Quality Quantification Vs Quantity Qualification

Stephen Chung

Managing Director

Zeppelin Real Estate Analysis Limited

December 2005

The above title is just an attempt by your humble author to play with words for fun and there is no need to read too much into the terms despite two words ending with :fication;. Briefly, the former refers to measuring quality with the help of quantitative methods, while the latter refers to setting quantity targets presumably to achieve certain quality or performance standards. For instance, the former may mean a graded examination (quantification) to test and ascertain certain competence aspect (quality) of a group of students, while the latter may mean a production target (quantity) for workers to follow and achieve within certain resource and time constraints (a qualification-definition of production-output success). Although both approaches have their applications, given all things being equal, quantity as a broad concept should help to measure and enhance quality, but not the other way round.  

Your humble author works with data and applies quantitative methods from time to time, sometimes with help from PhDs and mathematics experts where sophisticated methodologies are required. Despite quantities・ usefulness, data and mathematical methods cannot reflect or cover ALL aspects of life and business, and over-indulgence on numbers can even be a dangerous thing at times, leading to misconceptions and probably investment failures. A few observations are listed below: 

A)     A shift from .quality conscious・ to being more .quantity conscious・ = compared to 30 or even 20 years ago, data and information have become easier to access and plentiful especially with the advent of the internet. As such, it is now easier to quantify things. By no means is this a bad thing, and quality level and differentiations can sometimes be better expressed via numbers e.g. 100%, 90%, 75% etc than via descriptive terms e.g. :extremely good;, :very good;, :good; etc. Nonetheless, some people seem apparently to have forgotten about the quality aspects and instead focus on achieving certain quantities. In short, the quantitative benchmarks which previously were created to help throw a light on the quality aspects have now become the goals-targets themselves, i.e. bench-marking for bench-marking・s sake.


B)     Some aspects are (still) not easy or even possible to quantify = for instance, two college professors may lecture the same number of hours per month, yet this does not automatically imply their teaching qualities are similar / the same, as traits such as the professors・ sense of enthusiasm or responsibility cannot be measured well at times, though student feedback surveys may give some insight. 


C)    The benchmarks, where over-emphasized and institutionalized, may become hurdles to improvement and creativity = for instance, a white collar worker may think by meeting the production target of so many written reports per period he / she should be entitled to a raise or promotion thus prompting him / her to chunk out reports after reports, or a CEO does business for business・ sake in order to reach certain turnover growths without regard to profitability, or a town mayor wanting a mega tower just because another city has one despite his town has no more than 200,000 people. Benchmarks are very useful, yet when they are unquestionably adopted, wastages may result. 

Viewing from another angle, your author sometimes wonders if famed genius such as Mozart, Einstein, Michelangelo, and the like would have passed the various benchmarks and quality committees that exist today. This also reminded your author of a seminar attended years ago. The speaker told the audience to pick 1 of the following 2 economies in which to work, invest, and live; one has a stable government, growing economy, low unemployment, while the other has exactly the opposite conditions. Many picked the former but when it was revealed the former meant Indonesia, while the latter was Italy, quite a few had a change of mind.

In summary, quantity is very useful and important, yet quality generally comes first, with quantity in a supporting, not dominating, role. After all, humans can now obtain the vital vitamins, carbohydrates, or proteins in pills or some hybrid drinks consuming little effort and time, yet most will still prefer to dine and eat the .traditional・ way. Why? This is because humans do not only concern themselves only with quantity, but also quality (of life) as well, perhaps more so.

Notes: The article and/or content contained herein are for general reference only and are not meant to substitute for proper professional advice and/or due diligence. The author(s) and Zeppelin, including its staff, associates, consultants, executives and the like do not accept any responsibility or liability for losses, damages, claims and the like arising out of the use or reference to the content contained herein.


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