Project quality is a key determiner of customer satisfaction...which in turn is a key determiner for project success.  Therefore, nothing about quality should be taken lightly on the project.  Before a project manager can plan for quality, he must know what the quality expectations are. Specifically, what are the quality standards of the performing organization and which quality standards are applicable to the project? As part of the planning processes, the project manager and the project team must identify the requirements of planning, determine how the requirements may be met, and identify the costs and time demands to meet the identified requirements.

One of the key principles of project quality management is that quality is planned in, not inspected in. Planning for quality is more cost-effective than inspecting work results and doing the work over, or correcting problems to adhere to quality demands.

The project manager must consider the cost of achieving the expected level of quality in contrast to the cost of nonconformance. The cost of quality includes training, safety measures, and action to prevent poor quality. The cost of nonconformance can far outweigh the cost of quality: loss of customers, rework, lost time, lost materials, and danger to workers.

Determining the Quality Policy

Top management should define the quality policy. The quality policy of the organization may follow a formal approach such as ISO 9000, Six Sigma, or Total Quality Management (TQM), or it may have its own direction and approach to satisfying the demand for quality.

The project team should adapt the quality policy of the organization to guide the project implementation. This ensures the management of the project and the deliverables of the project are in alignment with the performing organization’s quality policy. In addition, the project manager should document how the project will fulfill the quality policy in both management and in the project deliverable.

But what if the performing organization doesn’t have a quality policy? Or what if two different entities are working together on a project and they use differing quality policies? In these circumstances, the project management team should create the quality policy. The quality policy, in these instances, will accomplish the same goals as a company’s quality policy: to define quality requirements and determine how to adhere to them.

Regardless of where the quality policy comes from - management or the project team - the project stakeholders must be aware of the quality policy. This is important because the quality policy, and associated quality methodology, may require actions that could lengthen the project schedule. For example, quality audits, peer reviews, and other quality-centric activities. In addition to the required time to fulfill the quality requirements, there may be additional costs incurred.

Reviewing the Project Scope Statement

Just as project quality management is focused on fulfilling the needs of the project, the scope statement is a key input to the quality planning process. Recall that the scope statement defines what will and will not be delivered as part of the project, as well as objectives regarding cost, schedule, and scope and all of these are built into your project schedule using a tool like Seavus Project Viewer. The deliverables, and the expectations of the customers, will help guide the quality planning session to ensure the customer requirements in regard to quality are met.

Reviewing the Product Description

While the project scope will define the initial product description, the product description may have supporting detail that the project manager and project team will need to review. Consider a project to create an apartment building. The requirements, specifications, and details of the building will need to be evaluated and reviewed since this information will, no doubt, affect the quality planning.

Reviewing the Standards and Regulations

The standards and regulations of each industry will need to be reviewed to determine that both the project plan and the plan for quality are acceptable. For example, a project to wire a building for electricity will have certain regulations it must adhere to. The relevance of the regulations must be planned into the project to conform to the requirements.

Reviewing Other Process Outputs

The project manager will need more than just the scope statement and the product description to plan for quality. The outputs of other processes will need to be evaluated for quality considerations. For example, procurement, may have special needs for contractors. The organization purchases products and services from vendors. If the vendors’ level of quality is unacceptable, the project can suffer, get off schedule, or result in failure.

Planning for Quality

Planning for quality…seems logical, right?  But so many times we put too little time into the actual planning of the project that quality can get missed along the way.

Once the project manager has assembled the needed inputs, and evaluated the product description and project scope, he should get to work creating a plan on how to satisfy the quality demands. He’ll need to rely on the documentation created to date, his project team, and the project’s key stakeholder for much of the input. In addition, the project manager will use several different techniques to plan on meeting quality.

As planning is an iterative process, so too is quality planning. As events happen within the project, the project manager should evaluate the events and then apply corrective actions. This is a common PMI theme: plan, implement, measure, react - and document. Throughout the project implementation, things will go awry, team members may complete less-than-acceptable work, stakeholders will demand changes, etc.  All of these variables must be evaluated for their impact on project quality. What good is a project if it’s “completed” on time, but the quality of the deliverable is unacceptable? Technically, if the product is unacceptable, the project is not finished since it failed to meet the project scope. Let’s look at some tools and techniques the project manager will use to plan for quality.

Using a Benefit/Cost Analysis

Benefits should outweigh costs.

A benefit/cost analysis is a process of determining the pros and cons of any process, product, or activity. The straightforward approach, when it comes to project management, is concerned with the benefits of quality management activities versus the costs of the quality management activities. There are two major considerations with the benefit/cost analysis in quality management:

Benefit. Completing quality work increases productivity because shoddy work does not have to be redone. When work is completed correctly the first time, as expected, the project does not have to spend additional funds to redo the work.

Costs. Completing quality work may cost more monies than the work is worth. To deliver a level of quality beyond what is demanded costs the project additional funds. The types of quality management activities that guarantee quality may not be needed for every project.

