May 8, 2012

PM0017 [Project Quality Management] Set1 Q4

Q 4. Describe the techniques used for Quality planning.

Quality Planning
The PMBOK Guide defines quality planning as “…identifying which quality standards are relevant to the project and determining how to satisfy them.” This activity is the foundation for quality being planned in, not inspected in. Project managers need not, and must not, depend on inspection and correction to achieve project quality. Instead, they should use conformance and prevention to achieve quality. Project managers should through plan, design and build quality.

Quality Management Plan
The basic document for project quality is the quality management plan. It is one of the several subordinate management plans within the project plan. When faced with an unfamiliar task (as quality management often seems to be), project managers may look for an existing template to apply as a starting point. Few such templates exist. Quality management plans are more described than demonstrated in project management literature. That may be beneficial to project managers. Applying a template may not allow consideration of the subtle aspects of a project that are inherently unique. It may be best for project teams to craft an individual quality management plan that fits the needs of the project, not just the format of a published template. 

A general framework for quality management plans includes four elements:
1Quality policy
This expresses the intended direction of a performing organization with regard to quality. One of the best examples of a clear, concise quality policy is “We shall build good ships here; at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always good ships”. The project team may simply apply the existing organizational quality policy, but only if it is a good fit. Needs of the project may demand a quality policy that is more specific than a generally stated organizational quality policy.

2. Who is in charge?
This question is one of three that lie at the heart of quality management. The answer is neither trivial nor simple; it is not just the name of the project manager. A complete answer one essential to project success addresses project and organizational infrastructure and describes participants, reporting chains, and responsibilities. There are few more certain paths to project failure than an ambiguous collection of participants in which everyone is in charge, but no one is responsible.

3. Where are we going?
Managing quality effectively depends on specific performance targets. Goals provide broad descriptions of what the project is expected to achieve. Requirements provide more detailed descriptions. Operational definitions, which describe what something is and how it is measured, provide the means for understanding goals and requirements that may be vague or ambiguous.

4. How are we going to get there?
The answer to this question should address processes, resources, and standards. Processes define the things the project team will do to meet requirements and achieve project goals. The quality management plan may include a lengthy list of processes covering many different aspects of project work. Resources include more things than money. This part of the plan should describe the people available, participating organizational elements, tools to be used, and, of course, the budget that provides funding for all quality activities. Standards to be applied to project work are an important element of this part of the plan. Remember that, by definition, quality planning is all about identifying relevant standards.

5. Identifying Customers
Customers are the base. To reiterate, customers may be classified as external (the paying client, suppliers, and end users), internal (elements in the supplier-process-customer chain), and hidden (those not directly involved, but concerned about the Project’s outcome). All of this is rather straightforward. Internal customers may be the most difficult to identify. A simple graphic may help (see below Figure). Identifying customers is not a matter of intuition or guesswork. 

Identification involves four explicit steps:
    1. Analyze the contract
    As a first step, analyzing the contract will identify an important external customer, the paying client. This analysis may also identify an end user. If the end user is not clear from the contract information, the project team may have to coordinate directly with the paying customer to determine if the end user is someone other than the paying customer. Contract analysis may also reveal suppliers. If key suppliers are not specifically identified as subcontractors, the project team may have to coordinate among its own technical elements or with the organization’s procurement office to determine what suppliers will be part of project implementation.

Figure: Internal Chain Produces Product of the Project

   2. Analyze the project team and organization
   This is the step that identifies internal customers. Analysis should disclose how work will proceed, what project team or organizational elements will participate and how they will be linked together in the supplier-process customer chain.

   3. Analyze product use
   This step starts with the end user and goes a bit further to identify more specifically who will use the product and how they will use it. Remember, quality means satisfying customer needs, not just meeting specifications in a contract. Analyzing product use may also disclose hidden customers those who do not use the product themselves, but care very much about how use by others may affect them or other areas of concern, such as the environment, aesthetics of the local community, and so on.

   4. Analyze the means of production
   This is important whether the project involves manufacturing a product, delivering a service, or performing some intellectual or administrative activity. This step, which takes a process view, may clarify or confirm internal customers already identified or add additional internal customers that were missed when analyzing the project team and organization.

