For many, if not all, companies, quality is probably an obligation that must be fulfilled. However, the understanding of quality should go beyond traditional areas of quality management such as certifications and audits, laws and customer specifications and rather see quality as a great opportunity.

But what is quality anyway? ISO 9000 (Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary) defines quality as "the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of an object satisfies requirements". Requirements can come from different interested parties (such as customers or legislators). In many cases, fulfilling them is an obligation – for example, to meet certain legal requirements, to comply with agreements with the customer or to obtain the necessary certification.

The Obligation to Comply with Requirements

If, on the other hand, requirements are not met, this has consequences – for example, for customer relationships, one's own competitiveness and, in case of doubt, the existence of the company. Accordingly, many companies focus their quality management on meeting standards and customer requirements, minimizing errors, avoiding complaints – in other words, delivering products of high quality.

In this case, quality appears to be a mandatory task. Most companies master it very well with the help of elaborate quality management. From the point of view of Babtec Managing Director Michael Flunkert, this can be referred to as quality management in the classic sense.

The Will of Good Management

But: "The entrepreneurial aspirations of a management should be different today," writes Flunkert. "In good corporate management – as described in ISO 9001 – quality is not a compulsory exercise, but the will of good management." Accordingly, the claim and goal of entrepreneurs must be to act on the market in the interests of their customers. This includes not only meeting the expectations of the market, but exceeding them and creating new demands. Competitive advantage and unique selling proposition are means of successfully asserting oneself in the market.

Beyond the classic understanding of quality as the fulfilment of duties described above, opportunities that arise from high quality standards come to the fore here. Here we are talking about an understanding of quality that goes far beyond the product. What this means not only for quality managers, but also for company management and beyond for everyone in the company, you can read in the essay "Is Quality a Management Matter in Your Company?" by Michael Flunkert.

Opportunities Arise from the Unexpected

Building on this understanding, it is worth taking a look at how to deal with opportunities. Dr. Markus Reimer, quality auditor and keynote speaker, addresses this issue. He assumes that opportunities are often "only seen in achieving set goals". However, it is rather the unexpected that creates opportunities (as well as risks).

"Recognizing opportunities as opportunities at an early stage is obligatory from an entrepreneurial point of view" – on the one hand, because otherwise competitors could take advantage of these opportunities instead, and on the other hand, because markets could also develop away from one's own company. That's why: "We need to focus on the opportunity to recognize opportunities." Interestingly, the ISO 9001 management standard  even explicitly requires the identification of (risks and) opportunities to be addressed, which can lead, among other things, to “the adoption of new practices [...], launching new products, opening new markets, adressing new clients, building partnerships, using new technology".

The Duty to Seize Opportunities

Quality is and will undoubtedly remain a duty for companies, and few also see it as an opportunity. And ultimately, in this sense, it is a duty, both from a normative and a business point of view, to recognize and take advantage of this opportunity.

If you would like to learn more about the topic of opportunities, please read the article "Opportunity of Opportunities" by Dr. Markus Reimer in the current Q.Magazine 2023/24.


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