Gold plating. The customer does not need or want more than what was requested. Gold plating is the process of adding extra features that may drive up costs and alter schedules. The project team should strive to deliver what was expected.

Applying Benchmarking Practices

Benchmarking, when it comes to quality project management, is all about comparing this project to another. Benchmarking is a technique to take what the project manager has planned or experienced regarding quality and compare it to another project to see how things measure up. The current project can be measured against any other project - not just projects within the performing organization or within the same industry.

Benchmarking allows the project manager and the project team to see what’s possible and then strive toward that goal. Benchmarking can also be used as a measurement against industry standards, competitors’ pricing, or competitors’ level of performance.

Creating a Flowchart

Technically, a flow chart is any diagram illustrating how components within a system are related. An organizational flow chart shows the bottom crew of operations up to the one person on top. A HVAC blueprint shows how the air flows through a building from the furnace to each room. Flow charts show the relation between components, as well as help the project team determine where quality issues may be present and, once done, plan accordingly.

Design of Experiments

The design of experiments approach relies on statistical what-if scenarios to determine what variables within a project will result in the best outcome. Design of experiments approach is most often used on the product of the project, rather than the project itself. Design of experiments is also used as a method to identify which variables within a project, or product, are causing failures or unacceptable results. The goal of design of experiments is to isolate the root cause of an effect and then make adjustments to that cause to eliminate the unacceptable results.

Considering the Cost of Quality

The cost of quality considers the expense of all the activities within a project to ensure quality. The cost of quality is broken into two major categories:

Cost of conformance to requirements. This approach is the cost of completing the project work to satisfy the project scope and the expected level of quality. Examples of this cost include training, safety measures, and quality management activities to ensure that quality is met.

Cost of nonconformance. This approach is the cost of completing the project work without quality. The biggest issue here is the money lost by having to redo the project work; it’s always more cost-effective to do the work right the first time. Other nonconformance costs include loss of sales, loss of customers, downtime, and corrective actions to fix problems caused by incorrect work.

Implementing Quality

Once we have gone through the process of quality planning – as described above – we then move of to the act of implementing a quality policy for the organization.

Because planning is iterative, the quality planning sessions may need, and often require, several revisits to the quality planning processes. On longer projects, there may need to be scheduled quality planning sessions to compare the performance of the project in relation to the quality that was planned.

Creating the Quality Management Plan

One of the major outputs of quality planning is the quality management plan. This document describes how the project manager and the project team will fulfill the quality policy.

The quality management plan addresses three things about the project and the project work:

  • Quality control. Work results are monitored to see if they meet relevant quality standards. If the results do not meet the quality standards, the project manager applies root cause analysis to determine the cause of the poor performance and then eliminates the cause. Quality control is inspection orientated.
  • Quality assurance. The overall performance is evaluated to ensure the project meets the relevant quality standards. Quality assurance maps to an organization’s quality policy and is typically a managerial process. Quality assurance is generally considered the work of applying the quality plan.
  • Quality improvement. The project performance is measured and evaluated, and corrective actions are applied to improve the product and the project. The improvements can be large or small depending on the condition and the quality philosophy of the performing organization.

Identifying the Operational Definitions

Operational definitions, also known as metrics, are the quantifiable terms and values to measure a process, activity, or work result. An example of an operational definition could be an expected value for the required torque to tighten a bolt on a piece of equipment. By testing and measuring the torque, the operational definition would prove or disprove the quality of the product. Other examples can include hours of labor to complete a work package, required safety measures, cost per unit, and so on.

Operational definitions are clear, concise measurements. Designating that 95% of all customer service calls should be answered by a live person within 30 seconds is a metric. A statement that all calls should be answered in a timely manner is not.

Applying Checklists

Checklists are approaches to ensure work is completed according to the quality policy. It’s usually a list of activities that project team members or department workers will check off to ensure each task has been completed. Checklists can be quick instructions of what needs to be done to test a piece of code, create a document, or build a piece of equipment. Or it can be questions that remind the developer to complete a task: "Did you test to verify that all output on the test report was accurate?"

Creating Quality Assurance

Wikipedia defines quality assurance as the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of a project, service or facility to maximize the probability that minimum standards of quality are being attained by the production process.

In project management terms, quality assurance, or QA, is the sum of the planning and the implementations of the plans the project manager, the project team, and management does to ensure the project meets the demands of quality. The project manager must ensure that the proper QA processes and tasks are built into the project schedule using a PM software tool and viewer like Seavus Project Viewer. Keep in mind that quality assurance is not something that is done only at the end of the project, but before and during the project.

In some organizations, the Quality Assurance department or another entity will complete the QA activities. Quality assurance is interested in finding the defects and then fixing the problems. There are many different approaches to quality assurance, depending on the quality system the organization or project team has adapted. There are really just two general types of quality assurance:

  • Internal QA. Assurance provided to management and the project team
  • External QA. Assurance provide to the external customers of the project

Preparing for Quality Assurance

There are three inputs the project manager and the project team will need to prepare for QA:

  • The quality management plan. This plan defines how the project team will implement and fulfill the quality policy of the performing organization.
  • Results of quality control measurements. Quality control tests will provide these measurements. The values must be quantifiable so results may be measured, compared, and analyzed. In other words, “pretty close to on track” is not adequate; “95 percent pass rate” is more acceptable.
  • Operational definitions. The metrics that define the project processes, their attributes, and units of measure are needed for QA.

