Have you considered what “quality” really is? It seems straightforward enough. We know quality when we see it. We know quality when we interact with it. But do we know what it means?

As Director of Engineering at Henderson Engineers, driving an emphasis on quality is central to my role. I oversee staff training and believe that ongoing development is a critical part of what helps us produce quality work.

When I think about quality in the context of engineering, I tend to use the two terms interchangeably. But why? Engineering is an art. And art – like quality – is hard to describe, let alone assign value to. Sure, our firm’s product is construction documents that can be built, but our product is also art. It’s efficient. It’s thoughtful. It’s done by people who care and who do their job well.

Quality has served as a motivator at Henderson since we were founded 51 years ago. Fran Henderson believed we should always “finish the day knowing the job was not only done, but done right.” Today, Henderson’s vision is to “be the firm that builds a better world.” While the expectation of producing quality work is assumed in this statement, it’s worth pointing out that we not only want to build a better world, but want to do so in a quality manner through exceptional design.

I was struck recently by author Robert M. Pirsig’s description of quality in his book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.” He describes quality as “a characteristic of thought and statement that is recognized by a non-thinking process.” I had to reread his statement several times to make sense of it, but ultimately, I think the spirit of what Pirsig says is true.

Quality work is the outcome of what we do – but how do we get there? My team and I often discuss the circle of quality. Represented here, the circle consists of Quality Mindset, Right Values, Right Thoughts, Right Actions, and Quality Work.

Referencing the circle of quality is key to our process at Henderson:

  • The quality mindset informs everything we do, serving as the lens through which we evaluate what we believe to be right.
  • This lens forms the framework for our six core values: Service, Inclusion, Integrity, Growth, Innovation, and Quality.
  • Our values inform how we think about the work we do.
  • Actions that align with our values and thoughts will naturally follow as we work our way around the circle.
  • Then ultimately, the sequence of consistent values, thoughts, and actions – motivated by a quality mindset – leads to quality work.

Our name, Henderson Engineers, describes what we do. But through the relationships we build and the work we produce, our goal is for our name to describe what we deliver – and that’s Henderson Quality.

Stay tuned for more insights on our process here at Henderson, or reach out to learn more.

About the Authors

Jared Carlson

Director of Engineering | Principal
Jared Carlson is one of the most responsible, organized, considerate, and dedicated engineers we know, and there’s nothing about what he does or who he is that isn’t high quality. As a principal and our director of engineering, driving an emphasis on quality and ongoing development are central to his role, but he’ll be the first to tell you that the highlight of his days (and career) is always the relationships he has with coworkers and clients. Jared brings balanced and thoughtful management to our extensive technical director and process improvement programs. He’s responsible for maintaining our culture of quality, mentorship, and continuous learning – which for him isn’t hard, because those tenants have always been central to his life.