Quality Tools and Techniques

It turns out that total quality management was a good idea, and one that has had profound impact on American industry. And the integration of project management and total quality made sense, evidenced by the Project Management Institute's development of a separate section on project quality management. But there has not been much headway in putting these concepts into action in the project process. One reason is because project management is not seen as a planning tool; rather, it is seen as a scheduling and action-oriented tool. Quality plans do not get translated into project schedules as easily as product specifications.

Project managers typically see quality as an external aspect of the process because quality has been incorrectly "sold" in the workplace as something different from and external to the core product design and development process. Of course, we have found in experience that quality must be an integral part of the process, not an external force to be dealt with later when the quality office appears to inspect the products and audit procedures against ISO standards, and second-guess the process. Quality is what work is done, and the way that work is done and when, not how, the work is inspected. We have mistaken the measure for the process itself.

We also believe that quality is the key objective in new product project management, while cost and schedule are indicators. The theory is that the way to ensure successful integration of cost, schedule, and quality is to first satisfy quality requirements; cost and schedule will take care of themselves because achieving quality is less expensive than not achieving it. This means in practice that the project manager must first assume a mindset that places the qualitative aspects of the product out front. If quality tasks are scheduled first, not last in the process, they take on more significance. The project manager integrates quality by scheduling quality tasks and milestones to ensure that quality is built into the project process. In effect, we are saying that the classic triumvirate of cost, schedule, and quality is not a triumvirate at all, but three sides of the same quality concept. Quality means customer satisfaction, and conformance to specifications with budget and time constraints. In a sense we can conclude that quality is the key effectiveness goal, with cost and schedule mere measures of efficiency.

Bridging the gap between customer requirements and scheduled work is no easy job. In writing the specification, the project manager points forward to the scheduling and monitoring phases, but is largely responding "out" to the customer's requirements. After specifications are clear, the project manager turns to the scheduling tool. But how can work definition and scheduling ensure that the work itself will achieve conformance to specifications? The answer lies in the scheduling process, which can now be integrated with work definition in one seamless process.

But, as indicated earlier, there are two quality objectives, quality as conformance and quality as customer satisfaction. Both must be achieved before the project can be considered successful. If quality as conformance can be measured and traced to specification, and then scheduled into actions, then conformance is ensured. But how does quality as customer satisfaction get translated into action? The answer requires some discussion of customer satisfaction.

"Quality as customer satisfaction" is relational rather than absolute and tends to get lost in the shuffle of real work. Therefore, the achievement of this aspect of quality must be planned, and scheduled, in a different way. Customer satisfaction is a function of four key forces:

1. Expectation, Documented project developments on user expectations and insights gained prior to or during the project

2. Feelings about the project manager and team, e.g., trust, reliability, loyalty, and other emotional responses to the project organization and team

3. Feedback from stakeholders, e.g., feedback the customer is getting from key stakeholders such as a standard setting association or government regulating agencies that would change their views of project progress

4. Project performance, e.g., schedule and cost variance, early indications of product and service quality that will give the customer a sense of confidence about progress or alternatively a sense of discomfort that will affect their satisfaction with the work

The issue becomes how to ensure that the soft objectives of customer relationship management are achieved while satisfying the customer's hard, product requirements. This is accomplished again through defining customer satisfaction into the work breakdown structure and schedule for the project. An illustration of this approach is the scheduling of a customer quality survey to be administered monthly to build a running account of customer reactions to the progress of the project work. Such a survey would be scheduled along with meetings to discuss the results as part of the original scheduled work.

The following are key quality tools in new product development. These tools are positioned in the product development process to ensure a quality product or service.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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