Ensuring Quality in Your Projects: A Guide to Implementing Project Quality Assurance

Ensuring Quality in Your Projects: A Guide to Implementing Project Quality Assurance

Project quality assurance (QA) is the process of ensuring that a project meets its quality standards. Which identifies and addresses potential problems early on in the project lifecycle. And helps to prevent costly mistakes, delays and improves the overall quality of the project.

The pursuit of quality is a critical component of project management, and the application of planned, systematic processes is essential. These processes function in an iterative capacity, enabling continuous improvement across all aspects of the project management framework with particular emphasis on deliverables.

A range of inputs must inform any quality assurance initiative including the Quality Management Plan, Process Improvement Plan, Quality metrics (with their respective definitions), Project Control measurements, and key Project documents.

Tools and techniques employed to perform Quality Assurance include Quality management and control tools, Quality audits, Process analysis (PDCA and ‘root cause analysis’), as they enable effective and meaningful assessment of the project deliverables.

Pareto Principle

The outputs of Quality Assurance interventions are myriad, and include updates to the Project Management Plan, Project documents updates, Change requests, and Organisational process assets updates - ensuring a seamless, efficient and consistent project delivery.

The art of mastering Quality Assurance encompasses a robust understanding of diverse principles and techniques. Among these is the renowned Pareto Principle, originally postulated by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1906. This renowned principle commonly referred to as the 80-20 rule, maintains that in myriad phenomena, 80% of the resulting consequences arise from 20% of the underlying causes.

Joseph Juran established this principle as a universal phenomenon that can be effectively applied across diverse contexts to identify the most pressing areas that require urgent attention. Practitioners have since represented this principle graphically in the form of charts, which rank causes from most significant to least significant, allowing them to determine which issues require urgent attention requiring the least amount of effort and cost.

By employing the Pareto technique, Quality Assurance practitioners can streamline their efforts towards problem-solving, embarking on a clear, well-guided approach that enhances project management and quality assurance. It involves the development of a list of problems and causes, the assessment of their occurrence rates, sorting of issues from highest to lowest quantity, and the creation of column graphs that enable quality assurance personnel to pinpoint and address, with utmost detail, the key sources of concern, highlighted by breakpoints in the line graph.

Pareto Chart

The Pareto Chart is a powerful tool that enables practitioners to gain valuable insights into the issues and causes that underpin Quality assurance problems. This chart follows the principles of the Pareto technique and graphically represents each issue's occurrence frequency while plotting a dot curve of the issues' cumulative percentage.

Effective use of the Pareto chart involves sorting the bar chart from the issue with the highest frequency of occurrence to the least. This provides a clear understanding of the relative importance of each issue. The dot curve plotted alongside the bar chart is then used to show the cumulative percentage of the issues, giving the perfect overview of the critical problems at hand.

By identifying the ‘break-point’ in the plotted curve, Quality Assurance practitioners can determine which areas require the most attention. This helps them to prioritize their efforts and resources, addressing those issues that will deliver the most significant improvement with the least amount of effort and cost.

In essence, the Pareto chart provides Quality Assurance practitioners with a powerful lens through which they can gain the most critical insights into problematic areas while enabling them to execute pragmatic solutions that deliver real-world benefits.

Control Quality

The pursuit and maintenance of excellence in Quality Control require a set of systematic and meticulous techniques that ensure the achievement of specific requirements and standards. The process of Control Quality encompasses a broad range of activities executed to maintain the desired levels of quality in a project.

The inputs required for Control Quality include the project management plan, quality metrics, work performance data, approved change requests, deliverables, project documents, organizational process assets, and quality checklists.

Among the tools and techniques deployed in Control Quality are the Seven Basic Quality Tools, Statistical Sampling, Inspection, Approved Change Requests review, and other supporting methods, all of which aimed at ensuring the results meet stringent quality specifications.

The outputs of the Control Quality process include Quality Control Measurements, validated changes and deliverables, Work Performance Information, Change Requests, updates to Project Management Plan, Project Documents and Organisational Process Assets. These outputs are essential for building an effective and efficient feedback system for Quality Control that ensures continuous improvement of project outcomes.

In essence, Control Quality requires a comprehensive approach that leverages standardized tools and techniques to ensure the consistent, objective, and meticulous evaluation of both project output quality and internal processes to achieve and maintain the highest standards of Quality Control.

Key Principles

The Control Quality process is guided by several key principles to ensure its effectiveness and efficiency. The first principle involves deploying observation techniques and activities that enable practitioners to verify whether the quality requirements are being met.

The second principle entails viewing testing as a validation of functionality rather than a guarantee that all potential defects in products have been identified. This approach acknowledges that every product is unique and has its specific defects. Thus, it is essential to avoid generalizing about the product's quality based on the extent of testing conducted.

The third principle is that Quality is a continuous improvement process that requires persistent efforts and a commitment to enhancing the project's performance through the application of industry best practices. This iterative approach ensures that the project outcome is continually improved and refined beyond the current standards.

Finally, following up on corrective actions is crucial to ensure that new problems or defects do not result from the changes made to the process. This entails monitoring the output quality to ensure that any adjustments made do not create adverse effects in the project.

