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Quality ( Latin : quality, characteristic, property , condition ) has three meanings:

a) neutral : the sum of all properties of an object, system or process
b) evaluates : the quality of all properties of an object, system or process
c) evaluates : the individual values ​​preceding the action and its results

With regard to points a) and b), quality is the designation of a perceptible state of systems and their characteristics, which is defined in this state in a certain period of time based on certain properties of the system. Quality could describe a product such as wine and its chemical components and the resulting subjectively assessable taste as well as the processes of ripening the grapes, the production and distribution of the wine, or the process of managing the winery. In the meaning b) one speaks of quality wine or wine with predicate or of excellent management .

With reference to c), quality is the sum of the individual, (value) attitudes (properties) of a target-oriented individual.

ISO and IEC standardization

Quality according to the standard DIN EN ISO 9000: 2015-11 (with the applicable standard for quality management ) as "degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of an object needs satisfied" defined. The quality thus indicates the extent to which a product (goods or service) meets the existing requirements. The designation of quality can be used together with adjectives such as bad, good or excellent. In contrast to “assigned”, inherently means inherent in a unit , especially as a permanent feature. Objectively measurable features such as B. length, width, weight, material specifications meant.

Subjectively assigned descriptions such as “beautiful” or the price are not inherent because they cannot be objectively measured. The price or a personal judgment are therefore not part of the quality. By defining a target group and opinion polls, the subjective perception of this target group can be determined, an inherent characteristic can be defined and thus become “measurable” and part of the quality.

This definition replaced the formulation of DIN EN ISO 8402: 1995-08, the earlier standard for quality management. According to this, quality is "the totality of characteristics of a unit with regard to its suitability to meet specified and required requirements." Units are products, services, concepts, drafts, software, workflows, procedures and processes; Quality is a function of the demanding class.

According to IEC 2371, quality is the agreement between the properties determined and the previously defined requirements of a unit under consideration .

While quality used to be traditionally understood as a characteristic of products or services, i.e. customer requirements were in the foreground, the term quality extends within the framework of total quality concepts, such as total quality management as a comprehensive variant of quality management whole companies . In addition to customer requirements , there are the requirements of employees, investors and the general public (legal requirements), the fulfillment of which is used to measure the overall quality of a company ("Total Quality").

Quality approaches according to Garvin

In the practical application of the concept of quality, according to David A. Garvin, a distinction can be made between five different perspectives:

  • the transcendent understanding of quality: corresponds roughly to the colloquial view of quality. Accordingly, quality is a subjective experience of a person with regard to the special, unique properties of a product or service. Quality can neither be measured nor specified, just as the term beauty cannot be defined in general. This approach is hardly relevant in scientific practice.
  • The product-related understanding of quality: If the product-related perspective is taken as a basis for the quality assessment, the quality of a product results from the fulfillment of generally defined requirements. A classic example is the realization of smaller gaps in automobile construction compared to competing vehicles. Another example is the maturation time of a wine, which simply applies: the longer the wine rests, the higher the quality. However, product-related requirements are not entirely useful. So z. B. the reduction of the gap in an off-road vehicle with high demands on the body tends to make repairs more expensive.
  • The customer-related understanding of quality: This view defines quality as the perfect realization of all customer requirements for a product and corresponds to the quality definition of ISO 9000: 2005. The lack of features (failure to implement a customer requirement) has a negative effect on the quality of the product. Adding further features that are not desired by the customer cannot have a positive effect on the quality, since they are useless for the customer. Therefore, missing features cannot be compensated by adding other functions. One problem with this approach lies in the complete identification of customer requirements. While the customer is aware of explicit requirements, implicit (unconscious) requirements must be “extracted from a person” using suitable methods. So could z. B. represent a requirement unconscious to the customer the prestige of a motor vehicle, which is acquired by the purchase. The identification of requirements and their implementation in products is carried out by the research area of marketing or market research . Since the requirements can vary between people, no product of absolute quality can exist. Rather, the quality of a product can be assessed as positive by one person and negative by another. So have z. B. Supercars high quality for some people due to the property of conveying the social status of the owner. Environmentally conscious consumers will evaluate the quality features differently because of the unfavorable CO 2 balance.
  • The value-oriented understanding of quality: According to this point of view, a quality product is present when a product can be purchased at a reasonable price with regard to the features implemented ( cost-benefit ratio ). This view is z. This is used, for example, for product tests by magazines and is carried out in categories such as "price / performance winner" etc. However, when considering this, the relevance of the characteristics of a product for the customer must be taken into account (see customer-related understanding of quality). A higher price cannot be justified for the customer by useless product features.
  • the production-related understanding of quality: fulfillment of drawing specifications, agreements and standards; “ A priori ” quality.

The 4 cornerstones of quality according to Philip Bayard Crosby

Philip B. Crosby defined the four cornerstones of quality as follows:

  • Quality is defined as the degree of conformity to requirements (" Quality is conformance to requirements" )
  • The basic principle of quality planning is prevention
  • The zero-defect principle must become the standard
  • Quality cost is the cost of failure to meet requirements

Quality approach according to Lütke

As the "mother of all attitudes", quality is assigned to the individual cognitive process of a target-oriented individual that precedes every action. It can be recognized by the communication of the respective individual, by the nature of the human type (e.g. extrinsic or intrinsic basic motivation attitude) and can be derived from the consistency of being, saying and doing (communication) from the outcome of the action. This definition does not contradict the known definitions - it is rather an expanded perspective from which product and system-focused definitions can be derived.

