5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 8: Quality Management Knowledge Area


1.  Introduction

Chapter 7 concludes the discussion of the knowledge area of Cost Management, the last of the three major “triple constraints” (scope, time and cost).  The next chapter, chapter 8, covers management of quality on a project.

2.  Quality Management Processes

There are three project management processes in the Quality Management Knowledge Area.  One of them is in the Planning Process Group, the second one is the Executing Process Group, and the third one is the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

The first process, that of Plan Quality Management, creates the Quality Management Plan which is the framework for all of the other processes, including what the quality requirements will be.  The second process, that of Perform Quality Assurance, is where the quality requirements set up in the first process are audited to make sure they are appropriate.  The third process, that of Control Quality, measures the quality of the deliverables and makes sure they conform to the quality requirements.

 

Process

Group

Process

Number

Process
Name
Process Description
Planning 8.1 Plan Quality Management Identifies quality requirements and/or standards for the project and its deliverables; documents how the project will demonstrate compliance with quality requirements.
Executing g 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance Audits the quality requirements and results from quality control measurements to ensure that appropriate quality standards and operational definitions are being used.
Monitoring & Controlling 8.3 Control Quality Monitors and records results of executing the quality activities to assess performance and recommend necessary changes.

 

The next post will go over the first of these processes, the planning process 8.1 Plan Quality Management.

3.  Quality Management Concepts:  Quality and Grade

One of the popular definitions of “quality” is the expense of the item involved.  Most people would say that an Audi is a higher-quality car than an Volkswagen.  But in the world of project management, quality basically means “the technical requirements of the product which the customer requested” whereas grade means the different technical characteristics of the components in the product.

To use the same example, an Audi would have a higher grade than a Volkswagen.  Which would you rather have, an Audi or a Volkswagen?  Well, if you’re like most people, you would prefer an Audi because it is a higher grade or automobile.

But what is a high-quality Volkswagen?  It is a Volkswagen that is free of defects.  A low-quality Audi, on the other hand, would be one that has a lot of defects.  Which you rather have, a low-quality Audi or a high-quality Volkswagen?  Again, if you’re like most people, you would prefer the higher-quality automobile over the lower-quality automobile, even if it is a lower grade than the higher-quality automobile.

4.  Quality Management Concepts:  Accuracy and Precision

Measuring quality is to a large extent a matter of statistical sampling, and so to better understand quality, it is good to have a clear understanding of some simple concepts related to statistics.

One of these concepts is the difference between accuracy and precisionAccuracy is a measure of correctness, i.e., how close the measured value is to what it is supposed to be.  Precision is a measure of exactness, i.e., how close the measured values are to each other.

If I shoot at a target, and all of my shots hit close together, my aiming is precise.  But only if those shots hit close to the bull’s-eye can I say that my aiming is accurate.

5.  Quality Management Concepts:  ISO standards

One of the efforts of the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide is to make the quality management part of project management conform the International Organization for Standardization quality standards.  The ISO approach to quality management emphasizes the following concepts, which the Project Management Institute endorses.

  • Customer Satisfaction:  quality means delivering the product so that its requirements meet the customer’s expectations.  However, gold plating, or adding requirements that the customer did not request, is frowned upon by the Project Management Institute.
  • Prevention over Inspection:  inspection can reduce the probability of defects, but prevention through planning, designing, and building in quality can reduce that probability of defects for a lot less cost than through the inspection process.
  • Continuous Improvement:  the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle which is the basis of the concept of continuous improvement goes back to Deming.  Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, and the Japanese Toyota Way are modern quality improvement initiatives which improve the quality of project management while improving the quality of the product of the project.
  • Management Responsibility:  rather than thinking that quality is what job operators do on the factory floor, the modern concept of quality improvement initiatives mentioned in the last paragraph require the approval and active participation of management.
  • Cost of Quality:  The cost of implementing quality standards is the cost of conformance.  Do what level of standards should an organization aspire?  This is where the Cost of Quality comes in.  What is the cost of nonconformance, or what used to be called the cost of poor quality?  Well, if the defect is caught before the product gets shipped to the customer, this is an internal cost of nonconformance, and this involves scrapping the part of reworking it so that it is in conformance with the quality standards.  However, if the defect is not caught by the inspection process, and it goes out to the customer, then the costs could be in terms of the claims the customer makes for replacement or repair under warranty, or product liability, if the customer or a third party is injured.  I used to handle product liability claims and lawsuits for a manufacturer and then an insurer so I am very familiar with these costs, and they can be potential ruinous to a company.  These costs are the external costs of nonconformance.  If the cost of conformance, that is, of implementing quality standards, is higher than the potential costs of nonconformance, then your quality standards may be set too high.  Six-sigma quality level may be a requisite for aerospace and aviation-related components, because of the high cost of nonconformance, but may be inappropriately high for other applications.

This post covers the basic quality concepts that underlie quality management.  The next post will cover the first process, process 8.1 Plan Quality Management.

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