ISO 10006

2003--guidelines for quality management in projects--a forgotten standard?


The ISO 10006 standard, which was updated and reissued in 2003, presents guidelines for quality management in projects. A straw poll amongst a number of project managers, including Project Management Professionals (PMP®s), identified that most of them were not aware of the standard or what use it might be to them. This paper provides an overview of the standard and how it relates to the Project Quality Management and other sections of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). It also considers how the application of ISO 10006 may improve your projects, not only for your customers, but also for people working on the project and other interested parties. The relationship of ISO 10006 to the rest of the ISO 9000 Quality management systems family of standards is also briefly mentioned.


The management of quality is key to successful project delivery. As a result, quality planning is an essential element of all project methodologies and standards. As part of the ISO 9000 family of standards, on the implementation and operation of quality management systems, ISO has produced a specific standard, ISO 10006, which provides ‘Guidelines for quality management in projects’. The standard was originally issued in 1997 and updated in 2003, reflecting changes introduced in the 2000 update to the ISO 9000 family.

ISO 10006 is a significant standard, in terms of pages it is approximately twice the size of the ISO 9001:2000 ‘Quality Management System – Requirements’ standard and nearly three times the size of chapter 8 (‘Project Quality Management’) in the PMBOK® Guide 2000 edition.

The purpose of this paper, and the associated presentation to be given at the PMI® Global Congress 2004 - Europe in Prague in April 2004, is to draw attention to these guidelines and outline how they can be applied to improve the management of projects. In addition the relationship between the guidelines and the PMBOK® Guide is discussed.

ISO 10006

Structure of the guidelines

The international standard ISO 10006 Quality management systems - Guidelines for quality management in projects (ISO 10006:2003(E)), which I will subsequently just refer to as the ‘Standard’, consists of two main parts. It begins with an introduction and a set of terms and definitions. These definitions are reasonably orthodox and similar to the definitions that most members of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) would be familiar with from the PMBOK® Guide and other similar project texts. For example, the Standard define a project as a “unique process, consisting of a set of coordinated and controlled activities […] with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements, including the constraints of time, cost and resources” (ISO 10006:2003, s.3.5, p.2). This compares well with the PMBOK® Guide where the introductory chapter includes the statement on the definition of a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service” (PMI, 2000, p.4). Similarly while ISO defines quality as “degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements” (ISO 9000:2000, s.3.1.1, p7), the PMBOK® Guide uses the definition from, the now superseded, ISO 8402:1994, i.e. as “the total characteristics that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs” (PMI, 2000, p.96).

I do not plan to continue to expand, for both space and copyright reasons, on the definitions, but suffice it to say that the Standard also includes definitions of items such as ‘project management’, ‘interested parties’ and ‘suppliers’.

The bulk of the Standard is divided into five main sections, i.e.:

  • Quality management systems in projects
  • Management responsibility
  • Resource management
  • Product realization
  • Measurement, analysis and improvement

When this is compared to the section headings in Chapter 8, Project Quality Management, in the PMBOK® Guide (i.e. Quality Planning, Quality Assurance and Quality Control) it can immediately be seen that the Standard covers a much wider scope of the project management process than simply product production.

Processes and phases

The Standard divides the different aspects of the activity of project management into two main categories, processes and phases, in the same way as the PMBOK® Guide and other project methodologies such as Prince2. As would be expected, the processes are the activities undertaken on a continual basis to achieve the project objective and the phases are the divisions of the project lifecycle into manageable sections such as initiation, development and closure.

Like the rest of the ISO 9000 family, the Standard clearly says that using a process approach is the most efficient way to achieve stakeholder satisfaction.

Usability and Readability

Though I do not plan to dwell on the subject, I think it is worth a brief mention of the usability and readability of the two documents. Common with many standards (and even this paper!) the Standard is very short on diagrams and pictures whereas the PMBOK® Guide does include, for example, a sample cause and effect (also know as Pareto or fishbone) diagram and a sample control chart in the quality management chapter. Here, perhaps, both documents could benefit from remembering the phrase that “a picture paints a thousand words”.

Quality Management Principles

The Standard is very much based on the same quality management principles identified in the ISO 9000 family, i.e.:

  • a)    customer focus;
  • b)    leadership;
  • c)    involvement of people;
  • d)    process approach;
  • e)    system approach to management;
  • f)    continual improvement;
  • g)    factual approach to decision making;
  • h)    mutually beneficial supplier relationships.

(ISO 10006:2003, s.4.2.1, p.5; ISO 9000:2000, s.0.2, pp.v-vi)

It is here that the first significant difference can be seen between the Standard and PMBOK® Guide. For example the PMBOK® Guide makes no specific reference to mutually beneficial supplier relationships, in fact, where it discusses supplier (provider) selection, it suggests that one of the selection criteria could be lowest total cost (PMI, 2000, p.153). Though clearly cost is an important criterion, it is often the case that the first item to be cut when costs are being trimmed is quality and here the Standard takes perhaps a more balanced approach that could lead to improved overall customer satisfaction and provide an increased capability to create value by all involved organizations.

