does it really mean? Is it merely defined as the end product or service a company provides? While that is ultimately the goal, quality goes beyond the final stage of production. It involves a deep understanding of customer requirements and expectations as they relate to your products and services.

Quality also encompasses every facet of an organization’s culture. It means continuously seeking out ways to improve processes and workflows in order to enhance value for customers, employees and all stakeholders. Finally, it is impossible without a leader at the helm who is a human being first, and a business professional second; someone who considers all people involved with the operation – from employees to business partners to customers – as critical pieces in one’s own personal puzzle and vital links in their success.

Without understanding this, and truly appreciating the value of it, world class quality is out of reach.

An industry example of world class quality

With over 65 million paid subscribers spread over 40 countries, Netflix is one of today’s most well-known brands. This wasn’t always the case. It took the addition of an innovative leader with knowledge of lean and world class methodologies to make it possible. The three tools from these methodologies he employed were: The Positioning Model, The Branding Pyramid, and The Concept Summary.

Positioning – involves establishing a certain image so consumers regard them in a certain way (in this case, trustworthy, moral, and ethical)
Branding Pyramid – provides a visual reference of the company’s values to evoke a positive emotional response from consumers
Concept Summary – puts your work from the positioning and branding models into accessible, sixth-grade language, in order to begin a conversation with customers.

Ultimately, much of the strategy behind Netflix’s explosion in popularity centered around something so simple it is often overlooked, yet so effective it shouldn’t be: talking to people, and listening.

3 Best practices when thinking about world class quality

1. Thing big.

World-class quality is an overarching, holistic standard. It transcends all departments, from accounting to engineering to sales and marketing. It extends far beyond your organization and impacts the lives of real people in real ways, who go out into the world affected by their experience with you. Send them out as better people for having had a remarkable experience.

2. Be transparent.

In an organization striving for world-class quality, everyone has access to information about how the business is functioning and how they can help it improve.

3. Seek collaborative opportunities.

Working with others in your industry helps you identify common issues you can tackle together and empowers you to create better solutions than if you worked alone—all while promoting transparency across the industry.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about world class quality

What is world-class quality?

World-class quality refers to the standard of excellence that an organization aspires to in all its products or services. This standard is usually defined by a few different metrics, such as customer satisfaction and product reliability.

How can I achieve world-class quality?

While the entire organization is responsible for achieving world-class quality, this goal begins at the top. Board members and senior leadership must be committed to providing customers with high value and reliable products or services at every level of their company. You should also continuously look for ways to improve your operations, from rethinking workflows to investing in new equipment and training your staff. More than anything, it’s a mindset one must be able to achieve and maintain.

What are some examples of world-class quality?

One example of a company that has achieved world-class status is Toyota, which is frequently cited as one of the best automobile manufacturers in the world due to its commitment to innovation and its focus on safety, comfort, performance and fuel efficiency when developing each new model year after year.
Adventist Health, AARP, Nestle Purina, and Honeywell are other organizations that have been recognized for achieving world class quality.

The right mindset gets results

The key to succeeding with any lean business method is to develop the right mindset. While it’s true that you can’t teach someone to have the right mindset, you can provide the tools and the guidance to help them develop it for themselves, and in so doing, get the results you want with your business.

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