How to Develop a Quality Management Plan

Entering projects with little consideration of quality can be costly in numerous ways. Let's look at the cost of having no quality management plan. Then, we will explore how to develop a practical quality management plan.

chart showing quality and value trends

The Cost of Poor Quality

So, in what ways is poor quality costly?

First, we may not meet the customer's needs and expectations.

Second, the cost of corrective action and defect repair may be higher than expected.

Third, the cost of quality after the project may be higher and may decrease customer confidence.

Fourth, project communication may be more challenging since people expect different things.

Fifth, your team's morale may suffer. Nobody likes missing deadlines due to rework. This is often a result of  poor quality requirements.

The Quality Management Plan

What is Quality?

Let's first define quality. For project management, quality is "the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements" (PMBOK Guide, Page 718)Project managers and teams focus on meeting the customer's needs.

What is a Quality Management Plan?

The quality management plan "is a component of the project management plan that describes how applicable policies, procedures, and guidelines will be implemented to achieve the quality objectives. It describes the activities and resources necessary for the project management team to achieve the quality objectives set for the project" (PMBOK® Guide—6th Edition, Page 286). 

Management develops, publishes, and communicates quality policies. Why? To support the achievement of the organization's objectives and values.

For example, Nestle has a Quality Policy which includes: "Strive for zero defects and no waste by constantly looking for opportunities to apply our continuous improvement approach to deliver competitive advantage."

What if your organization has no formal quality policy?

Nevertheless, wise project managers define the quality requirements. The quality management plan may be a simple one-page plan for small projects and a more robust plan for larger projects. Furthermore, project managers work with their sponsor, team, and key stakeholders to determine what's needed.

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. —William A. Foster

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Who Should Develop the Quality Management Plan?

This is determined by the type of project that is being undertaken. A nuclear power plant team will be decidedly different from those helping with the development of an accounts receivable software package. For instance, here are some candidates:

  • Project manager
  • Selected team members
  • Selected stakeholders from quality assurance, legal, and the operations (to name a few)
  • Customer representatives (if the project is being undertaken to create a product or service for a customer)

What Should Be Included?

The Quality Management Plan should be fitting to each project. Only include the elements that are necessary and nothing more. The plan may include but not be limited to:

  • Your approach to quality management
  • The deliverables (i.e., the unique and verifiable products, services, or results) and processes that will be reviewed
  • How the quality requirements will be defined for the deliverables and the processes
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • When and how you will manage quality (i.e., make sure the standards and processes are present)
  • When and how you will control quality (i.e., how the team will evaluate the deliverables)
  • How defects will be prevented and corrected
  • Definitions

It's a good idea to look at prior lessons learned. Additionally, engage your stakeholders in the process to get their input and buy-in.

A Real World Quality Management Plan 

Susie, a project manager, was asked to manage a software development project. She invited her sponsor, the Quality Assurance manager, the lead developer, and business analyst to a meeting. The purpose was to develop the quality management plan.

Susie asked the business analyst to share his recommended approach for developing and managing the requirements. Next, she asked the lead developer about the designs, unit testing, function testing, and integration testing.

Susie invited the QA manager to help determine the testing plans including the individuals who would perform the tests, the order of the tests, the test environments, and the tracking of defects.

Lastly, Susie described a traceability matrix to trace the requirements through each phase of the project. All of this information was captured in a simple quality management plan.

In your next project, think about your approach to quality management. What are one or two steps that you will take to further improve quality?

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