Welcome back, quality ... from a project management perspective
by Joan Knutson, Contributing Editor
PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT (see my June PM Network column) is the initiative to select and initiate projects intelligently—in other words, the process of “Doing the Right Thing” within the project management discipline. This month, I'll discuss the converse: “Doing the Thing Right”—producing a quality deliverable while employing quality project management processes.
Heightened desire for customer satisfaction has brought the quality initiative back into the limelight.
And in order to make the customer happy, we must deliver a quality product or service within the timeframe and budget agreed upon. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK™ Guide) defines Quality Management as “the activity of developing quality (the best possible) products and services required to meet customer expectations using quality (the best possible) processes and procedures.”
Quality isn't automatic—or optional—on projects.
As an executive, you need to make a conscious commitment to quality. This means allocating time to establish quality metrics and quality management plans at the beginning of the project, to monitor and track those metrics and plans during the execution and control of the project, and to fix problems and inadequate processes as they are found. If you are not sincere in this commitment of time and effort, then please don't espouse that “quality” is a goal of your project environment.
To aid you in making this conscious decision, let's look at what Quality Management entails:
Quality Planning—identifying which standards are relevant to the project and determining how to satisfy them
Quality Control—monitoring specific product and management results
Quality Assurance—evaluating overall project performance
Quality Improvement—taking action to increase effectiveness and efficiencies of the project management processes so that this project and future projects will better meet customer satisfaction.
Joan Knutson is founder and president of Project Mentors, a San Francisco-based project management training and consulting firm. She can be reached at 415/955-5777. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quality Planning. Quality Planning involves planning for both the quality of the end product and for the quality of the processes being used to manage the project effort. To ensure the quality of the product, the needs/ wants of the customer are isolated and the standards of performance criteria upon which those needs/wants will be measured are determined. To ensure the quality of the management of the project, the appropriate processes, which will support the production of those products/services, must be initiated along with the standard of performance criteria upon which these support processes will be evaluated. What does this entail?
From a product perspective, it means finding all the stakeholders who need to have input into the definition of the end product. It means interviewing them thoroughly to determine what their requirements (needs/wants) really are. It means documenting those needs/wants, and with the customer, sorting out which ones will be completed as part of this project and which ones will be postponed until later. Most important: it means articulating for each requirement at least one “quality metric” (measurable criterion) upon which successful attainment of that requirement will be measured.
Note the key word associated with the term “quality metric” is the word measurable. The quality metric for a requirement must be measurable in quantifiable, nonsubjective terms. “It” either reaches a specified speed or “It” does not; “It” processes X number of transactions or “It” does not; “It” accommodates 20 percent increased volume or “It” does not.
From a process perspective, decisions need to be made concerning how the project will be managed; for example, will there be status reports? at what level of detail? produced from software or by hand? evaluated by whom? re-planned or re-forecasted when and by whose authority?
The output from Quality Planning is a Quality Management Plan. It documents a Product Plan, which includes each of the product requirements and their associated metrics as well as a Project Plan, which defines each of the management processes that will be implemented.
Quality Control. Quality Control occurs during the Control Phase of the project life cycle and looks at tactical considerations: are we adhering to the project plan? or is the project's deliverable meeting specification? Joseph M. Juran, a well-respected quality guru, suggests that there are three steps to Quality Control: evaluate or inspect actual performance; compare actual performance to the metric; and act on the difference.
Inspection of the product is accomplished by testing. Inspection of the process is accomplished through reviews. Let's look at how to go about testing the product:
Test objectives need to be clearly established. The degree to which tests are quantifiable and result in deliverables that meet standards and fitness for use is the degree to which the customer will ultimately be satisfied. Testing of the quality of the product needs to be conducted as each component is completed and tested for every requirement that this component is to meet. It's wise to conduct interim tests while the component is in development in order to ensure that quality is being built in during creation rather than have to be retrofitted in later. This is especially true of tasks, which have a partial dependency relationship with a predecessor. If the interim deliverable out of the predecessor task does not meet quality standards, the defects will not only effect the rest of the original task but also the successor tasks.