Management Responsibility

As is common with the rest of the ISO 9000 family of standards, the Standard makes it clear that the commitment and active involvement of top management is essential for an effective quality management system and their support of a quality culture is important in ensuring project success.

This section of the Standard goes into more details about each of the quality management principles and how they should be applied. For example, under leadership, it states that ‘top management’ (defined as “person or group of people who directs and controls an organization at the highest level” (ISO 9000:2000, s.3.2.7, p.8)) should assume leadership in the creation of a quality culture. I cover some of these principles in more detail below.

It is also in the discussion on leadership where the Standard states that a project manager should be appointed as early as possible in the process. Though this is perhaps rather obvious it is, as far as I can find, not explicitly stated in the PMBOK® Guide. I think this is also an example of where the Standard goes beyond what might traditionally be seen as quality management principles and start to touch upon rather more fundamental aspects of project management.

Customer focus

The Standard makes it very clear that achieving, or even exceeding, customer expectations is necessary for a successful project. It also says that where a conflict occurs between the requirements of the customer and another interested party the “customer requirements take precedence” (ISO 10006:2003, s.5.2.2, p.6)

The PMBOK® Guide takes a slightly more balanced view where it says that, though such conflicts should be resolved in favor of the customer, “the needs and expectations of other stakeholders should [not] be disregarded” (PMI, 2000, p.18).

Involvement of people

Again under the chapter heading of Management Responsibility, the Standard starts to stress the importance of the people assigned to the project. It makes it clear that they should have well defined areas of responsibility, with commensurate authority, as well as being competent and provided with the right tools for their tasks. It also mentions that the implications of multi-national and multi-cultural projects need to be addressed. This topic is covered in more detail in the ‘Resource Management’ section of the Standard.

Process and System Approach

As anyone who has been involved with the ISO 9000 standards for some time will know, they are very keen on a process and system approach to management. The Process approach is also very much embedded in the PMBOK® Guide and key to the entire way that it describes the various elements of project management.

The system approach to management (as referenced by Deming, Nolan, et al) is, perhaps, a little less incorporated into the PMBOK® Guide. Deming, the quality guru, was very much a believer in that “the work is the system” and that an individual's freedom to achieve their objectives is very much subject to the system they work within. This, and the associated Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, is very fundamental in ISO 10006 both here and in the discussions on continual improvement. Greater recognition that the ‘system’, in which the project is operating, drives its capability to be successful and how this can, and needs, to be addressed would be a valuable addition to PMBOK® Guide.

Management Reviews and progress evaluations

The Standard goes into considerable depth on progress evaluations and how they should be used to assess the achievement of the project's objectives. This is another area where I believe that the Standard provides a more complete view than the PMBOK® Guide. The PMBOK® Guide's view on progress reporting, mostly covered in section 10.3 on Performance Reporting, is very much a technical approach to this. For example it talks about the status of work results, and whether they have been completed or not. It also discusses variance, earned value analysis and on performance reports and change requests.

The direction in the Standard has a much greater emphasis on the planning and people aspects of reviews and the actions that should result from such reviews. For example, it states that appropriate personnel should be available and participate in the reviews, that the people performing the evaluation should look for improvements in the project processes and that responsibilities should be assigned to progress any resulting actions. For comparison in the brief section 4.3.3 of the PMBOK® Guide on lessons learned it simply refers to these being recorded in a database for reference rather than pro-active actions to drive future improvement. I understand that there has been some work done to improve this in the new edition of the PMBOK® Guide, due out shortly.

Resource Management

The resource management section in the Standard goes considerably beyond what would normally be regarded as ‘quality’ guidelines. For example it includes information on resource planning, resource control, establishment of a project structure, allocation of personnel and team development. When compared to the PMBOK® GuideI, this is much closer to Chapter 9 on Project Human Resource Management than Chapter 8 on Quality management.

Though, as previously mentioned, the ‘human’ elements of a project normally have the most significant impact on quality. I personally believe that here the Standard is going too far away from the direct issues of ensuring project quality.

Product realization

Here we would expect to be much more in the territory that quality management normally covers. However, again the Standard focuses much more on project management processes rather that quality assurance or quality control. This I think is a significant shortcoming of the Standard and more focus should be applied to the product(s) of the project.

The introduction to this section makes it very plain where they are going. To quote “This clause covers the seven project management process groupings necessary to produce the projects product” (ISO 10006:2003, s.7.1, p.13). These seven groupings are:-

  • Interdependency-related processes,
  • Scope-related processes,
  • Time-related processes,
  • Cost-related processes,
  • Communication-related processes,
  • Risk-related processes,
  • Purchasing-related processes.

In each of these areas there are extensive definitions of the sub-processes and how they should be managed. To give an idea of how comprehensive these sections are it is worth expanding on a couple of these and I have picked the Interdependency and Cost.

Interdependency-related processes

Under this section the Standard covers the following topics:-

  • Project initiation and project management plan development,
  • Interaction management,
  • Change management,
  • Process and project closure.

