PMP Critical Thinking: Quality or Grade?

by Joseph_Phillips on December 20, 2012

Joseph PhillipsYou are the project manager of a project to design a new chainsaw for your company. This product design is based on the requirements of customers, engineers, and previous models of chainsaws your company has created. As your project team works on the design of the chainsaw a disagreement has begun as to the type of the materials that should be used within the chainsaw. Some of your project team members want rubber and plastic parts to keep costs low for the product, which is a goal of the project. Other project team members, however, want to use metal parts in the product which they reason will improve the reliability of the chainsaw and result in less returns and warranty claims to keep costs low.

How would you proceed in regard to quality versus grade in this disagreement? Try to identify five questions to determine about the product requirements to help with the quality planning.

What did you come up with? Here’s a sample response:

Quality and grade are not synonymous and must first be defined for the project team. Quality is the conformance to requirements and a fitness for use. In this example the project team and the project manager should first examine the requirements that are driving the project. The cost of the chainsaw must be established by management or the key stakeholders. Questions to ask about the requirements:

1. Is the cost discussed in the question the manufacturer’s cost or the cost to the consumer? By better understanding the issue of cost the project team can plan accordingly.

2. What is the primary goal of the project? There must be a balance between the cost of the product, the cost of the project, and the net profit on the product.

3. How will the product be used and how will the grade of material affect the usage? This is an example of the fitness for use of the deliverable. If the materials selected are not reliable for the type of usage then the chainsaw will likely fail and be considered of low quality. If, however, the materials selected exceed the intent of the product then quality also suffers as the different grades of material may add weight, complexity, and cost to the product.

4. If the project is based on other products your organization has created what parts are used in the other models that may serve as guide or comparison for the current project? By using organizational process assets and product breakdown of similar products then the project team may be able to comprise on the parts most likely to fail and substitute grade of materials in some parts of the chainsaw and not in others to keep the price point achievable, but still provide a quality product.

5. What do the consumers want? By understanding what the consumers want will help the project team define and achieve the levels of quality in the project. The project requirements should be based on the requirements of the project customer. By understand how the consumer will use the product will help the project team create a product that satisfies the needs and expectations of the project customer.

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