Quality of Work, Quality of Service


    I've been reading the book Managing The Professional Service Firm by David Maister, which is targeted toward the management of professional firms: consulting, law, and finance for example.

    But, he has a concept that should resonate for any business: “Quality work does not mean quality service.”

    By “work”, Maister means the technical thing you do, whether that's lean consulting or fixing a car. The work itself might be done right (the car is fixed), but the “service” might be horrible. By “service”, Maister refers to the overall customer experience, how easy is it to do business with you? Service means being available, returning phone calls quickly, not giving incorrect invoices, things like that.

    This applies in healthcare and I've seen it first hand as a consultant: a world-famous hospital does “quality work” (they cure a patient's cancer) but the “quality service” is lacking because the patient is constantly being delayed with late physicians and late appointments for treatment.

    Most of time, it seems we focus on the design and quality of our work. It's probably the quality of our service that leaves the longest lasting impression, good or bad. Most of us aren't qualified to gauge the technical services rendered to us, but we CAN judge the service.

    Service depends on the context. Maister uses the example of two car repair shops — one might be targeted toward people who know nothing about cars — requiring lots of explanations and hand holding, a nice lobby, etc. Another shop might be targeted toward real gear heads who don't want to be talked down to and would rather be in the shop with the technician learning something about their classic car.

    Either way — value (the work and the service) is defined by the customer. Many of the Maister ideas remind me of the book Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together, by Womack and Jones. Lean Solutions pushes companies to look at the end-to-end solution and experience for the customer, not just the “value added” piece. The book also pushes you to “not waste the customer's time” by making sure you're valuing their time and designing a good service experience.

    In your business, is the “quality of work” better than the “quality of service”??

    Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.org

    The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

    , , , on the author's copyright.

    What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

    Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

    Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

    Get New Posts Sent To You

    Select list(s):
    Previous articleDriven a Ford Lately? I Won’t Be
    Next articleLean Manufacturing in China: Opportunities and Challenges – LeanBlog Podcast Featuring Jim Womack
    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. Mark makes a great point about healthcare. Just within the last few years, our industry has begun to recognize customer service as an important element of care. A few pioneers have used examples like Disney and the Ritz-Carlton as examples for us to follow. We are also starting to use Lean, not only for process improvement, but to compliment our customer service component (or as Fred Lee says in his book, “If Disney Ran Your Hospital,” creating customer experiences). We have a long way to go, but we’re working on it.

    2. […] I wrote the other day about the wonderful high quality food at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. I looked at some reviews online and some people are very unhappy with the “Quality of Service” at the restaurant, at least before they get seated for good service and high “Quality of Work” (I talked about the difference between Work and Service quality here). […]


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.