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Hello and welcome back to our project management series. In the previous posts, we discussed project scope management, project time management, and project cost management. In this article, we will explore another integral part of project management: project quality management.

Project quality management is the aspect of project management that focuses on ensuring that project and product requirements are met and validated. As a project manager, project quality management involves ensuring that, while you strive to ensure quality, you do not sacrifice other aspects of the projects (e.g., scope, time, and cost).

The quality of a project is the degree to which the project meets pre-defined requirements. You should be careful not to confuse this with the grade of the product. A project might set out to create a low-grade product. As long as the predefined requirements are met, the quality of the project has not been compromised. Let’s take an example: The Intel Celeron microprocessor was the low-grade version of the Pentium microprocessor. If a project sets out to create Celeron microprocessors, as long as the defined requirements are met, the project quality is intact. However, if a project was set up to create Pentium processors and the end product has a lower grade, then the quality has been compromised.

PMI recommends that projects should comply with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in their quality management processes. ISO concepts include continuous improvement (Kaizen), customer satisfaction, prevention over inspection, management responsibility, and cost of quality. We will explore some of these concepts in detail in this article

There are three processes involved in project quality management:

  1. Plan quality management
  2. Perform quality assurance
  3. Control quality

Plan Quality Management

Plan quality management involves identifying the requirements and how the project will demonstrate compliance with the requirements. This process serves as a quality guide for the entire project. The inputs of the project include the project management plan (which contains the schedule, scope and cost baselines), the stakeholder and risk registers, and the requirements definition (from the scope management process). Other important inputs to the process are external environmental factors (rules, standards that are applicable to the project environment) and historical lessons from previous projects.

There are a lot of tools and techniques that are used in the plan quality management process. They include:

    1. Cost benefit analysis—This involves comparing the costs of a quality activity to its benefits.
    2. Cost of quality—The cost of quality of a project is the total of the costs of conformance (prevention and appraisal costs) and non-conformance (internal and external costs). The goal for a project manager is to minimize the total costs of quality by ensuring that reworks and repairs are minimized. In some rare cases, the cost of non-conformance might be lower than the cost of performance. In this case, the project manager should liaise with the project sponsor and the clients in order to determine the next course of action for the project.
    3. Basic quality tools—These tools are popularly called the 7QC tools in the industry. These are the tools that focus on continuous improvement cycle of quality (Plan – Do – Check – Act). The tools include:
      1. Cause and effect diagrams—Also known as fishbone diagrams (because they look like a fishbone) or Ishikawa diagrams (because of the name of the inventor, Kaoru Ishikawa); they are used to link the undesirable effect on a project to an assignable cause. An example of a cause and effect diagram is shown below:

      1. Flowcharts—Flowcharts are also called process diagrams: They are used to show the order of operation of activities. If you have ever worked as a programmer or an operations specialist, you should be familiar with flowcharts. A flowchart usually shows activities, decision points, branches.
      2. Checksheets—They are used as checklists in gathering attributes that are used in performing inspection.
      3. Pareto diagrams—Based on Pareto’s principle of the vital few, a Pareto diagram is a special kind of bar chart that is used to identify the vital few sources that are responsible for causing most of the problem’s effects. An example of a Pareto chart is shown below. The diagram shows that shrinks are most responsible for titanium investment casting defects.>

      1. Histograms—These are bar charts used to describe the dispersion and shape of statistical distributions. For a project manager, histograms are extremely useful communication tools for communicating with stakeholders and describing quality issues at a glance.
      2. Control chart—A control chart is used to show the stability and predictability of a process. A control chart has two limits:Upper control limit: The upper control limit (UCL) is usually set below the required limit to indicate the maximum acceptable point of a particular metric.Lower control limit: This specifies the minimum acceptable point of control for a particular metric. The LCL is usually set above the minimum required limit. For repetitive processes, the LCL and UCL are usually set at ±3 standard deviation around the mean.

        The control values are used to monitor when a metric behaving abnormally. There are two major causes for investigations when using control charts.

        1. When a data point exceeds the control limits (either above the UCL or below the LCL)
        2. When there are seven consecutive points on one side of the mean of the chart

An example of a control chat is shown below:

      1. Scatter diagram—This is also known as a correlation diagram. It is used to show the relationship between a dependent variable (shown on the Y-axis) and an independent variable (shown on the x-axis). An example of a scatter diagram is shown below:

  1. Benchmarking—This involves comparing a project to comparable project (usually standard) to determine standards and measure performance.
  2. Design of experiments—DOE can be used for various functions. In quality management, it is used to determine the number of tests that would be carried out and their effect on cost of quality.
  3. Statistical sampling—This involves the selection of part of the population for inspection. In planning quality management, a project manager has to decide on the sample size and frequency to be used in statistical sampling with the team.

Whew, that was a long list of quality tools and techniques. Now let us look at the outputs of the plan quality management process. The major outputs are the quality management plan (obviously), quality check lists, and quality metrics. Also, since most of the tools help improve processes, the process improvement plan is an output of this process. Finally, changes to the project documents during the process must be properly documented.

Perform Quality Assurance

Quality assurance seeks to ensure that the output of the project (whether finished or unfinished) will meet the project requirements. It is an execution process that ensures that attention is paid to the continuous process improvement while the project is being carried out.

The inputs of the process are the quality management plan, quality metrics, and process improvement plan (all from the plan quality process) and the quality control measurements (from the control quality process).

The quality assurance uses all of the tools and techniques used in the plan quality management and control quality processes. Additional tools and techniques used in this process include quality audits and process analysis.

The major outputs of the quality assurance process are change requests. Other outputs include updates to the project management plan and project documents.

Control Quality

This is the process of measuring quality in order to assess performance and recommend necessary changes. The goals of the control quality process are:

  1. Identifying causes of poor performance and recommending actions to prevent or correct them
  2. Validating that project deliverables meet the project requirements specified by the stakeholders (in the collect requirements process).

The inputs to this process include the project management plan, quality check lists, quality metrics, work performance data, and the deliverables of the project.

The tools and techniques used in the control quality process include;

  1. Seven basic quality tools (as described in the planning quality management process above)
  2. Statistical sampling
  3. Inspection—This involves examining of the deliverables to ensure that they conform to requirements. The goal of this inspection is to validate of the deliverables; it is usually conducted by the project manager and the person assigned to the task.
  4. Change requests review.

The outputs of the control quality process include quality control measurements and validated change requests. Another important output of the control quality process is the verified deliverables. The deliverables that are verified in the control quality process serve as inputs to the verify scope process, where the deliverables are formally accepted. Other outputs of the control quality process include updates to the project management plan, project documents, and organizational process assets.

There you go, the three processes that form the quality management knowledge area. As usual, we have a summary diagram of the processes from the PMBOK shown below;

Thank you for reading. Don’t forget to drop your thoughts and questions in the comments section. In our next article in this series, we will project human resource management. See you soon!

References

  1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK Guide. Project Management Institute.
  2. Images from Wikipedia.