Applying Quality Assurance

The QA department, management, or in some instances, even the project manager can complete the requirements for QA. Quality assurance can be accomplished using the same tools used for project planning:

  • Benefit cost analysis
  • Benchmarking
  • Flowcharting
  • Design of experiments
  • Cost of quality

Completing a Quality Audit

Quality audits are about learning. The idea of a quality audit is to identify the lessons learned on the current project to determine how to make things better for this project - and other projects within the organization. The idea is that one project manager can learn from the implementations of another project manager and vice versa.

Quality audits are formal reviews of what’s been completed within a project, what’s worked, and what didn’t work. The end result of the audit is to improve performance for the current project, other projects, or the entire organization.

Quality audits can be scheduled at key intervals within a project or they can come without warning, depending on your organization’s own internal policies or possibly the requirements of whatever contract you might be working on (i.e., government contract). And the audit process can vary depending on who is completing the audit: internal auditors or hired, third party experts.

Improving the Project

The lone output of quality assurance is quality improvement.

Quality improvement requires action to improve the project’s effectiveness. The actions to improve the effectiveness may have to be routed through the change control system, which means change requests, analysis of the costs and risks, and involvement from the Change Control Board – if one exists in your organization or on your program or project.

Implementing Quality Control

Quality control (QC) requires the project manager, or other qualified party, to monitor and measure project results to determine that the results are up to the demands of the quality standards. If the results are not satisfactory, root cause analysis follows the quality control processes. Root cause analysis is needed so the project manager can determine the cause and apply corrective actions. On the whole, QC occurs throughout the life of a project, not just at its end.

Quality control is also not only concerned with the product the project is creating, but with the project management processes.  You’re QC’ing not just the end result, but also how you get there. Quality control measures performance, scheduling, and cost variances. The experience of the project should be of quality - not just the product the project creates. Consider a project manager that demands that the project team work extreme hours to meet an unrealistic deadline; team morale suffers and likely so does the project work the team is completing.

The project team should have the following skill sets to be competent at quality control – or there needs to be a team/unit in place with these skill sets working independently to ensure quality:

  • Statistical quality control, such as sampling and probability
  • Inspection to keep errors away from the customer
  • Attribute sampling to measure conformance to quality on a per unit basis
  • Variable sampling to measure conformance to quality as a whole
  • Special causes to determine anomalies to quality
  • Random causes to determine expected variances of quality
  • Tolerance range to determine if the results are within, or without, an acceptable level of quality
  • Control limits to determine if the results are in, or out, of quality control

Preparing for Quality Control

Quality control relies on several inputs:

Work results. The results of both the project processes and the product results are needed to measure and compare to the quality standards. The expected results of the product and the project can be measured from the project plan.

Quality management plan. This plan defines how the project team will meet the quality policy.

Operational definitions. The operational definitions that define the metrics for the project are needed so QC can measure and react to the results of project performance.

Checklists. If the project is using checklists to ensure project work is completed, a copy of the checklists will be needed as part of quality control. The checklists can serve as an indicator of completed work and expected results.

Inspecting Results

Although quality is planned into a project, not inspected in, inspections are needed to prove the conformance to the requirements. An inspection can be done on the project as a whole, a portion of the project work, the project deliverable, or even an individual activity. Inspections are also known as:

  • Review
  • Product reviews
  • Audits
  • Walkthroughs

Results of Quality Control

Quality control should, first and foremost, result in quality project output. Next, it should also promote quality improvement. The project manager and project team, based on the results of the tools and techniques to implement quality control, apply corrective actions to prevent unacceptable quality and improve the overall quality of the project management processes. And keep in mind that these quality tasks must also be part of your project schedule that you revise and track using a tools like Seavus’ Project Viewer in conjunction with MS project.

The corrective actions the project manager and the project team want to incorporate into the project may require change requests and management approval. The value and importance of the change should be evident so the improvement to quality is approved and folded into the project. In addition to quality improvement, there are other results of quality control:

Acceptance decisions. Results of work are either accepted or rejected. Rejected items typically mean rework.

Rework. Nonconformance to quality results in rework. Rework costs time and money and contributes to projects being late, over budget, or both. It is always more cost effective to do the work right the first time than to do it correct the second.

Completed checklists. If the project is using checklists to confirm the completion of work, then the completed checklists should become part of the project records. Some project managers require the project team member completing the checklist to initial the checklists as whole and complete.

Process adjustments. When results of inspections indicate quality is out of control then process adjustments may be needed to make immediate corrective actions or planned preventive actions to ensure quality improves. Process adjustments, depending on the nature of the adjustment, may qualify for a change request and be funneled through the Change Control System as part of integration management.