Project Management Institute

Initiating and planning stages of project quality management

This paper introduces a new Five-Stage Project Quality Process Model from the authors' recently published book, Managing Project Quality, and focuses on the first two stages (Quality Initiation and Quality Planning) and their integrated 30 activities, quality tools, detailed flowcharts, and assessment instruments that practitioners can employ to improve project quality management. Each stage has a defined starting and ending point with a sequence of activities that would normally be performed to plan and manage a project for quality, as depicted in Exhibit 1.

The Model differs from the standard PMBOK® Guide stages by adding the Project Initiation and Project Closure stages and is based on research conducted by the authors (Kloppenborg, Opfer, & Petrick et al., 2000). In that research project, the authors and their research associates surveyed all of the published materials on project management from 1960 to 2000. There were over 100,000 documents including books, periodicals, scholarly papers, thesis and dissertations. The authors and their research associates constructed a database of the 3,554 documents from this universe and the revised five-stage model of project quality management emerged from structured analysis and interpretation of this data. In addition, the approach is designed to advance the field and surpass prior works (Darnell, 1994; Leavitt & Nunn, 1994) by reconceptualizing the scope, specificity, and interrelationships between and among five stages of managing project quality.

The Project Quality Initiation Stage

The current PMBOK® Guide does not include five stages, so the first proposed stage by the authors is an innovation. The new Project Quality Initiation Stage is warranted by the number and range of preplanning activities that had previously been presupposed or were loosely linked with the planning stage. The Project Quality Initiation stage is mapped out with a flowchart, which begins with the identification of a potential project and ends with a signed authorization to proceed with the selected project.

The Project Quality Initiation Factors Table in Exhibit 2 integrates the four conceptual quality pillars (customer satisfaction, process improvement, fact-based management, and empowered performance) with 16 project activities and eight quality tools/assessment instruments. In addition to standard quality tools, the Project Quality Initiation Factors Table includes two new quantitative tools: the Project Quality Participant Empowerment Readiness Assessment (PERA) and the Ethical Work Culture Assessment (EWCA). Both instruments identify and reduce possible project quality risk elements at the preplanning stage.

The PERA is essential in determining project sponsorship assignments, project management selection and project team membership by quantifying project participant technical task/organizational familiarity maturity, administrative psychosocial maturity, and moral maturity.

Projects undertaken by participants with technical and psychosocial maturity but without moral maturity will jeopardize the external credibility and the internal and the internal trustworthiness required of successful project participation.

The EWCA measures the moral readiness of participating organizations to provide a supportive context for the project initiative rather than start an expensive project and have it sabotaged by the manipulative work culture of a participating organization.

Another unique contribution is a conceptual guide to converting modes of project knowledge from tacit to explicit knowledge through socialization, internalization, and externalization steps.

Socialization is an informal process of sharing tacit experience. Externalization is a formal process of articulating tacit knowledge into explicit concepts. Internalization is the absorption of explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge through oral transmission of project lessons, systems document processes, or simulations. Combination is the process of systemizing explicit concepts into new explicit knowledge by analyzing, categorizing and reconfiguring information. During the initiation stage, a wise project manager will make use of all these modes of project knowledge management because as organizations become “projectized” in their operational structure, the ability to manage collective project intellectual capital will be crucial for competitive survival.

Two traditions for identifying project lessons learned are the professional (or content “what” experts) and the organizational (or process “how” experts). While there are tensions between the two, when both cooperate to reinforce each other at the outset, new project managers can rely on prior professional lessons about what should be done and prior organizational lessons about how it should be done in order to achieve project success.

The final element of project initiation is the personal and public commitment to the project. The project charter is a signed agreement between a project sponsor and a project core team. It clarifies the project purpose, sets clear project goals and objectives, develops teamwork, avoids situations in which the core team is unsure of if management will accept an action or decision, develops trustworthy commitments between the sponsor and the core team, and avoids situations in which the sponsor unilaterally changes the original agreement.

Exhibit 1. Five-Stage Quality Process Model

Five-Stage Quality Process Model

During the Project Quality Initiation Stage, a few potential projects that cannot obtain chartered commitment will be abandoned. In the end, the authors regard this as salutary since resources invested in unsupported projects are simply unnecessary sunk costs and should be avoided whenever possible.

The Project Quality Planning Stage

The Project Quality Planning Stage is also mapped out with a detailed flowchart, which begins with the project charter and ends with the completed project plan publicly accepted by all key stakeholders.

