The Relationship between Project Management and Quality Control

Having just finished a summer-long course in project management, I am now studying quality management in a Six Sigma Green Belt (SSGB) class.  

I’ve been thinking about the intersection between project management and quality management since I started the started the SSGB class and wanted to sketch out a few of these ideas.

1.  Quality Management => Project Management

One of the relationships between quality management, particularly as done through the Six Sigma process, and project management, is that each quality improvement “experiment” is done as a project.  The Black Belt acts as the project manager of the project, and the Green Belt acts as a member of the project team. 

The project is chartered by the Black Belt with the approval of management or perhaps a Master Black Belt, and it is carried out by the Black Belt who has the Green Belts gather the data.   He or she then

  1. Defines the problem with the process,
  2. Measures the performance baseline data and the variances from it,
  3. Analyzes the root cause of the variances, proposes a solution, and designs an experiment to test it,
  4. Improves the process and verifies the hypothesis that the solution worked, and
  5. Controls to make sure that the solution stays in place.

This is the DMAIC methodology based for quality process improvement.  So each Six Sigma improvement process is run like a project.

2.  Project management => Quality Management

A project manager must manage the quality on his or her project, of course, but managing the cost, schedule, and even scope of the project also take on characteristics of quality management.  Instead of a performance baseline that defines quality, there is a cost performance baseline (i.e., the budget), and a schedule performance baseline (the schedule).   Variances from these performance baselines are monitored or measured at various points in the project, and they are controlled, meaning that any significant variances call for some sort of correction action.  

Since in a project you are often dealing with the output of people, not machines, analyzing and correcting the root cause of a variance may differ from the precisely laid-out DMAIC methodology of Six Sigma.   But the same problem-solving spirit is certainly there as it is in Six Sigma and this is one common point I find between project management and Six Sigma methodology:  they both require a lot of problem solving, a penchant for working with teams, and an ability to get all stakeholders to buy into any proposed solution.


One Response

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