Branded for quality

branded for Quality

photography by Nadia Molinari

by Lorna Pappas

Consistent project management processes ensure quality is delivered to the customer.

Michael Stanleigh, President,
Business Improvement Architects,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

When project managers start talking about quality, senior executives often start sliding under the table. In spite of best practices, many deadline-driven organizations can't justify time spent on quality planning, so they jump to implementation.

“Sooner or later you pay for your quality decision, based on when you planned for quality,” says Jeanne Dorle, PMP, Ph.D., who directs the graduate program in project management at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., USA, and is a board member of PMI‘s Quality - in Project Management Specific Interest Group. “You can plan early—that's the right way—or toward the end, when the project is in recovery and you're eating the cost of rework so you can keep the customer.”

executive summary

The cost of good quality is upfront planning; the cost of bad quality (planning too late) is lost time, expense and bad morale.

Quality planning processes can improve an organization by ensuring replicable results for its brands.

Many senior managers admit that their people must apply project management methodologies more consistently.

Project managers who hold the full view of the quality a customer expects can “champion” a holistic vision.

Operationally, quality translates into specific examples of continuous improvement, regardless of industry, at the very least to include:

■ Quality assurance activities

■ Tangible criteria against which success will be measured

■ Steering committee reviews of project status to assure deliverables are on target

■ A willingness at the top level to make adjustments based on a project manager's experience and recommendations.

“Quality ‘rhetoric’ must translate into concrete organizational activities at multiple levels, in a sustained, multi-year effort,” Dr. Dorle says. “I teach my students that corporatewide systematic changes to quality project management just won't be made in a matter of months.”

Most importantly, an investment in good quality planning initiatives must migrate to every corporate project. “Project management maturity entails a repeatable, uniform quality process for the whole project portfolio, to increase the likelihood that the entire company, not just a single project, will be successful,” Dr. Dorle says.

Although executive support is mandatory for a successful strategic quality management process, a company needs a driver and a process to translate a quality policy into customer satisfaction. Project management can be the organizational instrument that helps build quality into the product and delivers it directly to the customer.

Mature, repeatable quality planning processes can change a chaotic organization into a stellar, excellence-driven one, producing replicable results for its brands. When a new product enters the development cycle, the project team is armed with the quality policies, processes, training and related tools in place to leverage existing intelligence to enhance the product and not waste time reinventing procedures.

Government services are no exception, says Stephen C. Hawald, process improvement practice area leader for Rob-bins-Gioia, a consultancy based in Alexandria, Va., USA. For example, when the U.S. Customs Services Agency, now part of the Department of Homeland Security as the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Bureau, implemented the Software Engineering Institute's Software Acquisition—Capability Maturity Model (SA—CMM), the agency faced critical management, process and cultural challenges. Notably, the agency wanted a process that helped it achieve repeatability in quality and enabled management to accurately predict program outcomes.

As the CBP worked toward a Level 2 SA—CMM rating, the agency implemented standardized processes, templates and outputs that now bring employees and projects up to speed more quickly. With process consistency, CBP more effectively consolidates projects, determines trends across the entire organization and makes predictions on program performance, schedule and budget.

Jeanne Dorle, PMP, Ph.D., Director of Graduate Program in Project Management, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C., USA

“Project management maturity enables highly skilled employees to focus on mission-critical tasks instead of routine ones,” Mr. Hawald says. “The CBP is saved from spending money needlessly on heroic measures. Instead, it now can apply the same money to performing better quality work and better government. The faster you get to a more mature level of quality management through repetitive processes, the faster you will become more efficient, solve problems proactively and attain the overall cost savings that come from using a maturity model.”

With the commercial market's current upswing in mergers and acquisitions, a focus on quality planning and management tools will ensure that the firms merging their corporate efforts and brands will produce consistent quality.

When United Healthcare (UHC) was considering a merger with Dental Benefits Providers Inc., a privately held health maintenance organization based in Bethesda, Md., USA, the company already had turned down several offers for acquisition. UHC began improving its quality project management, level of process repeatability, processes and procedures documentation, Web-based applications and other activities.

A year later, UHC offered Dental Benefits Providers a stock swap offer that was 20 percent more valuable than any previous offer, which the firm accepted. The right quality processes and level of repeatability and automation gave UHC an edge in the acquisition, Mr. Hawald says.



The Quality House




Source: Robbins-Gioia, April 2005.

Quality Management

in the PMO

A program management office (PMO) can significantly aid continuous quality improvement:

1 The PMO quality management team (QMT) supports the program control function with guiding principles that are selected by the program manager.

2 Once the guiding principles are selected, the QMT implements the model, methodologies and tools selected by using the Software Engineering Institute's (SEI‘s) initiating, diagnosing, establishing, acting and learning (IDEAL) organizational model.

3 With executive support for the guiding principles, a communications and quality management plan is created for outlining the program work with regard to the stakeholders. Most of this effort is updating and/or creating business processes for establishing a mature organization using business process reengineering.

