Many project managers do not have quality control baked into their project. A lack of attention to quality can inevitably mean more rework and/or a defective product.
The more your project requires rework, the more time and money is spent redoing what should have been done properly at first. This jeopardizes your project schedule and cost baselines. A focus on quality is time spent preventing rather than dealing with problems. Do not simply inspect quality. Plan quality into your project. The quality management process actually has three parts: plan quality management, perform quality assurance, and control quality.
This article discusses and summarizes quality management, an important process in the life of the project.
Quality is the degree to which a project deliverable fulfills requirements. So quality can only be achieved if you have all the stated requirements defined in the project scope statement and requirements documentation. This shows the importance of the requirements gathering and documentation efforts. The quality goal of the project manager is to ensure that the project completes with no deviations from the project requirements.
Sometimes project managers try to exceed the project requirements to make their customer happy. This is known as “gold plating”. In gold plating you are giving the customer extras or freebees. Sound project management discourages gold plating, because it most likely is the project team’s idea or conception of what the customer really wants. But the customer’s true wants may be different or disagree. Requirements should therefore flow from the customer (via the SOW) and not the project team.
This again shows the importance of requirements gathering and documentation. It may seem noble to go above and beyond the customer requirements, but proficient project managers focus on adherence to project requirements. And not exceeding them.
Successful quality assurance efforts prevent problems, they do not simply inspect them. Quality assurance therefore requires foresight and planning. A good quality management plan focuses on defining quality for the project and product, and how it is achieved.
Objectives include identifying relevant standards and how to meet those standards. The project must comply with external standards and organizational policies, standards, and procedures. Further, plan the project to meet customer quality standards, such as software bugs per module or concrete strength.
The plan quality management process results in updates to the project management plan. These changes include, perhaps, adding work to the work breakdown structure (WBS), changing resource assignments, or inserting additional project management efforts.
Quality must match the needs of the project. Too much quality can negatively impact project scope, time, or cost. Plan quality to the appropriate level. The project scope, WBS, and WBS dictionary provide the project manager proper perspective and support quality planning. So the plan quality management process defines project quality.
Seven quality control tools (briefly mentioned below) help clarify stakeholder quality requirements, plan the product work appropriately, clarify acceptance criteria, and manage expectations:
- Cause and Effect Diagram – helps find root cause of defect and fix it.
- Flowchart – shows process flow and cost of quality conformance.
- Checksheet – tracks quality problem data discovered during inspections.
- Pareto Diagram – identify root cause of the most frequent problems.
- Histogram – helps determine most pressing problems.
- Control chart – monitors project performance values like cost and schedule.
- Scatter diagram – tracks two variables and determines their relationship.
Perform Quality Assurance
Perform quality assurance during project execution makes sure work in process conforms to organizational policies, standards, and processes as planned to produce the deliverables. Formal process analysis should be planned in at certain points in the life of the project.
Although projects create a unique product or service, they often have repeated activities or work packages. Lessons learned from the first few iterations can support improved processes and procedures for remaining work.
- Data gathered in the control quality process answer the following questions:
- Are we getting the desired results?
- Is our planned work sufficient quality?
- Are we following the agreed upon processes?
- How can we improve our processes?
The following (briefly mentioned) tools help analyze data, and recommend preventive or corrective action:
- Affinity Diagrams support organizing results of root cause analysis.
- Tree Diagrams map out relationships and decompose processes to find solution.
- Process Decision Program Charts (PDPC) decompose goals into steps, lists possible problems within steps, and recommend contingency plans to address risk and to keep project on target.
- Interrelationship Digraphs inspect and analyze gathered data to identify cause and effect relationships.
Quality control examines the deliverables produced on the project. Quality control ensures that the deliverables are correct, and meet the agreed upon and planned level of quality. And if there is a problem, quality control uncovers the source of the problem and recommends possible solutions.
Quality control measures products and/or services and makes certain they meet the quality standards. It measures the actual variance from the standards, and determines if this variance is outside acceptable limits.
Use the seven quality control tools (discussed in plan quality) to confirm meeting standards or evaluate resolving a quality problem. Control quality also employs statistical sampling and inspections to verify standards have been met.
Outputs of quality control include:
- Validated changes
- Work performance data
- Project management plan updates
- Lessons learned
- Verified deliverables
Quality is the degree to which the deliverables meet requirements. Focus on meeting requirements for project deliverables and not necessarily on maximizing product performance. Plan quality into the project to prevent problems. Plan quality to the appropriate level, and, therefore, minimize impacts to scope, time, and cost.
Work in process during project execution must conform to organizational policies, standards, and processes and produce the deliverables. Measure project products in quality control to ensure that deliverables meet quality standards.
For more details on Quality Management, review the following publication:
Rita Mulchahy’s PMP Exam Prep, Eighth Edition.