6. Prioritizing Customers
Not all customers are created equal. An old adage about individual rank in organizations applies here: “If everybody is somebody, nobody is anybody.” If all customers are considered equal, the project team may have an impossible task when applying limited project resources during project implementation. The project team must prioritize customers. The purpose is to gain an understanding of the relative importance of the many customers, some of whom may have been identified through enthusiasm of the team during the identification process rather than rational analysis. The purpose is not to identify customers to be ignored or eliminated. The resulting priorities should be a source for reflection. A customer ranked very low in priority may not be a legitimate customer. The team should review that particular customer and determine if it should be removed from the list. Or it may be that the team did not fully consider the potential influence of that customer. In either case, the team should keep in mind that one, single customer may be a showstopper a customer that can individually cause the project to stop work.

The importance of prioritization demands a rigorous, disciplined process. One such approach is the L-shaped matrix; in which customers are compared to each other on a one-to-one basis (see below Figure).

The first step when applying the L-shaped matrix is to build the matrix by entering the names of the elements to be prioritized along both the vertical and horizontal axes. In Figure 2, the letters A, B, C, D, E, and F represent elements to be prioritized.

L-Shaped Matrix

The next step is to compare the elements to each other on a one-to-one basis to determine importance. First, A is compared to B, then A to C, then A to D, and so on. Then B is compared to A, B to C, B to D, and so on until all elements have been compared to each other. When evaluating the elements, the first is always compared to the second. For example, when comparing A on the vertical axis to B on the horizontal axis, we evaluate A against B. If we believe A and B are of equal importance, we enter a score of 1 in the matrix cell. If we believe A is more important than B, we enter a score of 5. If A is much more important than B, we enter a score of 10.

If we believe A is less important than B, we enter the inverse of the “more important” score of 5 we enter 1/5. And if A is much less important, we enter a score of 1/10. Each comparison also determines the reverse comparison. If A compared to B is rated as 5, then B compared to A must be rated as 1/5. The team should make both entries in the matrix immediately so that no unintentional inconsistency results.

After completing the pair-wise comparisons, scores in each row should be added to determine a row total. Now it is a convenient time to convert fractional numbers to decimals. Row totals are added to determine a grand total. The last step is to divide each individual row total by the grand total. The result shows what percentages the row totals represent of the grand total.
These relative decimal values indicate priority, the goal of applying the
L-shaped matrix technique.

Quality Control
The PMBOK Guide defines quality control as “…monitoring specific project results to determine if they comply with relevant quality standards and identifying ways to eliminate causes of unsatisfactory performance.” This is an action process in which the project team looks at results and determines necessary corrective action.

Monitoring specific project results serves several important purposes:
1. Results may confirm that all is well. If results are within specifications (no variance from specifications is indicated), the project team knows that performance is proceeding according to plan.

2. Results may provide the basis for corrective action. If results do not conform to specifications (some degree of variance is indicated), the project team knows that something has gone wrong or is going wrong. The project team must take corrective action to fix the existing variance from the plan. The team must also identify the source of the variance and take corrective action to prevent it from recurring.

3. Results provide feedback to the quality assurance process. Results obtained during quality control provide data that are examined during quality audits. Performance that does not conform to specifications indicates that the quality assurance activities associated with that performance are not having the desired effect. Quality assurance activities are intended to ensure conforming performance. If they do not, the project team must analyze the data, determine the shortcoming, improve the quality assurance activities, and update the quality assurance plan.

Role of Inspection
A continuing theme in quality management is that quality is planned in, not inspected in. Superficially, this may suggest that planning is in, inspection is out. Not true. Inspection plays a significant role in quality management, but it is a role that is different from that in the traditional approach to quality.

Products must be inspected at the end of a process to ensure that they conform to specification. Products must be checked before they are delivered to the paying customer. In the traditional approach to quality, as explained earlier, this end-of-process inspection was the principal focus. Results of the inspection allowed delivery of the product or required rework or discard of the defective items.

In the contemporary view of quality, inspection plays a very broad role across and throughout the process. Small, frequent inspections ensure that the process is performing as planned, with the result being fewer nonconforming products at the end of the process. In-process inspection may reveal deficiencies that can be corrected before they cause costly scrap and rework.

Inspections may include several kinds of activities, such as:
1. Measuring physical characteristics of products.
2. Examining products for completeness or correct assembly.
3. Testing products for performance.

Quality Control Tools
Many quality control tools are available to the project team. Quality control may be a simple matter of checking something. It may involve the application of complex tools that require some expertise. Many of the tools of quality control are also tools of quality improvement. Their use, their correct use, is so important to the project team.

Figure: Quality Control

Quality control is a process that monitors specific project results to ensure that results conform to specifications.

Quality Improvement
The loop from quality control back to specifications is not the end of the quality journey; however Figure 3 shows another exit from the quality control step. That path goes to quality improvement. Juran defines quality improvement as “the organized creation of beneficial change; the attainment of unprecedented levels of performance breakthrough.”

