Quality Knowledge Area

Small Projects and Quality Go Hand in Hand

There are lots of corporate slogans about quality.  Companies use them in commercials to sell their goods.  However, quality is more than a catchy phrase, and to achieve it requires a supportive and accountable organizational culture.  To create that kind of environment, the first step is taken by the company in the form of a published Quality Policy.  This is a document that establishes a commitment to quality for the entire business and outlines high-level requirements for its employees.

However, the next step lies with the Project Manager and that is to specify for the team how quality will be measured vis-à-vis the project’s objectives.  Most everyone will agree with that approach, but now what?  How does the Project Manager set the standard for quality on the project?  Begin by using the processes identified in the 5th edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).  There may only be three in the Quality Management Knowledge area, but they’re vitally important to projects of all sizes:

Planning Process Group

Executing Process Group

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

Plan Quality Management

Perform Quality Assurance

Control Quality

This post will focus on Quality Management in small projects.  It’s the latest in a series that discusses how projects can right-size the PMBOK’s processes for application on smaller efforts.  In this article, I’ll focus on the first process.  Next time, I’ll tackle Perform Quality Assurance and Control Quality.

Plan Quality Management

One of the traps I fell into early in my career was to only think of Quality as it applied to manufacturing operations or software development.  In general, when you hear about Quality Assurance and Quality Control, it is in those contexts.  Although I always believed it important to produce professional deliverables, I did not feel the need to formalize the process into written expectations.  My tune changed when I worked with others who did not have the same output standards.  Now I recommend always codifying expectations into a plan, even if none of the deliverables will be produced on an assembly line or run on a compiler.  This can be achieved through the process of Plan Quality Management, which according to the PMBOK involves “identifying quality requirements and/or standards for the project and its deliverables and documenting how the project will demonstrate compliance with quality requirements” (p. 227).

The output of the Plan Quality Management process is the Quality Management Plan, a document that can be used as a reference for the duration of the project’s period of performance to guide the team as it develops the project’s deliverables.  If they are all to be documents, then the Quality Management Plan should specify expectations:  for example, no grammatical or typographical errors in materials submitted to the customer.

On something as important as the team’s reputation with the client, the plan should also include the process whereby quality will be assured.  This could involve a two-person review process of every deliverable.  The student teams in my Project Management class at the University of Arizona quickly saw the importance of Quality Management to their scores.  Usually after the first team assignment was returned, the students would adopt a formal review process as I take a dim view of typos.

For a small project, it’s important to invest the time in creating the Quality Management Plan.  Depending on the type of project, it may be shorter and less complicated than those of larger projects, but planning for quality at the outset of the project is more efficient and less costly than reworking completed deliverables to achieve it.  Make sure everyone has the understanding of what “quality” means on the project.  Leaving it as a vague slogan – Quality is Job 1! – may not yield the desired results.

Next post, I’ll cover the processes of Perform Quality Assurance and Control Quality.  See you then!

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  1. […] and Control Quality.  (The third process – Plan Quality Management – was addressed in my last post.)  For such an integral topic in Project Management, one is forgiven for thinking PMI shorted this […]

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