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Managing Project Quality

Week 1 Summary

At this time I think it would be very helpful for you to read the Quality Chapter of the PMBOK, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, published by the Project management Institute (PMI). It addresses quality issues and defines the differences among quality planning, quality control, and quality assurance. The descriptions of these terms are important to your overall understanding of project quality management and its lexicon.

In the chapter, you will discover the maxim “Quality is not for wimps.” That’s very true. Quality is a very complex subject, and varies from industry-to-industry, organization-to-organization, team-to-team. But some basic terms and some basic approaches are important toward the standardization or quality methodologies. PMI views project quality management as being made up of these primary components: planning, the technical side of quality control, which might include statistical process control on individual processes, and quality assurance, the managerial approach that ensures that all the quality monitoring devices are in place to ensure overall project compliance. What I mean by that is compliance with all the relevant quality criteria that have been established. We want to make sure that this project is going to do what we said it would do and that is based on what the customer wants us to do. We want to do that by using quality mechanisms to also do it better, faster, cheaper, and meet or exceed customer expectations.

Please listen to the instructor’s narrated lecture which includes definitions of quality management, quality assurance, quality planning, and understand the benefits of implementing quality in your organizations.  It may take a few minutes to download the presentation.

Week 2 Summary

At the end of this lecture, you will be able to:

1. State the behaviors of a project manager committed to world-class quality
2. Define systems-centered project management
3. Explain how to measure the organization commitment to world-class quality management is the first principle on our quality wheel or the first piece of our quality pie. We are going to begin talking about what behaviors are required and what organizations look like that practice quality. We are going to learn how to measure the cost of quality.
4. Understand the cost of quality and the cost of non-quality. Moreover, we are going to talk about quality organizations, what are their characteristics and what do they look like.

Making quality a focus of all activity and effort sounds great. My question to you is, what happens when you do this? What happens when everyone is not involved with quality throughout the organization? That’s right, there is a lack of buy-in. People who do not participate do not buy into the new change, and it makes things that much harder. Think of some of the things that happen without this commitment? Coalitions form, factions-there is even some internal sabotage if we do not have buy-in. Part time quality just does not work. It (quality) is often referred to as total quality. And total, as you know, means all the processes, all the people, and all the time. Quality is not a haphazard “catch as catch can” approach; it’s a total commitment!

I would like to have you do something to illustrate this idea of a common vision-everyone going towards quality. Sitting wherever you are now, which direction is north? Point quickly. Okay. Maybe you know where it is. Maybe you are like me and your arm is up in the air and it is circling around, and you are not really sure exactly where north is. I was brought up in a classroom with flat maps; north has always been straight up for me. But what if we were a project team? I am pointing one way and you are pointing another, and our objective is to go north? You are going to go your way as best you can, and I am going to go my way as best I can. Until we have a common understanding of what north or the target of our project is, we are going to work hard. It is important that we all understand where we are going before we start the journey.

What exactly do quality organizations look like? What do they have in common? One thing is customer focus, constantly listening to the voice of the customer. They are obsessed with quality. They recognize work as being made up of processes. Process by process, they begin to improve what they do. They get freedom through process control, they have the ability to predict what a process is going to do and then improve on it. They look for faults in systems, not people. People will try to do their best work even if they work in a process that is broken. Think of some examples where you have seen that happen.

Systems-centered project management focuses on processes, not people. Quality leadership recognizes, and Junan and Deming have certainly maintained since the early 1950s, that at least 85% of an organization’s failure are the result of the systems or the processes that are controlled by management. In fact, before Dr. Deming’s death, he upped the number from 85% to 96%. If workers control less than 15% of the problems, then what good does it do to keep blaming the workers for what is going on? We must begin to look at the entire system as an opportunity for improvement.

Quality project managers should look for problems in systems instead of problems with people. They should look at opportunities to improve the way the work is being done as opposed to looking for mistakes that people make. Systems can be examined for problems by using continuous process improvement. The first thing we need to have is the systems view of an organization-where we understand that the problems come from systems and very rarely are they merely the fault of the people. Think about times when you have worked in a process that you knew did not work very well, but you did the best you could to work around the process or make it work.

