Let’s talk about quality. PMI defines quality as the degree to which deliverables fulfill requirements. In other words, something performs as it is supposed to.

Quality management is tailored for each project. For example, the quality management attributes used for a software project is likely very different than those used for a nuclear power plant project. However, at a high-level they usually share the same three processes.

  1. Plan Quality Management – Identifying quality requirements and/or standards for the project and its deliverables. Documenting how the project will show compliance with quality requirements and/or standards.

 

  1. Manage Quality – Translating the quality management plan into executable quality activities. For example, making sure we incorporate the organization’s quality policies into the project.

 

  1. Control Quality – Monitoring and recording the quality management activities’ results to assess performance. Also, ensuring the project outputs are complete, correct, and meet the customer expectations.
project quality management

Then, when we get into executing each of these steps the specifics and what is at stake vary considerably.

2.7.1 Determine Quality Standard Required for Project Deliverables

(Understand the standards we are measuring against)

Standards

Standards are a benchmark or model created by an authority, or by general consent.

An example of an authority creating a standard would be for the manufacture and sale of bicycles. ISO 4210 specifies “…safety and performance requirements for the design, assembly, and testing of bicycles and sub-assemblies.” If an organization wants to sell bicycles and convince people they are safe. They could test their bikes to meet or exceed this standard.

An example of a general consent standard may be formed by an organization and its IT and Operations departments. They may have an internal standard that no software systems may be handed over to Operations that have more than 3 high severity issues.

Regulations

Regulations are requirements imposed by a government body. These requirements might relate to product, process or service characteristics, including how to handle compliance. For example over 30 countries have made the ISO 4210 bike standard a regulation and if you want to import or sell bikes in that country, these requirements must be met.

De facto regulations are those that are widely accepted but not officially sanctioned. In contrast, de jure regulations are in accordance with law (i.e. they are officially sanctioned).

Validate Deliverables

Projects create and change products and services. Therefore, we want to make sure that any products, services, and interim outputs are validated to meet requirements. This helps ensure they satisfy the standards needed for the project to be agreed as successful.

Project teams undertake the validation of deliverables based on quality standards or acceptance criteria. Then, a customer or customer proxy, such as a product owner, performs final verification. If quality standards are not met, corrections and controls are put into action.

Quality Management Plan

The Quality Management Plan is part of the larger project management plan. It sets out how the organization’s quality processes, methodologies and standards will be implemented in the project. In addition, it describes the activities, resources and labor required to achieve the quality objectives.

Typically, the Quality Management Plan contains the following sections:

  • Quality standards that will be used by the project
  • Quality objectives for the project
  • Quality related roles and responsibilities
  • Project deliverables and processes subject to quality review
  • Quality control and quality management activities planned for the project
  • Quality tools that will be used
  • Explanations to handle nonconformance, corrective actions and continuous improvement

Cost of Quality

The cost of quality (COQ) associated with a project consists of one or more of the following costs:

  • Prevention costs. Costs related to the prevention of poor quality.
  • Appraisal costs. Costs related to evaluating, measuring, auditing, and testing.
  • Failure costs (internal/external). Costs related to nonconformance to the needs or expectations of the stakeholders.

 

We should balance how much we spend on quality with how much it is worth to the organization. How much we spend on preventing quality issues (Conformance) should be appropriate to how much we stand to lose if failures are found (Non-Conformance)

Cost of Quality

The optimal cost of quality (COQ) reflects a balance for investing in the cost of prevention and appraisal to avoid failure costs. We could try to achieve high quality by investing more and more in quality assurance steps. However, models show that there is an optimal quality cost for projects, where investing in additional prevention/appraisal costs is not cost effective.

2.7.2 Recommend Options for Improvement Based on Quality Gaps

Look for ways to remedy quality issues
(Look for ways to remedy quality issues)

Quality Metrics

We identify quality gaps by analysis of quality metrics. These measures can be for any project or product attribute we wish to measure. The definition of our quality metrics should also include what we are measuring and how we will measure it.

Control Limits and Tolerances

Control limits are upper and lower bounds that can be established around a project characteristic. Tolerance is the acceptable variation for a quality requirement.

For instance, for nutrition and packing considerations, our bananas must be between 18 cm and 26 cm in length. A banana below 18 cm or above 26 would be found as out of tolerance.

Tolerance is the region within these bounds that the project manager is empowered to manage between. Typically, if a tolerance range is breached (or forecast to be breached), the project manager would escalate the issue.