Quality improvement is a deliberate process that uses objective measurement and data. All quality improvement begins with data collection.

Reasons for Quality Improvement
Quality improvement is not just a good idea. Many practical reasons exist, demanding that organizations continually improve their quality of product or service.
1. Basic reason is to improve products or reduce deficiencies. Better products or fewer deficiencies will improve customer satisfaction, improve reputation, and increase competitiveness.
2. Recall that products are not things unto themselves; they meet some kind of customer need. Another reason for quality improvement is to produce better products for customers. This, too, will increase customer satisfaction and may increase deliveries to existing customers and generate sales to new customers.
3. Better processes may result in more efficient use of time, less waste, or fewer defects.
4. Customers can be frustrating lot. Give them what they want and they ask for more. Dynamic customer needs and requirements demand that we continually improve to meet the new needs and requirements. We should welcome this attribute of customers. Without it, we might tend to be satisfied with current products and performance and be overtaken, even overcome, by competitors with newer, better ideas.
5. Global competition is a cold, hard fact of business life. Almost all products or services are subject to competition from just about anyplace in the world. Often, global competitors have an advantage in price because of local labor costs. Quality improvement can make products more competitive in the face of low-cost labor markets.
6. Quality improvement may reduce costs. Lower costs can increase competitiveness through lower prices or result in delivery of more product or service for the existing price.
7. New technologies and the pace of technology development require change and enable quality improvement. We must improve to keep up, and the continual changes allow us to improve continually and provide better products and services to our customers.

Quality improvement is a matter of business survival. Consider all the reasons described above. Ignoring any one of them may result in business failure.

If quality improvement is so critical, everyone should support it, but that is not always the case. Quality improvement can be difficult for many reasons. Members of the project team may be disillusioned by past failures. Past efforts at improvement may not have produced any results, or at least not the results that the team expected or considered to be worth the effort.

Members of the team or members of external management may believe, wrongly, that improved quality costs more. They can focus on short-term costs rather than long-term benefits. This can be a difficult mind-set to break, but it must be broken. A focus on short-term costs and a belief that better quality costs more will have devastating effects on the project, the product of the project, customer satisfaction, and the organization as a whole.

Quality improvement responsibility can be delegated down the project team, sometimes to the point where the person responsible has no authority or ability to take effective action. “An action passed is not an action completed; it is just an action passed to someone else with uncertain result”. The project manager is responsible for project quality. Quality improvement, because of its system orientation, is a responsibility of top management.

Employees are often apprehensive about quality improvement because improvement is change. Resistance to change, fear of the unknown, comfort with the status quo — all combine to make quality improvement not something to be assumed, but something to be approached very carefully.

Improvement Methodology
The plan-do-check-act cycle is a proven, disciplined approach to quality improvement. It was developed by Walter Shewhart. Deming and others applied it as the “Shewhart cycle.” In Japan, it is known as the “Deming cycle”. The cycle is shown in Figure 4. Applying the model is rather straightforward, but not intuitive. It bears some explanation.

1) Plan: This is the starting point. Select a process for improvement. It may be the process that suggests the greatest payback, or the process that suggests the greatest opportunity for success, or the process the boss wants. Initially, it may be beneficial to select a process that shows the greatest potential for successful improvement, maybe the “easiest” one. The team will have less difficulty working through the model the first time, and both the team and management will be encouraged by success. After selecting the right process, analyze it and plan a change that will have beneficial effect.

2) Do: Apply the change on a small scale, a test case. This is a critical step and the hallmark of the approach. Do not announce the plan as a mandatory change across the entire system. That can lead to “kneejerking” the work force. If the plan does not have the desired effect, or even makes things worse, the project team and management may lose confidence in the model and perhaps in those who tried to apply it. Both results can be fatal to further quality improvement.

3) Check: Observe the effects of the change. This is more than casual observation. It is a careful and comprehensive study of the results. The project team must fully understand the effects of the change, why they occurred, and how they might affect some other process in the system.

4) Act: If the results are as expected (if they show the intended beneficial effect), implement the change system-wide. The test case shows that the change will probably work as planned, so there is little risk of knee-jerking the work force. Then, because this is a cycle supporting continual improvement, move on to the next aspect of the process or another process that might be the basis for a beneficial change and start the cycle again. If the results are not as expected, move forward in the cycle to the plan step and revisit the process to analyze it again and prepare a new plan. This new plan will be based on better information, knowledge about what did not work.

Figure: The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle

Figure: Quality Journey

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