What You Will Learn
- 1 Quality Should Be a Core Attribute in Project Management
- 2 Quality Planning is Pivotal to Achieving Project Success
- 3 Quality Scoping is Key to Maintaining Project Alignment
- 4 Quality Signoff is Crucial to Keeping a Project on Course
- 5 Quality Termination is Critical to Learning and Customer Satisfaction
- 6 Coda
Quality Should Be a Core Attribute in Project Management
Quality is not just about the final product. In project management, it is applicable to almost anything and everything involved in a project’s life cycle. One well accepted quality guidepost to adopt throughout a project’s progression is SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. In other words, a quality project is one that have SMART fused in every phases, actions, and outcomes. In principle, quality should be ubiquitous inside a project; it ought to be as much about how the project is planned, controlled, and executed as what the project finally delivers.
To Project Managers, the bulk of quality benefits can be realized by weaving quality in four project action constituents called psst! This catchword stands for planning, scoping changes, signing off milestones, and terminating a project. These four are the key focal areas that collectively contribute to the lion share of the overall project quality and they are therefore where quality can be carefully ingrained into a project’s fabric to lead a rewarding high quality project journey.
Quality Planning is Pivotal to Achieving Project Success
The first critical move to hike a quality project management trail is to embrace quality at the start, i.e. kick off project planning in a quality fashion. That means that all objectives, actions, and plans should be SMART. Quality project planning can be accomplished by knitting quality – the SMART protocol – into risk identification and mitigation, scheduling, resourcing, budgeting, determining communication protocols, deciding milestones and deliverables, and designing project closure and retrospection.
The more SMART protocol these plans entail, the more likely a project will execute close to its charted course. Nonetheless, deviation from a plan is needed at times to acclimatize the project to changing market demands or to compensate for any mishap during planning or any other project phases.
Since departure from plans is not completely avoidable, quality planning should be treasured as the immunization to minimize their ill-effects like higher cost, longer schedule, etc. As Benjamin Franklin famously said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, everyone, particularly project managers, should abide by this doctrine; plan as much and as far way out as possible, and map out what-if situations (risks and remedies) to diminish perils from surprises or changes.
Quality Scoping is Key to Maintaining Project Alignment
Although a project scope is most desirable to be worked out before a project starts, market dynamics, flawed project plan, and many other factors could warrant a scope tailoring after a project begins.
That means no matter how scrupulous a project has been outlined at the onset, unanticipated forces may necessitate a scope change that may affect anything or everything put into a project plan. Therefore a scope revision must be taken with great care to ensure that every alteration and adjustment will be meticulously strategized, executed, and integrated into the project roadmap complemented by realignments on resource, schedule, and budget when needed.
Rushing to amend a project scope might turn an otherwise symphonized project into chaos which might result in a capability gap, a budget shortfall, a schedule overrun, or other threats to the project. Hence when a scope moderation is prescribed, every activities must be methodically thought out and implemented in a SMART mode so that corresponding adaptations in resource allocation, budgets, deliverables, schedules, and customer expectations can be concertized to keep the project elements in harmony.
Simply put, if planned activities are not specific and time-bound, there will be no way to keep resource, schedule, and budget in harmony.
Quality Signoff is Crucial to Keeping a Project on Course
Milestones are intermediate stages when project status and accomplishments are gauged against the pre-determined stage goals.
When milestone deliverables and schedules fall out of synch for whatever reasons, a quality milestone signoff review inspects the intermediate deliverables and the schedules, and examines if the remaining resource and budget are sufficiently adequate to fulfill all remaining milestones and final project objectives. Should they be incompatible, hopefully it is not too impactful to make SMART adjustments.
It is hard to steer a complex project to success without devotedly executing milestone signoffs on the project’s evolution path. A milestone signoff is a mechanism to validate if the project is running on course, thus each should be architected in a SMART way. A well-designed quality milestone map would enable project teams to recover from any misstep easier and quicker than they would otherwise without intermediate milestone checks.
From experience, setting up four to five milestone stages along a project cycle is a good practice when they are administered evenly across a project’s timeline. This arrangement limits fruitless efforts and/or futile intermediate results to 20 to 25% at most should they miss their intended targets and thus the loss might be absorbable and reconcilable.
Project Managers should be mindful that too many milestone signoffs could arouse team resistance whereas too few could put the project in jeopardy because a bigger percentage of work could have gone off course and been wasted.
Quality Termination is Critical to Learning and Customer Satisfaction
Project postmortem are often forsaken when the next project is hard pressed to start or when most team members become unavailable because they have been immediately assigned to other projects. This is not a good practice.
After a project ends, a retrospection should be run to identify the wrongs versus the rights, the bad versus and the good, and the should-not versus the should-have so that the project team can learn from this experience, and be able to share and pass along their lessons to the rest of the company to help improve and enrich overall corporate project capability and culture.
Besides, a follow-up meeting with the customer to share the revelation and improvement plan will usually enhance customer satisfaction and relationship as well. Running projects without learning from the bygones is missing out on the benefits that can be reaped easily and most economically.
Everyone wants quality. In project management, quality should be lived and breathed in every aspect throughout a project’s life cycle. Although a project involving five phases with numerous activities should all be quality driven ideally, project practitioners need only focus on melding SMART into four project areas to yield laudable quality results. These four focus zones are planning, scoping, signing off, and terminating; they constitute the four most important components to project quality. Hence to heed a quality project management path without actuating a full-fledged quality implementation, project teams can enact SMART in these four regions to cover the most vital parts of quality project management to enjoy commendable quality effects and outcomes.
Chi-Pong Wong is a seasoned thought leader in program management, customer experience, and supply chain strategy. He is an influencer on several LinkedIn groups and has published on leading online magazines including Project Times, PM Hut, Project Management, Customer Think, ServiceDirectors.org Business Review, UX Matters, Supply Chain Brain, and other popular journals. He earned a MA in Economics at SUNY @ Stony Brook, and a MS in Computer Science at Duke University. He has worked previously at Arrow Electronics, IBM, STMicroelectronics, NEC Electronics, and is currently with Hewlett-Packard. He can be reached at Linkedin