The instructor of a training session I recently attended used an analogy that I liked. He asked whether we thought of McDonald’s as a high-quality restaurant. The question drew a few chuckles and, of course, most of us replied that we did not. He then went on to explain that, in fact, McDonald’s is a high-quality restaurant, and here’s why:

Quality is consistency.

McDonald’s is not high-quality because it is considered a premium product, but because it consistently satisfies customer expectations. If a customer wants a quick, tasty meal in 3 minutes for about 5 bucks, then they know that’s exactly what they’ll get at McDonald’s.

For the purposes of playing out the analogy, I submit these definitions:

  1. Value is provided by meeting or exceeding a customer’s expectations for a price they are willing to pay.
  2. Quality is providing value consistently over time.

Why is consistency the key?

If the next time you went to McDonald’s and paid $4 for a Quarter Pounder meal, and received a thick, juicy, medium-well burger more like one you’d expect at a nice, sit-down restaurant you’d probably be surprised and very pleased. You’d be singing their praises and talking up the surprisingly wonderful burger you got.

However, if on the following visit you paid your $4 and get the standard issue McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, and not the thick, juicy, premium burger, you’d be disappointed. McDonald’s would have failed to meet your new expectations as a customer, and your perception of the value of McDonalds’ quality might decrease.

I don’t know if there’s a step down from McDonald’s, but if it were me, I’d be equally miffed if I showed up and, say, the burger was charred and the fries still half-frozen – or somehow the food wasn’t nearly as good as I’ve come to expect.

But when you goes to McDonald’s, you typically leave full and satisfied that you got exactly what you expected for a price you willing to pay. That’s why I go there on occasion, and that’s why my kids get all worked up about going to Mickey D’s, too.

Applying what we’ve learned

You may already see how this could tie into becoming a quality Business Analyst., blogger, or whatever it is that you may be doing.

According to our instructor, in order to become “high-quality” in the eyes of our customers, we need to consistently meet or exceed their expectations. It’s not enough to “wow ” them with extraordinary performance on one project only to reset their expectations to varying, lower levels with subsequent ones. The goal is to consistently perform at the best of our ability, and not establish expectations in our customers that we are not capable of meeting, or are less than our best.

I do see some merit to the analogy. I definitely want to provide great value to my customers consistently, and agree that being steady and reliable are important characteristics of a successful Business Analyst.

Of course there are holes that could be poked in this analogy (as is the case for most). One thing I wondered as we discussed McDonald’s and quality was whether some might see this as justification to find a comfort zone at which he/she could perform consistently, become complacent, and call that high-quality. I am sure that wasn’t the intent. What the instructor didn’t delve into, but which are real facts, is that with their competitive landscape, McDonald’s constantly needs to hone its skills and look for incremental competitive advantages in order to continue to win in the marketplace.

As Business Analysts, we are no different. In order to stay relevant (not to mention employed), we have to satisfy our customers consistently while at the same time working to sharpen our skills and increase the value we provide at sustainable levels.

Well, there you have the McDonald’s/Quality analogy. What are your thoughts on it?

How important do you perceive consistency to be for Business Analysts? How about as a measure of quality? Anyone think I am way off on this one? I’ll look forward to your comments.

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