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Quality Control and Quality Assurance are processes used for managing the project. Quality Control determines if the overall project result meets the requirements and Quality Assurance determines if appropriate standards and procedures are used to do the work of the project.
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Quality management on projects are proceses and tools that aid the project core team and the organization in their effort to both do the right things and do things the right way on projects. It includes a focus on both corrective actions and preventive actions.
When to use
Quality Management is used throughout the project. At the beginning of the project, Quality Control processes are used to establish the performance baseline for the project. At the same time Quality Assurance processes are identifying the correct standards and procedures to use. Throughout the execution of the project, Quality Control is tracking project performance against baselines and Quality Assurance is auditing to ensure the correct standards and procedures are being used. At the end of the project, Quality Control performs the final verification or validation testing and analysis to ensure the project result meets its requirements. Quality Assurance performs a final audit and creates findings for use to improve the project management methodology and to review during Lessons Learned.
There are several quality management professional disciplines and certifications with extensive tools and practices that go beyond what can be covered in this reference guide. However, some points that are particularly relevant to project work are highlighted.
Quality: “The degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements.” PMBOK® Guide
Approaches to project quality management increase in their effectiveness as they become more proactive. The levels or approaches are:
- Customers find problems - normally a recipe for failure.
- Project team finds and fixes problems - a reactive approach; wait for a problem to occur and then fix it.
- Manage processes for quality - a process control approach that recognizes problems when small and applies corrective actions.
- Design in quality - a proactive approach that prevents problems from occurring by designing out the circumstances that lead to problems.
- Create a quality culture - quality is no longer a functional department or a checklist item, it is the embedded in all processes, systems and decisions.
Quality tools and techniques
There are numerous quality tools and techniques. Several have been found to be particularly useful on projects:
- Cause and Effect Diagrams - a visual representation of the underlying causes that could contribute to or enable a problem or failure on a project
- Flow Charts - a visual representation of the steps in a process highlighting handoffs and decision points
- Check sheets – data recording document to determine what was done
- Pareto Diagrams – a special form of the Histogram for focusing improvement efforts
- Histograms – diagram for separating performance by factors or categories
- Control Charts – diagram for tracking ongoing process performance to determine if the process is stable
- Scatter Diagrams – diagram for identifying correlation between factors
Precision and grade
Some terms are often confused when discussing quality.
The first two that are confused is quality and grade. Quality is the degree to which something meets the standard for which it is designed. Grade is the determination of the acceptable standard. Often when a product or process is accused of having bad quality it is because different grades or standards are being used when making the judgement. First ensure agreement on the correct grade expectations, then judge the quality.
Two other terms that are often confused are precision and accuracy. Accuracy is the degree to which the average results of the item being evaluated meets the desired performance. It is a measurement of the average and individual instance could be very good or very bad. Precision is the degree to which multiple occurrences meet the same value. Normally we desire both high accuracy and high precision. However, if the results are not meeting the desired performance, it is critical to understand if there is an accuracy issue or precision issue because the solution approach is very different. Precision problems are normally addressed by an adjustment to the current process to align expectations. Accuracy problems normally require a new process that has less variation.
This definition is taken from the Glossary of the Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2017.
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PMI, PMP and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.