The quality business chain, or the Deming chain reaction, explains further why commitment to quality is so important. This was a paradigm shift for most of us. I know that I for one, always thought that if I was going to have quality, it was going to have to cost more. But what Deming has taught us is that if we improve quality in the eyes of the customer by reducing delays, the waste, the rework, all the things that are costing us money to produce, then productivity will improve. Think about it. Improve quality-drives costs down, productivity up. What a concept! If we were able to do that, not only can market share improve, but in some cases we will actually be able to stay in business. Is there waste in your organization? Well, I am sure there is. There is waste everywhere. Material waste, people waste, time waste, all kinds of things. This could help. In Deming’s model, with each improvement, process systems run better and better. Productivity increases as waste decreases. In companies that practice management by results, the focus tends to be on the return on the investment, or bottom line. The approach is likely to keep a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. In Deming’s approach, the dog is happy.

There is a cost of quality associated with everything other than essential first time work. In other words, every time we have to do something over again because it was done wrong the first time, there is a cost associated with that quality.

Quality is determined by the customer. What is quality to one person is not quality to another. Think for a minute about buying a new automobile. Does everyone go looking for this same quality characteristic? I doubt it. Think of what kind of car your children would buy as opposed to what kind of car you would buy. Look in the parking lot. That is all it takes to realize that we have different quality criteria as customers.

Let’s talk first about the apparent customer, the easy one. I say that apparent customers are easy ones because they are just that obvious. You should know who your customers are, who your deliverable is going to. Also know the invisible customers. That is customers that have no direct interest in the project goals, but who can attempt to shape the project outcome or the outcome of individual interests. They can make or break your project, quite frankly. The best example that I can think of as an invisible customer would be a regulatory agency (whether it is OSHA, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, or some other environmental control agency, any number of regulatory agencies, whether you are in banking or telecommunications, that can make or break your project. They do not stand to gain or lose, but they will attempt to shape the project. And if you ignore them, you will get in big trouble later on.

Quality leadership starts and ends with the customer. Under quality leadership, an organization’s goal is to meet and exceed customer needs – to give lasting value to the customer. The return will follow as customers boast of the company’s reputation, their quality, and their service, and your market base builds. Members of a quality organization recognize both external customers (those who purchase the product or services) and internal customers (fellow employees who work depends on the work that precedes theirs).

Identifying customers involves assessing what needs are out there. Who needs what? How are we going to best service our customers? That does not mean just obvious customers; it means all the customers. It means looking around your internal organizations and recognize who will be served by your project. It means looking around external organizations and identifying all the customers there. Customers can be hidden away and difficult to find.

After you identify all your customers, segment them; that is, put them in various groups by size or function, whatever works best. In many cases, that will help point to some needs they may have. It may help identify specific needs that you can serve or may have to serve in order to make the project a success.

As a project manager you should understand the contract statement of work or the scope. In project management, this should be very clear in the beginning. There might also be other documents referenced in the contract, some specific organizational guidelines. We will have laws and regulations.  Project managers are going to have to use a lot of sources to be sure to obtain the true voice of the customer.

A project or the system of the project possesses characteristics and attributes that describe the form, fit, or function of the product. These are called the “ilities.” One set of characteristics and attributes called the “ilities” give a framework for converting the customer requirements into specifications with a finite measure for the characteristics and attributes of that product or service. The performance of a product or service is described in terms of the nine “ilities.” A balance of these “ilities” makes the quality of the product conform to customer requirement look at some of these product attributes for the form, fit, and function – the quality of a product. We are converting the voice of the customer into the voice of the business. Take the voice of the customer and decide what you have to do.

I would like to move on now and talk about something that is even more difficult to measure, and that is some of the characteristics having to do with service quality. And as we know, it is not the same to each one of us.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of service product quality as opposed to product quality. The idea of responsiveness – is it timely? Access – is it convenient? Courtesy is a tough one. How do you measure courtesy? Communication should be easy and clear. There should be a reasonable expectation of security and confidentiality. And what about reliability? That it is good every time, not just the first time you use it. Service quality is definitely harder to measure..