Quality is defined as consistently meeting spec. A measurable promise made and kept.
Effort is what happens when we go beyond our normal speed. When we dig deep and exert physical or emotional labor and focus on something that is out of the ordinary. Effort is the opposite of coasting.
Often we’re taught that quality is the result of effort. That if you simply tried harder, you’d come closer to meeting spec.
And yet, when we look at organizations or brands or individuals with a reputation for quality, it’s not at all clear that they accomplish this with more effort. Because that’s simply not sustainable.
The people who work at a Lexus plant aren’t more tired at the end of the day than those that make the Cadillac Escalade. It’s not about effort. The same is true for the Dabbawalla who never misses a delivery. In fact, focusing on effort (and the effort of your team) is almost guaranteed to ensure that your quality problem will persist.
Persistent quality problems are a systemic issue, and if you’re not working on your system, you’re not going to improve it.
“How do we do this work?” is a much better question than, “who isn’t trying hard enough?”