The Art of Quality

Steve Williamson, Dir. Product Development, eRep, Inc.
Monday, April 4, 2022
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The Art of Quality

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Tags: #quality #simplicity #focus

My tired old Mr. Coffee™ drip coffee maker (don't judge me) finally died. After almost continual use since I bought it in 2014, it gave up the ghost. Since I was in the market for a new one, I decided I would get a quality coffee maker this time instead of whatever was on sale at the local department store.

Thoroughly researching products before a purchase is part of my nature. My Core Values Index psychometric profile is "Innovator/Banker", and it is the Banker part of my personality that drives me to make sure my chosen solution to a problem is well researched.

I read reviews and several "Top Ten Best Coffee Makers of 2022" guides. I watched videos. I read user reviews on shopping websites like Amazon. I even asked a friend who really likes coffee.

In the end, I settled on a brand and model of coffee maker I'd never heard of before, made by hand in The Netherlands based on a design that originated in 1968. It also happens to be one of the most expensive home drip coffee makers you can buy. (It's a Technivorm Moccamaster KB7411, if you're interested.)

This story isn't about a coffee maker, though, at least not directly.

This story is about the art of quality. Hint: It involves focus and simplicity.


My new coffee maker is not programmable. It doesn't have a clock. It has a simplistic, minimalist design that, to my eyes, slightly resembles the control tower at a small airport. It only has two switches, one to turn it on or off and the other to select the heat level of the hot plate under the glass carafe.

It doesn't pre-grind my beans, nor does it steam or froth my milk. It doesn't even beep when the brewing is done.

This coffee maker only does one thing, it does it exceptionally well, and it does it with world-class reliability.

Ah, if only everything in our busy lives was like my coffee maker.

I made my purchase online from a retailer2 that doesn't dilute themselves by selling books and tires and clothes and USB cables alongside their coffee makers. This retailer specializes in coffee and the tools you need to make it. Period.

They do an exceptional job of selecting top products and informing their customer about how their products can enrich their lives (if anything can enrich a person's daily life, it's coffee!) They execute the sale and shipping process exceptionally well with an uncomplicated and easy to follow purchasing experience. My coffee maker shipped within an hour of my order and arrived well-packed and on time just a few days later.


I'm sipping a cup of coffee made in my new coffee maker as I write this, and I reflect on the many companies I have done business with as both an individual consumer and as a business professional. How many have had the dedication to simplistic and focused quality that I am experiencing with my coffee maker?

How many companies changed paths and missions and target markets in their history, or stayed true to their vision?

How many individuals have I worked with that spent the time and effort needed to be the best they could be at their job, without complicating it with needless secondary skills or tasks that just diluted their energies?

The reality is that very few of us have the luxury of doing just one thing (and doing it well). Some roles require us to be good at many things. We run the risk of becoming a Jack or Jill of All Trades and a Master of None if we don't maintain a sense of focus on what matters. If we find ourselves diluted and feeling like too little butter spread over too much bread, then our entire effort begins to suffer.

If we find ourselves diluted and feeling like too little butter spread over too much bread, then our entire effort begins to suffer.

We run the risk of losing our focus, our dedication to the art of quality.

What is Quality?

What is quality? In its essence, quality can be defined in terms of trust and reliance. To be good at what you do is to genuinely inspire in those who depend on you the feeling that they can trust and rely on you to do what you promise to the level of performance required for the task.

Is quality an art, though?

The measure of quality should be mostly objective. What are the metrics by which your work-product can be measured? We can't avoid a subjective sense for how well someone does their job, that’s human nature, but we still need an objective way to measure it.

We can't avoid a subjective sense for how well someone does their job, that’s human nature, but we still need an objective way to measure it.

The art of quality comes about in your attitude toward achieving it. Striving for excellence is important but not a guarantee it will be achieved. For example, no matter how hard I train or practice, I will never be able to dunk a basketball or play guitar better than Stevie Ray Vaughn. Effort alone won't cut it.

Effort is motion but it must be guided by a clear objective. You don't want to be known for being an "all motion and no direction" person. Conversely, even if you're on the right track, a train will come along and squish you if you just sit there.

Remove what gets in the way or doesn't add value.

The art of quality takes the motion of diligent effort, guided by a clear direction and mission, and moves freely forward uninhibited by what is unimportant. Remove what gets in the way or doesn't add value. This is the focus required to maximize your effort.

Do everything you can to make sure as much of your effort is dedicated to achieving your objective. The closer you can get to moving in a straight line, the less distance you'll have to travel to get from A to B.

If you know what you want to accomplish, move persistently and efficiently toward that goal, and don't dilute your effort with unnecessary goals, you can reach a state of quality.

All this talk about quality makes me look forward to my second cup of coffee. What's in your cup?


[1] Technivorm Moccamaster KB741

[2] Seattle Coffee Gear

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Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson

Innovator/Banker - Dir. Product Development, eRep, Inc.

Steve has a career in information technology, software development, and project management spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (, and when he isn't writing he is an aspiring multi-instrumentalist and composer, a virtual pilot in a home-built flight simulator, and a cyclist.

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