4 Once the business processes are created or changed, they are institutionalized by a training team. All the stakeholders are trained on the changes to the business processes, or “assets.”

5 Six months after the business processes have been changed with the appropriate training, a quality assurance (QA) audit is performed to determine if the processes are being followed as written.

6 Process findings from each QA audit generate a corrective action report (CAR).

7 The CARs are resolved with the business owners of the processes.

8 Depending on the type of findings, the QMT applies the right Lean/Six Sigma tools for drilling ‘or simulating a “deep dive” into the problems, inefficiencies, rework, errors, wasted efforts or customer dissatisfaction.

Source: Robbins-Gioia, April 2005.

Many organizations get so involved with the documents, tools and templates required for project management that they overlook whether their methodologies are being followed on a consistent, quality basis. Their teams may know the correct strategies for implementing projects, but senior management doesn't know if projects are being produced in a quality way.

A worldwide study of quality and project management offices revealed that many senior managers don't think of quality management in relation to the management of projects, and admit that their people don't always apply the project management methodologies consistently, reports Business Improvement Architects (BIA), a consultancy in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Michael Stanleigh, BIA president, points to Lafe, a computer manufacturing company based in Hong Kong and China, where project management principles were in place, but top executives were not ensuring that the methods were followed reliably. “When senior management began insisting that everyone apply the same process of implementing a project, the firm reduced management by crisis, began saving time and money and now brings better value to its customers,” Mr. Stanleigh says.

Mr. Stanleigh's findings at Ingersoll Rand's Security and Safety Sector based in Indianapolis, Ind., USA, were similar: In its process review, the project management office helped affect better results with more consistent methodologies and quality processes. This included the introduction of a rigorous scope statement and project plan process that helped turn projects around. These quality processes are easier to monitor and helped ensure false starts were diminished. In particular, this had a positive impact on new product design.

“By following a more consistent approach to determining when and if projects should be terminated—which to me is a quality endeavor—Ingersoll Rand began focusing on the right projects; time and money associated with false starts was diminished; and better quality is now built into the design of its products,” Mr. Stanleigh says.

During BIA‘s year-long research, Mr. Stanleigh identified several project management offices he thought would not succeed, “because though they had the most elaborate project management manuals I ever saw, their executives did not engage their project teams in building a culture for managing projects in a consistent way,” he says. Sure enough, by the end of the survey, many of those same project management offices—a total of about 20 percent—no longer existed.


Sebastian Cazacu, PMP, Managing Director, TenStep Inc., Bucharest, Romania

While senior managers shouldn't get involved with every step of a project, they must focus upfront on the key project management elements that, when followed consistently, will assure a quality outcome; these include scope, milestones, changes and risk assessment, Mr. Stanleigh says.

“When I ask top executives how they know whether their projects are being managed in a quality way, the response I look for is this: ‘I know because my project manager and I have reviewed the project scope and I‘ve signed off on it; we've agreed on project milestones; we have a process of regularly monitoring the project plan to ensure it's on track in terms of schedule, time and meeting customer requirements; I approve changes; and I help identify risks,’” he says.

Multidisciplinary Environments

When individual departments concentrate on their particular processes, they can create a quality-oriented vision at these separate project junctions that strengthens the organizational quality management system. This is particularly important in multi-disciplinary environments, such as in the development of integrated software solutions for health care, where multiple departments and business processes have an individual yet direct impact on a final quality product.

Because project managers hold the full view of the quality a customer expects, they can “champion” the holistic vision by measuring how each group contributes to overall product quality and customer satisfaction, says Sebastian Cazacu, PMP, managing director of the Bucharest, Romania, office of TenStep Inc.

Quality responsibilities can be confusing, especially at the interface points between different phases and processes. Project managers can enforce quality by controlling and integrating the interactions between various phases of the project life cycle. “Project management helps transform quality management procedures into a common understanding among departments and instills a quality-oriented mindset that drives project completion,” Mr. Cazacu says.

In Romania, many companies have started quality management initiatives as a part of their business strategies, and ISO 9001 certification, a maturity model that controls quality and saves money, has become an important trend, Mr. Cazacu says. For example, when the products produced by Info World Srl, Romania, a leader in the medical information field, required a higher level of quality to meet local customers’ expectations and expand to international markets, Info World adopted the ISO 9001:2000 quality management standard at the corporate level. Mr. Cazacu worked closely with Daniel Nistor, managing director at Info World Srl, after the certification process.

“One of the major benefits of implementing the ISO 9001:2000 standard was gaining the ability to control our various business processes,” Mr. Nistor says. “Project management plays an important role in applying quality management process, but my expectations of it go far beyond this aspect. For example, the next step will be to use project management processes to collect feedback about how effective the quality management system is in each business process and what we can do specifically to improve them.”

Because quality is defined by the customer and project success is measured against customer expectations, then both the quality management system and the project management process must work together to contribute to overall business success—each of them by different, but complementary means. PM


Lorna Pappas is a freelance writer based in Andover, N.J., USA. She contributes regularly to POP Times, Retail Information Systems News and several other business-to-business publications.




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