Quality Audit

Quality audits are structured, independent reviews to determine if project activities comply with project and organizational procedures, policies and processes. Often audits and inspections are performed by specialists from outside of the project team, such as an internal audit team or PMO. They are designed to identify that good practices are being used and find any nonconformity, gaps, and shortcomings.

When possible, audit teams should proactively offer suggestions to improve quality and productivity. They should also share good practices from other projects and highlight contributions to lessons learned and retrospectives.

Testing and validation activities

The ongoing running tests to verify project components meet specification and compliance requirements. Testing and validations are often conducted by team members, including quality assurance staff who are part of the project team.

Quality Assurance Functions

We need to ensure the appropriate actions are taken based on the outputs of QA activities. These include:

 

Review – Deliverables are reviewed to verify they meet both functional and non-functional requirements.

 

Validate – quality assurance validates whether the deliverables are within tolerance and provides details on any variances identified.

 

Recommend – Where necessary, identify and suggest potential improvements to fix any defects or other noncompliance.

Escalate Issue

 

Escalate – When quality issues are identified, the project manager should determine if it is within the tolerance level and can be handled within the project or if it needs to be escalated.

Quality Management Tools

A variety of charts and tools are used to analyze and track quality metrics. Some common ones include:

Sampling

When it is not viable or cost-prohibitive to inspect every product or deliverable, substituting a sampling of the outputs for review might be appropriate. The goal is to provide similar results in identifying quality issues while reducing the overall cost of quality.

Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis is a technique for uncovering the source of the defect, variance or risk. It uses Failure Modes and Effects Analysis to classify the type of failure, cause of the failure, the effect of the failure and overall risk level that can help with prioritizing corrective action.

Fishbone Analysis 

Creating a fishbone diagram can help display the root cause analysis of problems. The team identifies factors that are causing the problem and looks for their likely causes. The process starts with writing the problem at the head of the fish. Then the team identifies and adds the contributing factors to the bones of the fish.

Fishbone diagram

QA Techniques

Additional quality analysis tools include:

  • Data gathering – Using checklists and other sources of acceptance criteria.
  • Data analysis – Techniques such as process analysis, alternatives analysis, document analysis, and root cause analysis.
  • Decision making techniques – A group of techniques used to help people reach decisions.
  • Data presentation techniques – Creating and interpreting charts such as histograms, Pareto charts, scatter charts, cause and effect diagrams, flowcharts, affinity diagrams, etc.
  • Audit reports – documentation from reviews used to determine if activities comply with policies, processes, and procedures.
  • Design for X – A set of guidelines to optimize for a specific aspect of the design. The X can be reliability, cost, service, usability, safety, quality, or any other variable of interest.
  • Problem-solving techniques – Tools and steps used in solving problems. Often including: Defining the problem, Identifying the root-cause, Generating possible solutions, Choosing the best solution, Implementing the solution, and Verifying solution effectiveness.

Quality Improvement Methods

Quality Improvement movements are complete thinking systems dedicated to quality and continuous improvement. They include:

2.7.3 Continually Survey Project Deliverable Quality

Continuously check product deliverables for quality
(Continuously check product deliverables for quality)

Guidelines to Controlling Project Quality

  • Throughout the project conduct inspections to detect quality issues.
  • Techniques such as Pareto diagrams can help focus corrective actions on the problems having the greatest effect on overall quality performance.
  • Using control charts with tolerances can help analyze and communicate the variability of a process over time.
  • Identify ways to eliminate causes of unsatisfactory results, this is usually much cheaper than fixing problems.
  • Continue to monitor, measure, and adjust quality throughout the project life cycle.
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Agile and Lean Quality Assurance

Agile approaches borrow many ideas from Lean thinking, such as the emphasis on quality and continuous improvement. Both agile and lean approaches aim to make waste visible so it can be reduced or eliminated through activities such as value stream mapping. They also promote frequent reviews to inspect the product or service being created. The plan, build, demo, retrospective activities of an agile iteration closely mirror Demming’s Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) quality cycle. 

Agile and Deming Life Cycles

Deliverables and Tools

  • Quality Management Plan
  • Quality Metrics
  • Quality Assurance
  • Quality Control
  • Costs benefits analysis
  • Cost of quality
  • Benchmarking
  • Quality audit
  • Process quality
  • Validate deliverables
  • Quality measurement tools

Related Topics

Further Reading

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