Adhering to these principles ensures that Control Quality is executed effectively by providing a structured method of evaluating products' quality and analyzing the processes used. By adopting these principles, practitioners can optimize the project's quality and reduce the likelihood of defects. This ultimately ensures that the product meets customer expectations and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

Seven Basic Quality Tools

The Seven Basic Quality Tools, commonly referred to as the 7QC tools, are essential elements of an effective Quality Control process. The tools are used within the context of the PDSA/PDCA cycle to solve quality-related issues. Below are the seven tools:

Cause-and-effect diagrams: Also known as fishbone diagrams or Ishikawa diagrams, these tools are used to identify the underlying root causes of problems by mapping out the relationships between various factors influencing the outcome.

Flowcharts: These diagrams provide a visual representation of processes, including the inputs, steps, and outputs necessary to achieve a particular goal. They are used to identify redundancies, inconsistencies, and other issues that may impact process efficiency.

Checksheets: These tools are used to collect data systematically by checking off specific items or observations. They help track progress and identify patterns, making it easier to detect trends and problems.

Pareto diagrams: Named after the 19th-century economist Vilfredo Pareto, these tools analyze data to identify the most significant contributing factors. By graphically representing the data on a bar chart, the user can easily identify the most prevalent issues.

Histograms: These visual tools represent data distribution by grouping them into frequency bins. They are useful in identifying the range, frequency, and the central tendency of the data.

Control charts: These tools are used to monitor processes and to determine if they are within acceptable limits. By comparing the observed data to the expected results, users can identify and analyze trends.

Scatter diagrams: These tools analyze the relationship between two variables, displaying them jointly on a graph. They help identify correlations and patterns in data sets that may not be noticeable through other means.

The Seven Basic Quality Tools can help organizations enhance their overall Quality Control process and make informed decisions based on objective data. By applying these tools, it becomes easier to identify and address problems systematically, leading to improved processes, products and services.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a comprehensive methodology that focuses on continuous improvement in the quality of processes and products. It involves a cultural shift throughout an organization, with all staff members taking ownership of quality management processes. This approach recognizes that quality management is not just the responsibility of specific departments but rather everyone involved in the product or service delivery.

To achieve customer satisfaction and long-term success, TQM emphasizes strategies such as education and training on the job for all staff members, eliminating fear among employees, removing barriers between different staff areas and departments, and encouraging pride of workmanship. These strategies empower employees to identify areas for improvement and take responsibility for managing and improving quality.

TQM also recognizes that leadership plays a critical role in driving the cultural shift towards continuous improvement. TQM encourages organizations to adopt models for leadership, such as transformational leadership or servant leadership. Leaders should model TQM concepts, set an environment for continuous improvement, and encourage employee engagement. A well-defined and committed leadership can ensure that TQM is implemented at all levels of the organization and can provide the necessary resources to support the development of a quality-focused culture.

Overall, TQM is a customer-centric approach to quality management that fosters continuous improvement and focuses on meeting and exceeding customer expectations. It encourages organizations to develop a culture of teamwork, cooperation, and ongoing learning and improvement. By adhering to TQM principles, organizations can improve quality, reduce costs, enhance customer satisfaction, and achieve long-term success.

Value Management (VM)

Value Management (VM) is a systematic process that aims to identify, and deliver, the required outcome at the least possible cost. The process involves analyzing costs, determining where the greatest value is being added, and identifying areas where cost savings can be achieved, all of which can improve "value for money" for the customer.

VM can be incorporated into a Quality Management Plan, helping to optimize processes, reduce waste, and enhance productivity. The standard methods of VM include the Traditional Five Phase Methodology, the American Society for Testing Materials (six phases), and the Association Francaise de Normalisation (seven phases).

The Traditional Five-Phase Methodology includes:

  1. Information phase: Gathering all relevant data and information related to the project.
  2. Function Analysis phase: Defining the various required functions of the project and identifying the requirements of each function.
  3. Creative phase: Developing creative solutions that meet the required functions at the least possible cost.
  4. Evaluation phase: Evaluating the feasibility, cost, and effectiveness of each solution.
  5. Implementation phase: Implementing the most cost-effective and feasible solution.

The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) method involves six phases, including:

  1. Preparation phase: Preparing for the value engineering study.
  2. Information phase: Gathering and reviewing available information.
  3. Speculation phase: Generating a list of potential improvements.
  4. Evaluation phase: Analyzing and selecting the most practical and cost-effective solutions.
  5. Development phase: Refining and developing solutions, and creating an action plan.
  6. Presentation phase: Presenting recommended solutions and obtaining approval to implement them.

The Association Francaise de Normalisation (AFNOR) method involves seven phases:

  1. Information phase: Gathering and reviewing available information.
  2. Analysis phase: Defining and analyzing the project scope and constraints.
  3. Creativity phase: Developing potential solutions to meet the project's requirements.
  4. Evaluation phase: Evaluating the potential solutions based on effectiveness, feasibility, and cost.
  5. Development phase: Developing the chosen solution in detail.
  6. Decision phase: Implementing the selected solution.
  7. Follow-up phase: Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the solution over time.

Overall, VM provides a structured approach for maximizing the value of a project or process, ensuring that the required outcome is achieved at the least possible cost. Incorporating VM into the Quality Management Plan can help improve quality, increase efficiency, and meet customer expectations while reducing costs and improving value for money.