The Art and Science of Law

Navigating the 100% Quality Minefield

The client defines quality. But, what if the client has defined quality as 100% error free work?




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The client defines quality.  That is the Six Sigma modification of the old “the customer is always right” trope. 

But, what if the client has defined quality as 100% error free work?  In my experience, clients are most likely to assert this Platonic standard if they feel like they are muddling blindfolded through a minefield.  They don’t have complete information from the business people, or the regulators, or their vendors, and things can start to feel very dicey.  Let’s face it, if you’re blindfolded in a minefield, Zero Land Mines is bound to sound like a really strong policy.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with striving for perfection.  But, it is imperative to separate the means, i.e., quality, from the ends, i.e., outcomes.  We pursue high quality in order to achieve the desired outcomes.  But, a process that requires that every item be entirely without error or variation in order to achieve the desired outcome, will look very different—and be exponentially more costly—than a process which can tolerate some of each.  Look around the room you are sitting in right now: none of its contents were generated by a zero error or variation process.

So, in this case, job one is to remove the blindfold.  Establish transparency not just around outcomes, but also into the process itself.  The next step is to separate actual land mines from Christmas crackers and ground snaps, by refocusing on the objectives (that ought to be established at the outset of any project—and revisited periodically throughout).  That is, separate the means from the ends and have distinct conversations around each.  The objectives, both legal and commercial, will allow you to set appropriate priorities for quality control and remediation.  

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