Who owns quality for your product? Whenever I ask that question, I am often met with one or more of the following reactions:
- A blank stare
- “Testing/Quality Assurance/Quality Control, of course!”
- “Management.” (lots of variations on that)
- “Creative/technical leadership.”
So, maybe the better question is: Who defines quality? The answers are marginally better. I’m usually met with:
- A blank stare
- “Quality Assurance!”
- (fill in the leadership position)
- “The customer?” or “The customer, but…”
Ultimately, it is always the customer who defines quality, whether the customer knows it or not. It is the customer who decides whether to buy the product/service, which can often be a credit to the marketing department. Marketing aside, in our über-connected world, it is still the customer who decides whether the product/service experience is positive – and shares it with other potential customers.
In our teams, though, we rarely have direct access to our customers. Even if we are consumers ourselves, as creators our point-of-view is often biased and does not represent the “normal” experience. So, how do we adequately represent our customer within our teams and define the quality for our products. This can be handled in one or more of the following ways:
Depending on how large the product is, one or more people may have the position of understanding what are your customers’ wants/needs and representing those to the team. This role should be spending time with customers, gathering feedback, looking at customer data and using the product/service so they understand what the customer experiences. However, be wary of people in this role who are completely driven by personal preference, since they will only represent one part of the market.
A good Quality Assurance team (and a good Quality Control team) will be a team of super-users. They use your product/service, and that of your competitors, a lot. They are a great source of input and feedback. They are also there to keep the team honest. Just be careful that they don’t become too process-oriented and lose sight of the product.
Your creative/technical leaders need to be able to represent your customers’ wants/needs when providing direction to the team. Similar to Product Owner/Manager(s), be wary of those who are mainly representing their own ego.
So, going back to the original question: who owns quality? Who is responsible for ensuring the product/service meets customer expectation? If one or more of the above roles are responsible for defining quality, it is the responsibility of the team to meet or exceed those expectations. If possible, the team should use your product/service, as well as that of your competitors. The team should also provide input and feedback on the experience, in addition to ensuring their work is as defect-free as needed.
In short, everyone owns quality. The people responsible for defining quality and the people responsible for delivering it should be exposed to as much customer information as possible. Even better – they should be exposed to the customer and be customers themselves. Only then will they be able to create something that will delight customers, who will buy – and recommend – more.
Who defines quality on your team? How do you define quality ownership on your team? How do you ensure you create a quality product or service?