Reviews verify that the plans conform to the guidelines, ensure that the plans are being completed as anticipated and that the business need the project serves is still justifiable. There are different types of reviews: a Formal Review held by senior management and/or the customer, a Peer Review conducted by peers who can see the project from an unbiased perspective, Team Reviews performed by the project team to isolate problems and suggest fixes, and Self-Reviews initiated by the “developer” himself/herself. Reviews are conducted on a predetermined schedule such as weekly or monthly or possibly ad hoc.
Out of the Quality Control effort come accept/reject decisions relative to the product and rework orders, and go/no-go decisions relative to the project plans with revised or reforecast project plans.
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Quality Assurance. The Quality Assurance effort is more strategic than the Quality Control effort. Rather than monitoring the quality of the deliverable itself or the project management success indicators such as schedule and budget, Quality Assurance means ensuring that processes to track the product and the management of the processes are being performed. For example, why do we want to know how long it took to find errors? Not only is it to fix the errors, it is also to determine a way to find errors faster, more efficiently and more effectively and ultimately to prevent errors from occurring. Without this process, we could keep repeating the same mistakes but never fix the processes that made the mistakes in the first place.
The Quality Management Plan from the Quality Planning effort is matched to the results coming out of the Quality Control effort to determine if any processes are inadequate or are not being followed and thus causing problems within the project. For example, the resource data is incomplete because time reports are not received in a timely manner. The breakdown of the management process is recognized in Quality Assurance yet it will be corrected as part of the Quality Improvement effort.
The breakdown is recognized during testing and/or reviews within Quality Control. Failing systems are also discovered during Quality Audits. When performing a Quality Audit, the auditor looks for recurring deviations from product standards or project plans, attempting to discern trends that are either increasing or decreasing efficiencies in the project management process. A Quality Audit can be performed during phase reviews or through customer surveys. In either case, issues and concerns that need to be fixed or successes that need to be integrated into the current processes and repeated are output to the last phase of the Quality Management process, Quality Improvement.
Quality Improvement. According to the PMBOK™ Guide, “Quality Improvement includes taking action to increase the effectiveness and efficiencies of the project to provide benefits to the project stakeholders. In most cases, implementing quality improvements will require preparation of change requests or taking corrective action, and will be handled according to procedures for all change control.”
The issues and concerns that come out of Quality Assurance and Quality Control are dealt with in Quality Improvement and often result in a change to product specifications, project plans, quality management processes, or other project management processes such as control, risk management, procurement management, to name a few. This endless loop not only facilitates continuous improvement within this project, it also positions continuous improvement for future projects if lessons learned are documented and archived.
NOW THATYOU HAVE SEEN what it takes to ensure quality, do you feel that the time and effort to (1) create a Quality Plan; (2) support testing and reviews during Quality Control; (3) fund Quality Audits during Quality Assurance; and (4) process change control orders and to modify project processes is worth it?
Here's one more argument to convince you: If the ultimate deliverable out of the project meets quality standards, the project will be successful; if the project is successful, all those associated with it will be considered successful. And to continue the logic, in order for the ultimate deliverable out of the project to be successful, each deliverable out of each task must attain predefined quality metrics in predefined timeframes for a predefined cost. Therefore, if each task deliverable is quality, then it must follow that the ultimate deliverable of the project will be quality.
The creation of these quality deliverables is dependent upon processes that manage the project effort. Thus the processes must also be evaluated. Quality performance of these processes must exist in order to assure the quality of the deliverable.
Therefore, employing quality processes that produce quality deliverables will make the customer and all the stakeholders happy, thus ensuring your success and that of the organization as a whole.
Convinced? If so, it is your responsibility as an executive to approve a new initiative: the development and implementation of a Quality Management system.
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August 1999 PM Network