How to Measure Quality on Your Project

Let’s get practical here:  you’re going to need to measure quality in order to achieve a desired level of quality.  It’s the most basic management principle: you can’t manage what you can’t measure. So you need to find a way to measure the quality being produced on your project in a way that is reliable, accurate, and cost-effective.  To get there, think in terms of what you must measure and what you can measure…and rate different ways of doing it based upon reliability, accuracy, and cost. Look for the sweet spot, recognizing that there will be some tradeoffs among these three factors.

This is the third part of a series of four articles on quality management. This part, Part 3, “How to Measure Quality on Your Project”, acknowledges that you need to measure in order to manage…but grapples with the challenge of determining what must be measured.  Part 1, “Quality Management Step 1:  Defining Quality on Your Project”, examines what quality might look like on your particular project.  Part 2, “How to Determine the Required Quality on Your Project”, begins to identify the practicality of balancing quality with cost and resources.  Part 4, “Quality Measurement on Your Project:  Measuring Quality in Quantity”, looks at how to handle the need to measure over and over again – to a point where you can say, “good enough”.

This deserves to be repeated:  you can’t manage what you can’t measure.  

But like the product of your project, which needs to be well defined and balanced across the constraints of resources, time, and quality, the means of measuring quality needs to be balanced also – across the following three factors:

Reliability

However you measure quality, it must be reliable – to a degree.  When you receive a metric, you need to know how precise it is – statistically, what the standard deviation is and how consistently the measuring technique will return the same results for the same actual thing.

Accuracy


While a measuring technique might be reliable, it might be reliably off!  You will need to ensure that the techniques you are using are proven ahead of time to produce an accurate measurement of what is actually there.

Cost


There is a cost for reliability and accuracy!  It may include a certain skill set, extra resources, or a special instrument or measuring device.  It’s important to consider what it will cost and to even consider several ways to measure quality.  There could be a big cost saving to sacrifice a little reliability and accuracy…or it could cost little to improve substantially the reliability and accuracy of your measurements of quality.

Again, you can’t manage what you can’t measure…so you’ll need a plan to generate the metrics you need to know whether you are on track to achieve the product of the project at a level of quality that is acceptable.  Quality is not free…but achieving it can be done through a well-managed process where you balance the constraints.

Do you plan in advance to measure quality by balancing reliability, accuracy, and cost to achieve a level of confidence that you are on track to an acceptable level of quality?

This Post is Part of the Series: Quality Management

This series of four articles teaches how there is a commonality among things that represent quality and how to manage them. 

  1. Quality Management Step 1: Defining Quality on Your Project
  2. How to Determine the Required Quality on Your Project
  3. How to Measure Quality on Your Project
  4. Quality Measurement on Your Project: Measuring Quality in Quantity