Assuring Quality in the Project

by Joseph_Phillips on March 5, 2013

The concept of quality assurance (QA) enters the project management stage. QA is a management-driven process to ensure that the project work is done right the first time. QA is a prevention-driven process. What’s it preventing? It prevents mistakes, rework, corrective actions, and a breakdown of quality within the project deliverables. Quality assurance is comprised of four key points:

  • Customer satisfaction. Knowing what the customer is expecting is so crucial to project management. How can you manage a project with quality if you do not know what the customer is expecting? The only way to achieve customer satisfaction is to understand what the project requirements are then to meet them.
  • Prevention. QA detests the idea of corrective action. Whenever there is corrective action it means that there has been waste somewhere within the project. In the previous example with the 1,000 doors there was waste. If a project team member is doing work that’s outside of the project scope – that’s waste. If the project team is allowing little changes to enter the project without following a prescribed change control system – that’s waste. Non-value added activities do not contribute to the project’s quality.

Real World Note: Here’s something that might make you angry – over delivering on the project’s promises is actually not good. Anything that you over deliver on is waste. Often I hear clients object on this point. They’ll say, “But Joe – we’re surprising the customer, we’re giving them more than they asked for, we’re making the deliverable even better than they’re expecting.” I believe them, but all those extras, if they’re really needed, are supposed to and must be documented as part of the project scope. Extras are waste. I make no apologies in saying that quality is ascertained by delivering exactly what the customer has asked for – nothing more, nothing less.

  • Management provisions. If an organization has set goals for quality, such as less than 2% defects, or budget variances, or schedule expectations, or other lofty visions that’s all fine – assuming that management gives the project manager and the project team the resources to achieve those goals. Quality cannot be met when the resources aren’t available to reach the quality expectations. A common management goal is the budget and a tight range of variance. However, there aren’t enough project team resources to complete the work so overtime ensues which in turn drives the labor cost and wrecks management’s unrealistic budget goal.
  • Plan-Do-Check-Act. This is Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s Quality Circle. The premise is simple. First you plan, then you do your plan, then you check the results of your work, and then you act by either fixing problems or moving on with your project. Technically, the checking and acting portion of Deming’s circle is part of quality control – which I’ll discuss later in this guide.

Your organization may already have a quality assurance program – such as Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, an ISO 9000 or 10,000 program, or even just a quality policy to which all projects adhere. The point of any quality assurance program is to prevent mistakes from entering the project. QA is all about doing the project right the first time, and it does this by planning, following repeatable processes, and looking to rid the project of unneeded processes and non-value add activities.

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