Is it more important how you make the burger, or what you make it with?

Burger Me BurgersI have recently been thinking about the importance of having a high quality product. I understand that different products have different target markets. I also understand that in some instances, the market sector you are targeting dictates the price point. This in turn influences the quality of the product.  As a product manager I would rather sell a high priced (i.e. high quality) product than the opposite, but I’ll go ahead and save that topic for another blog.

What I want to discuss is the relationship between product quality and execution. Let’s define a high quality product as one that meets and exceeds the customers’ expectations. If I order a fast food burger (at fast food prices) and receive a gourmet burger, I would consider that a high quality burger. Which by the way is a fairly regular experience when I eat at Burger Me here in Reno, NV. If you are ever in town, check them out.

So what is execution then? Execution is the process that the fast food joint follows to produce that high quality burger. A lot of different elements are involved with the execution of creating a burger. You have to arrange your kitchen in a certain way, have the right grill, and a decent cook. The staff has to make the order in a timely fashion to meet the customers’ expectations. All of these pieces have to come together to form the execution puzzle.

The question I have for you is this. If you execute perfectly, does this guarantee a high quality product?

On first take the answer might be an obvious yes. If the cook gets the order quickly, grills up that burger to perfection, and puts the condiments on just so, you should have a great burger right?

What if the lettuce was wilting? What if the cows ate low grade feed? A white bun is a completely different experience than a ciabatta roll.

Ah Ha! So having a high quality product does not just depend on executing well. You have to start with a high quality design. Good execution on a bad design is really just garbage in/garbage out.

What companies should be worried about is the opposite reality. A quality design that is ruined in the execution phase. The reason I say this is a concern for existing companies is the same reason I wrote this article. Personal experience.

Recently one of my vendors was acquired by another major corporation. Prior to this acquisition we had great experiences with the product. The design was cutting edge, product was delivered on time, and it was dependable during use.

After the acquisition everything changed. The design was the same, but the execution was completely redesigned. These changes caused a ton of problems for us, the customer. Lead times were extended by months and the products dependability completely fell apart. We had to spend a lot of money to save face with our customers and correct the problems.

Needless to say, we no longer represent that vendor.

So what is the take away? Having a high quality product requires two key elements. A high quality design and executing at a high quality level.

Having these two elements is still not enough. You have to preserve the quality of both. You have to keep the design of your product at the cutting edge by constantly improving it. You also have to ensure that you constantly execute at a high quality level.

What do you think about the relationship between product quality and execution? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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