Quality versus Grade


*Please note there is a language warning in this article.

What is the difference between quality and grade?

Before you become too invested in this article, note that it has been written on a light hearted keyboard.  If you want the serious version, using proper examples, head this way fine Sir.  Before you go keep in mind that the low grade version may actually be of higher quality.

Is there a difference between grade and quality?

It’s a minefield of misinformation and confusion.  Think you know the answer? Do a quick internet search just to make sure, and when you are sufficiently confused come back.

The real answer is yes there should be a difference but the English language has evolved (or devolved) to allow the interchangeable use of these different words.

Admittedly the English language is littered with anomalies. I found myself having a conversation with a friend on why the word “baboon” was pronounced baboun and the colour “maroon” pronounced marone?

Was it to distinguish the colour from the other meaning of the word: to abandon someone?  Thank God if it were, as that could have been really awkward:  “I’m going to maroon you”.  Sorry do you mean you are going to abandon me or paint me an ugly shade of red?

Back on topic.  So do the words quality and grade have a different meaning in Project Management?  Well yes! I’m throwing away the reference books on this one and winging it, so these are my definitions:

Grade: the technical awesomeness of something.  If a product is more kick ass than another it is of higher grade.

Quality: the degree to which a product or service meets the needs of whoever the hell is going to use it.

Oh let me define price as this comes along to stir the pot.

Price: the amount of coin you dish out to legally acquire something

So let’s use an example.  A drawing of a car.

Which drawing is of higher grade, Car 1 or Car 2?

car 1car 2s






Let me rephrase that using the new definition, which drawing is more awesome? Or which would you be more proud to say- “yeah I drew that” even though you know you actually traced it?

I’m not going to lie either, I’m sticking with you guys, the first one!

Ok so the first one is of higher grade- lock it in.


What about quality?  Which drawing is of higher quality, car 1 or car 2?

car 1car 2s






If we were being honest 95% of people picked the first one, the other 5% picked the second for one of these two reasons; they either knew it was a trick and didn’t want to look foolish or they were a child and legitimately liked the second one.

Either way if you made a choice you were wrong.  Quality cannot be determined through the sole comparison of two products.  Quality as per our definition is based upon the how well it meets the needs of the person using it.

Heard the saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder? It’s normally something people say to save face when they suck at art.  I use it a lot.   Well in project management we should say quality is in the eye of the end user.

In order to determine what quality is, we must first define the needs of the user.  In this case what do we need the picture for?

For example if we needed a graphic to teach a very basic arts class (and I mean very basic, one for children and those at my level) then the first picture would not be regarded as being of high quality.  Although high grade, it would not be fit for purpose.  However the second image, which we identified as being of much lower grade, may be considered of higher quality in this example.

car 3Similarly if we wanted to design a “no parking sign”  which image would we use?  Well I found the answer after a quick google images search, the clear winner- candidate number 2 with 99% of images.  Most looked a bit closer to this.



car 4


To be honest I could only find one site offering our high grade example to be used for the purposes of a no parking sign and it would only really work if you had the name “Tony”.



So it all comes back to our initial definition of quality,

what are the needs of the person(s) who will be using the product and to what degree does the product meet their needs.  Super simple right.

So a product of high grade can be low quality.

Whilst the product is kick ass in its own right (grade) it sucks at being fit for the purpose that someone wants it for (quality).

In this example, a product that is low grade: “dude that looks like it was drawn by a child”, can be of high quality if it suits the client’s needs; for example if it is for a low level arts course or a sign supplier to local councils.

But hang on- what about price?  Isn’t price is an indication of quality or something like that?

I told you price would come along to stir the pot.

Price has nothing to do with either quality or grade.  Normally in a competitive environment a higher grade demands a higher price, but there are so many exceptions to this. Since this article started from a pub conversation on the colour maroon what better example to use than red wine.

I did a quick search on the most expensive bottle of wine and I found a couple; my favourite was the $310,000 bottle from 1945 that basically said it would taste rubbish.  So to me that is quite low grade wine.  It was expensive due to some historical thing that happened someplace at sometime long ago- super boring……

Ok then, what about price and quality in this case- subjectively we may have an argument.  For a microscopic percent of the population such as for as a collector for instance that super expensive shit tasting wine is quality: based upon what they want to do with it (remember our initial definition) and for everyone else- that bottle of wine does not represent quality as we don’t want to take out a mortgage at our next dinner just to drink vinegar.

Price is just the amount of coin you dish out, although in cases it is reflective of grade, it does not actually represent quality. In most cases it actually affects quality in an inverse manner.  The higher the price generally the lower the quality (it will make sense just go back to the initial definition) or ask the checkout person to increase the price of your next purchase and see if the quality goes up or down.

To really smash this lets go back to my little car drawing.

Funnily enough I can buy the high grade picture (car 1) printed, laminated and posted to me for about $15.  Now for me to just download the low grade (simple car drawing) it was $65.  Now if you still believe that high price is high quality contact me and I’ll buy and item and sell it to you with double the quality.

So in the next article we look at the psychology to determine why we make low quality transactions.

5 Responses to Quality versus grade
  1. You guys are hallarious…. well this was both informative and bloody funny. I lecture in Project Management at sydeny uni and was wondering if i would be able to refference this and other articles in my course?

    • Hey Aaron,

      That’s completely fine and i’m glad you enjoyed the article. If you have any specific topics you want written up let us know

  2. Baaaahhahaaaaha.. I’ve been teaching project management for 15 years and this is by far the best explanation of this topic. Plus its got me wanting more. Can you write something on the iron triangle?

    Thanks Jas

  3. Gold, I was trying to work this out for my PMBOK, but all the other explanations just confused me more. Thanks for making it simple- and light reading

    • Thanks, that article was written by Nic Thomas one of our Project Management guys, so we will pass on the comment. glad it helped


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.