Our Poor Quality Love Affair

Poor Quality at WorkIn the past week, my wife and I had two expensive auto repair bills. One was for our Mercury Cougar and the other for our Nissan Murano – both with about the same mileage. One vehicle had a broken sunroof gear and the other a broken seat adjustment gear. Both problems turned out to be well documented (see the Cougar sunroof site and Murano seat problems) and the result of a similar root cause. It seems both manufacturers, in an attempt to minimize costs, used plastic gears that were inadequate to support the weight over time. The engineers sacrificed quality for price.

The net result of these decisions by both auto-manufacturers was a cheaper sticker tag, with longer-term costs to their customers. In fact, in the case of the Nissan Murano, it’s been argued they even put their customer’s safety at risk. Up front, the manufacturer increases sales. Over time, they lose customers for the lack of their support and ability to deliver a quality product. However, can we truly place the blame solely on the manufacturers? Is blaming the manufacturer a bit like blaming only the “other person” in an extra-marital affair? It seems to me, we have a love affair with poor quality.

Our society increasingly demands cheaper purchase prices without considering the implications to quality, longevity or safety. Don’t get me wrong, I still hold the manufacturer accountable – especially when safety is compromised for sales, as Nissan seems to have done in this case. Furthermore, consumers should expect price reductions over time as systems, technology and processes improve. However, before we blame poor quality all on the manufacturers, consider your last big purchase – was the decision made based primarily on price or quality?

As a leader in your organization, consider where you invest your money. Whether you buy a product for your employees to use or develop one for your customers, quality should be a chief concern – inclusive of safety. For example, what is the safety record of the manufacturer or supplier? Do they seem to have sacrificed quality for price and revenue? One-time ratings of individual products help, but may not reflect the long-term perspective. Examine the performance of your partners, vendors and service-providers, over time, for the best perspective. And, whatever you do, do not fall for the tempting love affair of poor quality.

Question: How do you ensure the quality of the products for your team? Are you willing to pay a bit more for higher quality, either in your professional or personal life?

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Ben Lichtenwalner

Spreading servant leadership awareness, adoption and action with an emphasis on technology and contemporary issues.