Quality Management Step 1: Defining Quality on Your Project

Quality Management Step 1:  Defining Quality on Your Project
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When you begin to think about quality management on your project, the first thing that needs to be done is to define what quality means on the project. Quality is not an objective thing, but there is a commonality among things that represent quality and how to manage them. Defining quality in terms that are meaningful on the project is an important early step for the team and stakeholders.  And it begins with defining the product of the project – that ‘thing’ that if produced makes the project a success.

This is the first part of a series of four articles on quality management.  This first part, “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 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 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”.

Defining Quality begins with clearly understanding the product of the project.  It does not yet mean getting down to the metrics…but rather involves sketching out the broad characteristics of what the project is supposed to produce.  The nitty gritty details come further along in the process.

Let’s look at some examples to illustrate the point.

A Park

Imagine that your project involves converting a vacant city block into a park.  The borders are well defined, and the plot of land has some given physical features.  Your team is working with a Designer/Architect and has plenty of input from stakeholders.  It’s easy to imagine lots of different characteristics that will describe this new park when it is finished…but it is your job to work through the ‘definition of done’, to use an agile term, to lock in a definable end to the project.  The success criteria that you develop will be that first step in the quality management for that project.

A Fundraising Event

Imagine that you are in charge of a volleyball tournament where lots of teams are organized from around the city to complete in a large double elimination tournament near city center.  The entry fees that each player pays, and the sponsorships provided by local employers, are the sources of funds to run the event and to donate to the homeless. Decisions as to the ‘quality’ of the event need to be made with an eye to balancing costs and revenue – and maximizing the amount of money to be donated.

A System

Imagine that you are running a project to implement a new customer support system.  You will need to lead the stakeholders through the process of defining the need, as well as the desired results.  You will y need to work with stakeholders to prioritize and determine which features are most important…and which are expendable.  In the end, you should have a carefully crafted description of the product of the project – maybe even a small number of courses of action for consideration - that best satisfies stakeholders.

Remember that this is about a ‘project’ as opposed to a ‘program’.  The difference is that defining your outcome on a project is much more definable and measurable, whereas for a program you are dealing with a longer term effort that may not even have a defined end point.

And note that this is a first step in quality management – a step that defines roughly what success will be.  In order to achieve this, you will need to apply more detailed and rigorous activities to ensure success.

Do you make it a practice to broadly define the product of your project as a precursor to developing a plan to manage 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