Week 6: Project Quality Management

This week we will look at Project Quality Management – this video provides a simple introduction:

We will first look at the coverage of project quality management from the PMBOK to understand the processes that are advocated. Then we will consider approaches to modern quality management that underlie the processes in the PMBOK. Modern quality management tools and techniques are introduced to provide students with practical skills that will be useful in their future careers.

Project Quality Management in PMBOK

The PMBOK defines Project Quality Management as:

“Project Quality Management includes the processes and activities of the performing organisation that determine quality policies, objectives and responsibilities so that the project will satisfy the needs for which it was undertaken.”

The major processes involved in Project Quality Management are:

1. Plan quality management

2. Perform quality assurance

3. Perform quality control

These will each be examined in turn. In the first major process the quality management plan is created. This will include the identification of quality metrics for the project and a process improvement plan that will focus on continuous improvement of the project processes themselves.

In the second major process, perform quality assurance, activity will be undertaken to monitor project quality and identify where action may be required because the quality of the project activity is weaker than required to achieve the project objectives. Audits and analysis of project processes will often be used here.

In the third major process, perform quality control, activities are undertaken to get the project back on track if the quality of the project output or processes is insufficient. Tools and techniques are applied to analyse quality issues and action is recommended to resolve these. Later in this post we will look at some of the tools and techniques that can be used here.

The following video summarises project quality management:

Modern Quality Management

Modern approaches to quality management are significantly different from those applied in the past. They are more focused on customer satisfaction as the objective of quality management, seeing quality as defined by what the customer wants. There is an emphasis on prevention over inspection. In the past, separate inspection of quality featured in production processes – now there is more focus on those doing a particular task being responsible for its quality. Quality is also now seen as a management responsibility – poor quality is recognised as more often being due to the way that processes are organised and that managmeent has a responsibility to ensure that processes are capable of producing the quality required. Finally, it is now broadly accepted that we should be continuously seeking to improve quality – to do things better than we did them before.

The modern quality movement emerged in the West as Total Quality Management, the main themes of which were developed in Japan after World War II. W. Edwards Deming was sent by the US to assist with the reconstruction of Japanese industry after the war. He had a statistical background at General Electric and used that statistical expertise in improvement. He also stressed the need for group problem solving processes. In recognition of the value of his contribution to Japanese industry, an annual Deming Prize is awarded to the Japanese company that excels in quality practices. Deming is seen as a key definer of modern quality management.

The following three videos, produced some time ago but remaining very relevant today, describe Deming’s approach in some detail:

The Deming approach to quality management is a philosophically radically different way of managing quality and organisations more generally. His “14 points” illustrate the radical nature of his approach:

Continuous Improvement Processes

We will now look at some continuous improvement processes that can be used as part of project quality management. It is important to recognise that the continuous improvement processes described here are intended for use by groups or teams of people. Their purpose is to help groups work on improvement together by structuring and making visible their activity. It is also important that those tasked with improvement activity have the power to make their decisions happen. In a project, changes should go through a change approval process.

Improvement processes should not be seen as “one offs” but rather as continuous activity that takes place throughout the project. There should be a culture in the project team that constantly seeks to do things better. Use of the tools described here requires a disciplined adherence to the processes involved in their use to maximise their impact. Finally, group improvement tools should be simple so that all members of the group can easily understand the processes being used.

We will look at four continuous improvement tools: Brainstorming, which enables ideas of group members to be revealed and pooled, Ishikawa diagrams, which structure exploration of a problem, statistical process control, which applies statistical methids to problem analysis and Kaizen, which focuses the efforts of a project team on a problem over a fixed period of time.

Guidelines on brainstorming can be found on the Mind Tools website, which is worth exploring. They provide detailed instructions on the brainstorming process, that are described in the following video:

The second tool is Ishikawa Diagrams, also known as Cause and Effect Analysis or Fishbone Diagrams. These were developed by Kaoru Ishikawa and described in his “Guide to Quality Control”, that was published in 1968. They are described in the following video:

Fishbone diagrams were developd for use in industrial settings by shopfloor supervisors and are now used very widely. They allow a problem to be broken down and root causes to be identified.

Statistical process control is the application of statistical techniques to the analysis of a problem. Deming applied statistical process control widely and it is now in common use in industrial environments in North America, often as part of a Six Sigma approach. The following video describes SPC:

Kaizen is the use of focused problem solving groups to address a problem. These groups may use the techniques described above, and others, to solve a problem. Often the groups will be composed of people who have been allocated full time ot the group for a fixed period to solve the problem. Kaizen has been highly successful in many organisations. A recent study showed that where kaizen had been applied, lead times were reduced 63 % of the time, 61 % increased market share, 39 % reduced the time needed to launch new products and attention was usually paid to ensuring that increased efficiencies did not result in lay offs. The following video describes the use of Kaizen:

Summary

This week we have looked at Project Quality Management. We have outlined the PMBOK processes in this area, considered modern quality approaches and learned about practical skills that can be used in most work environments to improve quality.

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