What is Quality?
Quality is a degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfil requirements. Essentially, a stakeholder has requirements and the degree to which we fulfil those requirements defines the quality for the customer. Quality gurus have defined quality as:
- Philip Crosby says quality is: “Conformance of requirements of the customer.”
- According to W. Edwards Deming, quality is: “A predictable degree of uniformity and dependability, at low cost and suited to the market.”
- Joseph Juran is of the view that “Quality is the fitness for use.”
Note: Often the names of those who have proposed any particular statement or term related to Project Management are asked in PMP examination. The question could also be put the other way round.
Project Quality Management
The modern Project Quality Management is based on ISO (International Organization for Standardization) quality standards. Quality Management today complements Project Management. Both the disciplines recognize the importance of the following five elements:
- Customer Satisfaction – Understanding, evaluating, defining and managing expectations so that the customer requirements are met. This requires a combination of conformance to requirements and fitness for use.
- Prevention over Inspection – One of the fundamental tenets of modern quality management states that quality is planned, designed and built in – not inspected in. The cost of preventing mistakes is generally much less than the cost of correcting them when they are found by inspection.
- Continuous Improvement – The PDCA Cycle is the basis for quality improvement. The concept of PDCA or Plan-Do-Check-Act was pioneered by Shewhart and was later modified by Deming. It is one of the basic tenets that form a basis for Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing; thereby enabling continuous improvement.
- Management Responsibility – Quality requirements or quality importance comes from the top. Though, the participation of all the project team members leads to the success of a project, but when it comes to providing the required resources for success, it remains the responsibility of the management. Just delegating responsibility to the project team is not sufficient. The management needs to provide appropriate resources to perform quality-related activities.
- Cost of Quality – Cost of quality basically, is the total cost of conformance + cost of non-conformance. There are different cost elements that form cost of conformance and non-conformance.
Perform Quality Control
It is the process of monitoring and recording results of executing the quality activities to assess performance and recommend necessary changes. It is performed throughout the life of a project. Quality Control requires the project manager or another qualified person to monitor and measure project results to determine whether or not they are up to the quality standards. In case of non-conformance, the root cause analysis is done and appropriate action is taken. The project team should have some understanding of statistical calculations. Here are a few terms related to Quality Control that the quality team must be able to differentiate between:
Tolerances – specified ranges of acceptable results
Control Limits – thresholds, which can indicate if the process is out of control
Usually the control limits are set below the tolerance levels. Let’s say, the tolerance level of a customer is +/- 15% of the cost, the upper and lower control limit can be kept as +/- 10%.
Prevention – keeping errors out of the process
Inspection – keeping errors out of the hands of customers.
Both are important and need to be performed. Prevention, of course gives better results as with inspection those errors would not come out, and also, it saves a lot of scrap work and rework related time and cost.
Attribute Sampling – the result either conforms (binary) or does not conform
Variable Sampling – the result is rated on a continuous scale that measures the degree of conformity.
Quality Control – Tools and Techniques
Control Charts – They illustrate the performance of a project over time. They map the results of inspections against a chart. Outer limits are set by customer requirements and within them are upper and lower control limits. Setting these limits helps in managing customer expectations with respect to quality requirements. Upper Control Limit (UCL) is generally set at +3 or +6 Sigma, while Lower Control Limit (LCL) is set at -3 or -6 Sigma.
Cost of Quality
Cost of Quality, as defined above, comprises Cost of Conformance and Cost of Non-conformance. Cost of Non-conformance is usually higher than Cost of Conformance and lays more adverse effect on a project.
Cost of Conformance
It is the money spent during the project to prevent the failures. Following are some of the different activities, which add up to the Cost of Conformance:
- Quality Planning
- Process Control
- Quality Control
- Design Validation
- Process Validation
- Test and Evaluation
- Quality Audits
- Field Testing
Cost of Non-conformance
Cost of Non-conformance is the cost that is incurred during or after the project as a result of failures. The different activities that lead to Cost of Non-conformance are:
- Defect repairs
- Additional inventory
- Corrective actions
- Warranty repairs or services
- Complaint handling
- Product recalls
The Conformance costs can be further categorized as Prevention Costs (costs involved in building a quality product) and Appraisal Costs (cost for assessing quality), the Non-conformance costs can be further categorized as Internal Failure Costs (failures found by project team) and External Failure Costs (failures found by customers).
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