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To Improve Project Quality, Start Early, Stay With It

Poor project quality can have profound effects on projects resulting in rework, schedule delays, higher cost, frustration, morale problems, and lack of customer satisfaction. Project managers cannot afford to miss the mark here. Quality matters.

When buying eyeglasses, what do people look for? One person may focus on features such as the frame style. Another person may want anti-scratch coating or UV-blocking treatment. 

Others also look for a great customer experience—how they are greeted, how easy it is to find their frames, and the fast, accurate checkout process.

Projects are similar–project customers, whether internal or external, want great products and service. How do your customers describe your service? Are they getting the product features they want?

Here are some common quality management mistakes. Overcoming these seven mistakes can greatly improve your chance of success. 

7 Ways to Avoid Quality Mistakes

1. Failure to define quality. The term ‘quality’ is ambiguous. The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines quality as, “conformance to requirements and fitness of use;” ISO 9000 defines quality as, “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements.” Solution: Define the term ‘quality’ so that your team members understand what it is and how to improve it. Here’s another tip: Define quality fit criteria—a quantification of a requirement that demonstrates the standard the product must reach.

2. Failure to stick to the requirements. Some organizations have a mantra such as “exceeding our customer’s expectations.” Be careful about gold-plating requirements. When we add features the customer did not request, we increase the potential for schedule delays, unnecessary complexity, and higher cost. Solution: Be a gatekeeper; don’t tolerate out-of-scope extras in your projects.

3. Failure to develop and right-size your quality management plan. Some project managers create overreaching quality management plans—the cost exceeds the benefits. More often, the plans are inadequate. Solution: Work with your project team to define a pragmatic approach to managing quality, including applicable standards and quality processes.

4. Failure to perform quality assurance. Let’s assume you have a quality management plan. Are you executing the plan? Are you using the standards and processes defined in the plan? Solution: Have a quality audit performed to evaluate how well the team is following the plan. Are you meeting your customer’s expectations? 

5. Failure to control quality. To control quality is to ensure the deliverables are correct, that is to say, free of defects. Wise project managers focus on quality from the beginning to the end of their projects. Solution: Perform iterative walkthroughs and inspections to identify defects; start as early as possible. Seek to find and correct defects close to the point of origination, not downstream when defect correction will be more costly.

6. Failure to focus on requirements. Requirements management and quality management go hand in hand. Requirements are an input into quality planning. Clear, well-defined requirements lead to less rework and schedule delays. Solution: Focus on improving the requirements process—eliciting requirements, analyzing requirements, documenting requirements, and validating requirements. Consider using a skilled business analyst to facilitate the requirements process.

7. Failure to focus on the project processes. Some project teams fail to develop efficient and effective project processes. The same process mistakes are repeated over and over. Solution: Conduct lessons learned after project phases and at the completion of the project to evaluate processes such as the requirements process, the design process, the development process, and the testing process. How can you improve the quality of these processes?

Stop the Death March

Which of these quality mistakes are you and your teams making? Is poor quality resulting in project death marches? Take a minute to identify a few items you plan to work on in your current or upcoming projects.

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