Entrepreneurial understanding of quality

Entrepreneurial understanding of quality

The corporate understanding of quality goes beyond the quality understanding of EN ISO 9000: 2005 . The latter understands quality as the degree of overlap between the explicit and implicit demands of the customer “target” and the delivered properties “actual”. However, aligning the company solely with customer requirements is not necessarily entrepreneurial. When entrepreneurial understanding of quality is just the degree of overlap of the three targets "accounts receivable" (If), "Business Alignment" (wool) and "business ability" (Can) entrepreneurial quality is. Customer demands are for. B. Requirements for specific functionalities or properties that z. B. should fulfill a product ( product quality ) or a service ( service quality ) from the customer's point of view . The company's goals and strategic direction are reflected in the company's orientation. The company orientation defines how a company wants to work the market and thus the customers . The company is guided by social and self-imposed values. Business capability is understood as the competencies that the company possesses in the context of quality management in order to achieve the goals set and to implement customer requirements.

Quality in parlance

Although the term “quality” does not in itself contain any evaluation, the term is often used in everyday life as an evaluation. For example, quality is understood as the counterpart to quantity ( quantity is not the same as quality ). “Quantity” actually only describes the amount of qualitative properties and is therefore expressed in quantities or measured values . However, the idiom refers to the fact that in everyday language quality is often a synonym for goodness, which is why there is often talk of “good” or “bad” quality. If a customer buys a product or a service and if these fulfill their purpose for the customer, then in common parlance they are of “good quality”. This subjective, customer-related understanding of quality is very difficult to grasp, especially through market research, as it can vary greatly from person to person. Quality is when the customer comes back and not the goods.

Product, service and process quality

In fact, the term “quality” has established itself in everyday economic life as a general standard of value that is intended to express the appropriateness of a product ( product quality ), a service ( service quality ) or a process ( process quality ). This understanding can be seen in the expression “quality work”. It often takes place in a cross-departmental system that ensures the quality of the individual results. The planning , management and control of all necessary activities is called quality management . The result is the "quality product".

The difference between product and process quality can come into play in practice when it comes to questions of liability . For example, in 2014, when the higher regional court in Zweibrücken rejected liability claims that had been brought against TÜV Rheinland in connection with the defective breast implants from the manufacturer PIP, the TÜV Rheinland had to check the quality assurance system of PIP, but not the nature and quality of the manufactured products themselves.

Where product quality can be measured in quantitative terms, it is often referred to as technical quality . This applies, for example, to properties such as breaking strength , resilience, longevity, color fastness, etc. One of the simplest definitions for quality is the following rule: Quality is the agreement between actual and target. , i.e. the fulfillment of specifications or requirements (Fulfillment of a specification) in contrast to the fulfillment of expectations and goals as the overarching quality requirement (Fitness for Purpose). In production today, quality indicators are determined using computer-aided systems. These quality assurance systems are called CAQ systems (CAQ from Computer Aided Quality Assurance ).

Concept of quality in medicine

The perspectives listed above can be found in the health care system according to the Donabedian quality model under the keywords structure, process and result quality . The transcendent approach, which was already questioned in the Renaissance, has been preserved wherever individual cases and non-objective successes play a role for patients and practitioners. The path to successful, high-quality treatment is determined by means of "expert statements", medical guidelines of the professional associations and justifiable guidelines within the framework of medical quality assurance . With regard to novel treatment techniques and their relevance for therapeutic minimum or maximum standards, different evaluation criteria apply in some cases. Scientific and professional organizations try to determine the level of evidence in consensus for the various competing therapies .

With health insurance companies and patients who have cost transparency (co-payer), a "materialistic quality concept" has become established. I.e. a good product for a reasonable price, which of course can also be a (dental) medical service .

Professions in the quality sector

The German Society for Quality offers educational events in this environment.


  • Tilo Pfeifer, Robert Schmitt (ed.): Masing handbook quality management . 6th, revised edition. Carl Hanser Fachbuchverlag, Munich / Vienna 2014, ISBN 978-3-446-43431-8 .
  • Tilo Pfeifer, Robert Schmitt: Quality Management. Strategies-methods-techniques. 4th edition. Carl Hanser, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-446-41277-4 .
  • Hans-Dieter Zollondz: Basics of quality management. Introduction to history, terms, systems and concepts. 2nd, expanded edition. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-486-25950-4 .
  • Gerd F. Kamiske , Jörg-Peter Brauer: Quality management from A to Z. Explanations of modern terms of quality management. 5th edition. Carl Hanser, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-446-40284-5 .
  • Tilo Pfeifer: Practice book quality management. Tasks, solutions, results. 2nd Edition. Hanser, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-446-21508-5 .
  • David A. Garvin: What Does "Product Quality" Really Mean? Sloan Management Review, Fall 1984, pp. 25-45.
  • Philip B. Crosby : Quality is free: the art of making quality certain. McGraw-Hill, New York 1979, ISBN 0-07-014512-1 .
  • Oliver Lütke: Quality and Cultural Capital - How attitudes influence the result of actions , 3rd edition, Dissertation.de, ISBN 978-3-86624-257-9 .

Web links

Wikiquote: Quality  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Quality  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Judgment in the proceedings on defective breast implants before the Palatinate Higher Regional Court in Zweibrücken announced today. Press release. (No longer available online.) Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection Rhineland-Palatinate, January 30, 2014, formerly in the original ; accessed on March 21, 2014 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / dejure.org  
  2. ^ PA Ehrl: Quality management in implantology. In: BDIZ (Hrsg.): White Book Implantologie. Jahrbuch Verlag, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-89296-056-9 , pp. 79-88.
  3. A. Von Nettesheim: About the questionability, even nullity of the sciences, arts and trade. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1993.
  4. ^ Swiss monthly for dentistry. Vol. 115, 7/2005: Quality guidelines in dentistry.
  5. KF Müller: Implantological Quality. In: BDIZ (Hrsg.): White Book Implantologie. Jahrbuch Verlag, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-89296-056-9 , pp. 67-77.