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Quality Control in Project Management (#4 in the series Quality Management in Project Management)
By Joseph Phillips

Alright, so all this planning is good, and it’s even better when it all works, but how does a project manager know that project is meeting the quality expectations? You could wait until the very end of the project and see what the customer says, but that’s a risky as blow drying your hair in the shower. What you need, what you must have, is quality control (QC).

QC is inspection-driven. QC requires the project manager and the project team to inspect the work that’s been done to determine if the work results are in alignment with the stated and implied objectives of the project scope. And if they’re not? Fix the problem!

QC is all about keeping mistakes out of the customers’ hands. You and the project team must work diligently to ensure that all of the work is accurate, on-scope, and meets the objectives that customer has defined. And do it quickly. But QC takes time. It takes time to inspect the work. It takes time to redo the work. It takes time to check the work that’s been redone. And time is rarely on the project manager’s side.

And who’s paying for all these inspections? Usually your project is. If we revisit our discussion on planning, the project manager must plan for time to inspect the work and monies for the inspection of the work. If all goes well (and when does all go well?) then there won’t be a need for additional funds and time. When projects are under tight time and cost constraints it becomes paramount for the project team to do the work right the first time.

Have you ever wondered why there is always enough time to do the work right the second time? To me, there’s nothing more aggravating than barking dogs while I’m trying to write articles (that’s for my neighbor behind me – shut your dog up, please). I also find it aggravating, in the project management world, when we’ve got a fantastic plan on how to do the project work, we’ve got a fantastic plan on how to meet the quality objectives, and we’ve got a fantastic plan on how we’ll follow-through with all of our promises — and then somebody chokes and turns in slop.

Now everybody wants to quote Steinbeck: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” Don’t you just love that? Well, take me out to the field and shoot me.

Now we’re redoing work, spending more cash, wasting more time, and arguing about the literary consequences of writers that did or didn’t drink too much. All-in-all, lack of quality hurts a project in more ways than one: time, cost, team morale, confidence from the customer, and on, and on.

Sometimes lack of quality causes a domino effect. Have you ever had quality issues that consumed the project team’s time to correct? Of course you have. And then what happens? Your project team feels rushed to completed other assignments to make up for lost time, which usually creates more quality problems, which starts the process all over again.

It’s always more cost effective, and more time effective to do the project work right the first time.

There are plenty of tools a project manager can use to assist with quality control. Here are three for now:

  • Ishikawa Diagrams: these are also known as cause-and-effect diagrams and fishbones, but Ishikawa sounds brainier. The point of these diagrams, regardless of the nomenclature, is to facilitate a conversation on why causes and contributing to a problem.
  • Pareto Chart: ever hear that 80 percent of your income comes from 20 percent of your customers? Or that 80 percent of your help desk problems come from 20 percent of your employees? That’s the 80/20 Principle and the Pareto chart shows the categories of failure within a system. Then we use 80 percent of our effort to attack the largest identified problems.
  • Control Charts: A control chart really shows normal distribution and allows us to track trends and adjust our mean when we reach goals and need to set new quality goals. The point of a control chart is that we can track trends over time.

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.

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