The importance of quality in business cannot be overstated. In his book, Done Right, Workfront CEO Alex Shootman uses the history of the American car industry as an example. “In the 1970s and 1980s, the big American automakers started to lose global and domestic market share to their Japanese competitors,” Shootman writes. “While US production lines were still in the thrall of Taylorism, Japanese automakers adopted ‘quality’ as their byword. As a result, seven of the top ten best-selling cars and trucks in the US today are Japanese. Consistent quality beat consistent efficiency of production.”
While most project managers intend to create the best possible product or service, even the most skilled, educated teams with the most modern tools may fail without the right project quality management plan in place.
The definition of quality differs with every project, as each is dependent on what the customer or stakeholder wants. No matter how great you and your team think a product is, the measurable quality relies on customer satisfaction. With that in mind, we’ve compiled six ways you can make sure your team gets — and stays — on track to deliver the highest quality products and services possible.
1. Define quality.
As businessman Philip Crosby wrote, “The problem of quality management is not what people don't know about it. The problem is what they think they do know.” To make sure everyone is in the know, the project manager, the team, and all stakeholders should assist in identifying what quality means for a particular project. Everyone involved should have a clear understanding of what it’s going to take to guarantee customer satisfaction. This not only involves the specifics of the product, but also the process. Make sure that the customer approves of how you intend to manage quality throughout the project. If a customer doesn’t agree with the way a project is run, you can expect them to consider the overall project quality to be poor.
2. Evaluate cost effectiveness.
There will be a price associated with preventing mistakes as part of the project quality management process, but you can expect it to be less than the cost of correcting mistakes. The Cost of Quality (COQ) refers to both money spent during the project to avoid failures, and money spent during and after the project because of failures. These are known as:
- Cost of conformance: Training, documentation processes, equipment, testing, time to get it done right, and inspections.
- Cost of nonconformance: Internal and external failure costs such as reworking something, scrapping parts, liabilities, warranty work, and lost business.
As with insurance, spending more on prevention up front will likely save you money in the long run, should any deliverables need to be fixed, replaced, or redone.
3. Perform quality assurance.
Quality assurance is a process that provides evidence to the stakeholders that all quality-related activities are being done as defined and promised. It ensures that safeguards are in place to guarantee that all expectations will be met with regard to quality outputs. Quality assurance is done to the products and services delivered by a project, as well as the processes and procedures used to manage the project. It can be done through systems such as a process checklist or a project audit.
4. Control quality.
“Give them quality,” businessman Milton Hershey wrote. “That's the best kind of advertising in the world.” While quality assurance is carried out at every stage of the project, quality control is done at the end of a process or activity. It is intended to verify that all the quality standards have been met, identify any problems, and suggest methods of improvement. Quality control can also ensure that the project is on budget and on schedule. Monitoring the project outputs can be done through peer reviews and testing. By catching deliverables that aren’t meeting the agreed upon standards throughout, you’ll be able to simply adjust your direction rather than having to entirely redo certain aspects.
5. Continuously improve.
You’re already monitoring and documenting issues that come up during your project, so you may as well use them to implement changes and improvements, and prevent repeat mistakes. Continuous improvement is the ongoing effort to better your products, services, or processes — embodied in the Japanese word Kaizen, a process defined as “plan, do, check, act.” Any change, no matter how big or small, can be applied to future projects and keep you on the path toward consistent, high-quality work.
6. Find the right tool.
Project quality management is multifaceted. Your team must: have a clear understanding of the quality expectations; determine how you will measure whether you’re meeting those expectations; and implement any necessary changes along the way. The ideal work management platform allows you to track all of these aspects in one, easy-to-use place.
Workfront’s automated review and approval processes make it easy to ensure quality and avoid costly mistakes. You’ll slash time traditionally wasted tracking down approvals, and aggregate feedback in one centralized hub for team members and stakeholders to access in real-time.
Do it right, from the start
Measuring quality may seem like something you can’t do until after the project is complete. However, project quality management is something that should be planned into the project from the beginning, and monitored throughout.
Shootman describes a fitting guiding philosophy of Trek Bicycles: “The best service is no service.” The company sets out to provide cyclists with the best possible product that isn’t going to break, so they won’t need to be serviced by Trek in the future. “You’re buying the best you can buy, and it’s going to last a lifetime — a promise that’s baked into every project Pederson manages,” writes Shootman.
Effective project quality management ensures that your team consistently delivers quality products and services. Your customers will take notice, and continue to rely on you for transparent, efficient, and quality work.
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