In project management, as with most things in life, quality is planned in, not inspected in. Quality, and the expectations for acceptance, must be defined up front. I know, I know, this sounds great on paper. Let’s have a real word moment, shall we? Here’s a discussion I’ve had with stakeholders:
Me: Hello, stakeholders, what do you want?
Stakeholders: We want our software to do this, this, this, and this. And we need it to be really, really fast. And we need it yesterday around noon. And we’ve got $23.45 to pay for it, okay?
Me (after completing eighteen rounds of negotiations, and getting the stakeholders to define exactly what “this, this, and this” means): Now about this $23.45…
Stakeholders: It’s all the cash we have unless the lottery hits tonight.
Me: The lottery isn’t until tomorrow night, but even still, you’ve created a scope that’s this big (I stretch my arms far apart like a Michael Jordan basketball pose) but your budget is only this big (I bring my index fingers close together like when I report on the puny size of my brother Sam’s fish).
Stakeholders: Hey, that’s how big your brother Sam’s fish was. Can we trim some of the scope to match a budget of $250,000?
And then we discuss all of the objectives, design documents, and expectations for acceptance that’ll make the customer happy. In short, we’ve got to know everything before we begin. The stakeholders and me, the project manager, have to define all the business that’ll make them happy when the project is complete.
All metrics, such as throughout, data consistency, speed, and vague terms like reliable, good, super-duper good, and so on must be defined in hard metrics. We know what’ll happen if we don’t nail this stuff down, right? You’ll get to the end of the project and the stakeholder will say, “Well, this is only super-good, we specifically said this had to be super-duper good. Sorry. ”In addition to defining all of the project objectives the project manager has to determine how her project will live under the quality policy of her organizations. In some organizations the quality policy may be nice and vague, like “Quality is job done.” Or “The customer is always right if they pay on time.”
Other organizations subscribe to quality programs like Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Kaizen Technologies, and ISO 9000 or 10000 programs. In these systems the project manager must follow the quality expectations of the organization to show improvements, measurements, and satisfaction.
All of the planning and prevention is really Quality Assurance (QA). QA is a management process that is focused on preventing a lack of quality from entering into projects, operations, and the organization as a whole. QA is prevention-driven. It’s a giant quality umbrella that all project managers must operate under. All project managers must map to QA specifications throughout the project. QA is an ongoing process that helps the project meet expectations.
Joseph Phillips is the author of five books on project management and is a, PMI Project Management Professional, a CompTIA certified Project Professional, and a Certified Technical Trainer. For more information about Project Management Training, please visit Project Seminars.