As economies worldwide grow, and manufacturing continues to increase output exponentially in almost every sector, quality control tends, at times, to atrophy and become, to some extent, superfluous. Quality is often relegated to secondary or tertiary levels of importance. This is in large part because reaching production goals, meeting schedules and staying within prescribed budgets are more critical than turning out a good product. In other words, most project manager’s focus is almost entirely set on the triple constraints: scope, cost and time. However, we all know that these constraints are only a part of a successful project. This is why we have to have a Quality Management Plan (QMP) in place for all projects, which, at a minimum, must contain Quality Metrics.
As I teach in my courses, we all have to make decisions regarding what is most important to us and for our work. A big part of this is setting the “Quality Metrics.” These are the “goals” or “objectives” you set and try to reach, which could equate to: “how many misspellings are acceptable in a report,” which is usually “0,” or it might be “1 defective product out of every million,” or “a flawless deliverable,” and so on. And even if these goals might seem obvious, we all know that we each have our own definition of “well made,” “good enough,” and “high quality.” Therefore, it is imperative that these definitions be measurable, in order to avoid any misunderstandings. Following is a sample chart of Quality Metrics:
Defect-free products sent to our clients
Achieve a score of 90 or higher in the customer satisfaction surveys
It should equate to no more than 2% of the overall budget for change requests related to an internal error.
While setting quality metrics alone will not ensure good quality, it does set clear objectives that stakeholders can use, and refer to, throughout the project lifecycle. These metrics will also be used in determining the efficacy of the quality management plan through quality assurance by comparing the metrics to the quality measurements. The latter is basically the true results achieved. In other words, actual customer satisfaction scores of, for example, 95, 91, and 88, as described in quality metric 2 above, are the actual “quality measurements” achieved. The two, metrics and measurements, are then compared within the quality assurance process.
“Quality Assurance” is the part of the QMP that determines whether the quality management activities being used are effective and help achieve the quality goals. As noted earlier, one way to do this is by comparing the “quality metrics” with the “quality measurements.” If the measurements meet or exceed the metrics, then, of course, the quality activities are working, However, if the measurements fall short of the metrics, then the next step will be to determine which activities are not effective and/or determine which new activities and checkpoints along the project lifecycle must be introduced to improve performance. These activities are part of the process known as “quality control.”
“Quality Control” is defined by all the tasks associated with trying to achieve the quality metrics, which can include: proper training for the project team related to quality goals, acquiring the appropriate tools (i.e. materials, equipment, computer software and so on) documentation, inspections (both internal and external,) etc. These tasks, along with the other items discussed, help to set a clear path towards achieving the level of quality desired and/or agreed to contractually.
In closing, and to refer back to the first part of this article, quality work is something that can set you and your company apart from the competition, especially, since I wrote above, good quality products and services are getting harder and harder to find. And even though the work and follow up can be costlier and more time-consuming, the end effect makes it worthwhile through improved customer satisfaction, repeat business, enhanced reputation, and engaged staff which, in turn, leads to loyal and satisfied staff. All of this is a result of simply doing good work!