The Project Quality Planning Factors Table in Exhibit 3 integrates the four conceptual quality pillars (customer satisfaction, process improvement, fact-based management, and empowered performance) with 14 project activities and 12 quality tools/assessment instruments. In addition to standard quality tools, the Project Quality Planning Factors Table includes the Project Decision Responsibility Matrix, the Planned Process Qualification Levels, and a novel integrative use of the Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer (SIPOC) approach to improve the practical steps of project planning.

In order to meet and sustain project customer satisfaction determine if it is necessary to determine different levels of decision-making authority. One frequent cause of quality problems is that project participants do not know who is allowed to make certain decisions on specific issues. This problem can be minimized if not eliminated if the proper decision-makers have the time, information and skill to make good decisions and understand their respective roles. The Project Decision Responsibility Matrix is a tool for clarifying three decision-making factors relating to specific issues: (1) who must be informed; (2) who is authorized to make recommendations; and (3) who is authorized to finally decide.

Exhibit 2. Project Quality Initiation Factors Table

Project Quality Initiation Factors Table

For each issue that must be decided, responsibility for making the recommendations and being informed should be planned by the project manager. A recommended approach is to have one primary decision-maker per issue (others may recommend), with the project manager at least informed about virtually every issue. While all project participants have roles, the project manager is ultimately responsible for quality and must know what is happening with all project-related issues.

Organizations that excel at planning quality projects insist on qualifying all key project processes. Project process qualification levels from spontaneous to optimized status are depicted in Exhibit 4. The project process qualification planning must include preliminary diagnosis of current levels, and if most are at the spontaneous and initialized levels, the immediate qualification level to achieve is the formalized level. Basic project processes need to be standardized and institutionalized, with the appropriate development, monitoring, auditing and improvement steps directed toward the optimized level.

Once strategic alignment and project process improvement priorities have been decided, the ongoing qualification of all project processes will determine the rate of efficiency and effectiveness improvement over the course of the project. Ultimately, project processes that are qualified at the optimized level are best able to sustain success through the assurance, control and closure stages of the five-stage model.

While the processes needed to produce the desired project output are understood and qualified, project managers need to plan to systematically identify all necessary inputs.

The SIPOC model is a useful planning tool that clarifies relationships among suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, and customers.

The SIPOC model is a visual guide to help a project team work backward from customers to identify all project customers (C), including unintended stakeholders who are impacted by the project. The SIPOC next guides the team in identifying what product, service and information outputs (O) each customer wants to receive and the satisfaction standards that customers demand from each output of the project. The third item the team uses the SIPOC to identify is the set of process (P) actions the project team needs to take and the standards that must be set in order to create those identified outputs. The fourth item that teams use the SIPOC to identify is the set of information, workers, material or other inputs (I) needed to meet the process standards. Finally, the SIPOC guides the team in identifying the suppliers (S) of the desired inputs. A list of quality suppliers can then be generated to sustain long-term quality improvement partnerships with solid domestic and global suppliers.

Exhibit 3. Project Quality Planning Factors Table

Project Quality Planning Factors Table


The authors have introduced a new Five-Stage Project Quality Process Model from the authors' recently published book, Managing Project Quality, and focus on the first two stages (Quality Initiation and Quality Planning) and their integrated thirty activities, quality tools, detailed flowcharts, and assessment instruments that practitioners can employ to improve project quality management.


Darnall, Russell W. 1994. Achieving TQM on Projects: The Journey of Continuous Improvement. Upper Darby, PA: Project Management Institute.

Evans, James R., & Lindsay, William M. 2002. The Management and Control of Quality,(5th ed.) Cincinnati, OH: South-Western Publishing.

Kloppenborg, Timothy J., Opfer, Warren A., Petrick, Joseph A. et al. (2000). Forty Years of Project Management Research: Trends, Interpretations, & Predictions. Proceedings of PMI Research Conference 2000: Project Management Research at the Turn of the Millennium, Paris, France, pp. 41–59.

Kloppenborg, Timothy J., & Petrick, Joseph A. 2002. Managing Project Quality. Vienna, VA: Management Concepts.

Leavitt, Jeffrey S., & Nunn, Philip C. 1994. Total Quality Through Project Management. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Lindsay, William M., & Petrick, Joseph A. 1997. Total Quality and Organization Development. Delray Beach, FL: St. Lucie Press.

Petrick, Joseph A., & Furr, Diana S. 1995. Total Quality in Managing Human Resources. Delray Beach, FL: St. Lucie Press.

Exhibit 4. Project Process Qualification Levels

Project Process Qualification Levels
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
October 3–10, 2002 • San Antonio, Texas, USA



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