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It is never too late to reassess how you define quality

We all need to be able to reevaluate issues and concepts. We have also all heard it said that adapting to change is harder for older people. Dr Joseph Juran is one of the significant figures in quality and he changed how he defined quality when he was over 95 years old. 

In the third edition of his Quality Control Handbook, which was published in 1979, he defined quality as “fitness for use”. The fifth edition of the Handbook was published in 1999 and still used  “fitness for use” as its definition of quality. In the sixth edition of his Quality Handbook, which was published in 2010, he changed his definition of quality to “fitness for purpose”. 

Juran was born in 1904 and died in 2008. He was 95 years old when the fifth edition was published and it must have been after the publication of the fifth edition that he reasoned that “quality means fitness for use” was no longer applicable because “more and more service industries use the methods of managing for quality, the prior definition is not applicable enough” [1].

The new definition of quality is in the section called “How to think about quality” in the sixth edition of Juran’s Quality Handbook. This section is worth reading for its insights on understanding quality. The sixth edition of his Handbook was published in 2010 two years after his death at the age of 103, so Juran’s contributions to the Handbook were written when he was aged between 95 and 103. 

Being mentally flexible is something to value. That Juran could reassess and redefine a core concept when he was over 95 years old should make us think that we all should be able to reassess and redefine important issues and concepts such as quality and also that age is not a barrier to mental flexibility.


[1] Juran’s Quality Handbook Sixth Edition

Resources about Dr Joseph Juran:

Web pages:



Published by Mike Harris

Mike has been working in testing for 20 years and is the lone tester for Geckoboard. He has been a Test Lead and has also worked as a part of waterfall, lean and agile teams. He has a B.Sc.(HONS) from Middlesex University and is an Associate of the University of Hertfordshire. He has set up and led a Testing Community of Practice and been part of a successful agile transition. He is Vice-Chair of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing. He also contributed to the e-books Testing Stories and How Can I test This? and has had articles published by the Ministry of Testing, LambdaTest and The QA Lead.

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