Again it can be immediately seen that these areas go well beyond what would normally be expected to be covered by typical quality management activities. This is even further emphasized if you look at the first of these topics which is more than a page long and has, for example, detailed recommendation on the structure and contents of a project management plan (normally referred to as the project plan in the PMBOK® Guide). The Standard does try to link these recommendations into the project quality plan, which it says can be included in the project management plan, and also into the overall organization's quality management system, however, there is considerable focus on other elements that would normally be covered under other topics, as in the PMBOK® Guide

Similar comments can be made about the discussion on interaction management and change management.

Cost-related processes

This section of the Standard covers much the same topics, such as cost estimating, budgeting and cost control, as the PMBOK® Guide does in Chapter 7 on Project Cost Management.

Under cost estimating, the Standard points out, amongst many other things, that costs should be clearly identified and that account should be made of trends within the economic environment. However, it does not touch upon the tools and techniques covered in the PMBOK® Guide, such as analogous estimating, parametric modeling and computerized tools. Here again I believe that the Standard goes beyond what would be expected from quality guidelines, but, in this case, does not really provide sufficient information on how to undertake the process.

Similarly, under cost control, not only does the Standard talk about the establishment of a cost control system, including associated procedures, as well as the analysis of cost trends, but specific statements are also made such as “actions to be taken should only be based on facts” and the need “to ensure timely release of funds” (ISO 10006:2003, s.7.5.4, p.20). Though here it does at least mention techniques such as earned value analysis, I still feel that is only telling part of the story. This is one area where, perhaps, the PMBOK® Guide could benefit from further detail and I understand that this is likely to happen in the next edition.

Measurement, analysis and improvement

The final chapter in the Standard brings us back to the more traditional quality management activities of measurement, analysis and improvement. It is perhaps worth starting with a quick reminder of the definitions of a project and a product. A project is a process, or series of processes, to achieve one or more objectives. The product is the result of the project process and can be tangible, e.g. a new building or road, or intangible, e.g. the rollout of a new company brand or a system software upgrade.

In this chapter, the Standard covers the ground not only of the measurement of the product and the customer's satisfaction with it, but how the project achieved its delivery. It is here where I think the Standard can be of significant benefit to both the originating (or procuring) and project (or delivery) organizations, or to the divisions within a single organization for internal projects. Many of us will have heard of, or perhaps even had, the misfortune to be involved in, ‘Death March’ projects where the end is the only goal and how that goal is achieved is not particularly considered. Team members and other interested parties may be left by the wayside, or, even worse, run over, as the project train progresses rapidly to its goals. The Standard here provides a potential antidote to this with their emphasis more on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’.

Improvement activities are mostly covered in the Quality Management chapter of the PMBOK® Guide but here the focus seems to be more on the product than the process. The PMBOK® Guide's section headings, Quality Assurance and Quality Control, immediately lead me into thinking more about the product. It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point that the words ‘quality assurance’ occur only once in the Standard (and then just in the title of the ISO/TC 176 SC2 subcommittee) and the words ‘quality control’ not at all! Though clearly the information included in the Standard does provide much of the basis for these activities the fact that they are not even mentioned in passing, and are not regarded as distinct elements of the project processes, I find a little remiss.


To summarize, the Standard covers a large amount of the project processes, probably rather more than would be expected just from the title. In fact, I believe that it might be better entitled ‘Guidelines for quality project management’ to show that it is not just looking at the ‘quality’ processes, but the wider aspects of how to manage a project in a quality way. There is much good information and guidance in the Standard and, used alongside the PMBOK® Guide I believe that it can help project managers improve the delivery and success of their projects. I also believe that any organization that undertakes projects and has an ISO 9000 quality management system should ensure that the Standard is incorporated into these.

Though the PMBOK® Guide does make reference to the ISO standards ISO, perhaps understandingly, does not repay the complement. With different revision and review cycles it must also be expected that both documents can only reflect the state of project management at the time of their own publication. It will be interesting to see how the current revision of the PMBOK® Guide addresses this. I also think that the ISO/TC 176 SC2 subcommittee should consider, at the next review of the Standard, if their goal is to provide a full project management methodology or more to provide a stronger quality focus that can be simply picked up by other organizations.

I hope that this paper, and the associated presentation at the PMI® Global Congress, at least will have made you aware of ISO 10006 and given you the incentive to investigate it further in order to be able to use it in the future to improve your projects.

References and Acknowledgements

ISO 9000:2000, Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary, © ISO 2000

ISO 10006:2003, Quality management systems – Guidelines for quality management in projects, © ISO 2003

PMI, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – 2000 edition, Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute Inc.

Permission to reproduce ISO 10006 and ISO 9000 is granted by BSI. British Standards can be obtained from BSI Customer Services, 389 Chiswick High Road, London W4 4AL. Tel: +44 (0)20 8996 9001. email: [email protected] and

© 2004, Gary Harding
Originally published as a part of 2004 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Prague



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