Describe the four main components of a quality management process

Paul Naybour

In the APM Project Management Qualification (APM PMQ) the answer to this question might be:
Project Quality Management is the discipline that is applied to ensure that both the outputs of the project and the processes used to deliver the outputs meet the required needs of the stakeholders. Quality is broadly defined as fitness for purpose.
The requirements for quality are expressed in measurable terms and define acceptance criteria for the project.
The Quality Management Plan should be produced in the initiation phase of the project lifecycle but will be developed further throughout the lifecycle as quality requirements and issues become clearer.
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The four main components of a quality management process are Quality Planning, Quality Assurance, Quality Control and Continuous Improvement.

Quality Planning

Determines which quality standards are necessary and provides guidance to stakeholders on how quality management will be performed on the project. It will include:
  • Stakeholder expectations – this section should document specifically what the customer expects in terms of project quality. Including whether they have specified any external quality standards and what their priorities are in terms of the areas affected by quality.
  • Success criteria (as defined in the business case) in addition to the defined success criteria this section should also define acceptable tolerances for achievement of those objectives.
  • Standards applicable (internal and external) – the project environment may require that the Quality Plan incorporates the requirements of external standards. These could range from the Company’s own quality standards to ISO 9000 or Health and Safety at Work Legislation.
  • Roles and responsibilities concerned with quality – these may include quality assurance testing, supervision and management roles
  • The process that will be followed – these will be documented in a systematic way and will govern the mechanisms for the product of the product specifications and testing procedures.
  • How continuous improvement will be actioned – this may include making adjustments to processes where they are proven to be unsatisfactory.
  • Project assurance techniques – This section will describe how assurance will be perfomed and who is responsible. It will define policies of quality reviews and audits of the management process .
  • Quality control measures – will define control measures that will be used
  • Interactions with other processes such as configuration management, change control and how these links will be established.

Quality Assurance

Quality reviews are a key tool for quality assurance but could also be used for quality control. The way they will be conducted will be set out in the Quality Plan. Four overall objectives for review:
  1. Provide assurance that the project is proceeding according to agreed plans/processes.
  2. Measure effectiveness of agreed plans/processes
  3. Capture lessons learned
  4. Identify areas of non-compliance and opportunities for improvement
Quality Assurance covers the whole project lifecycle and is not concentrated on any particular phase. It ensures that the other processes (mainly Planning and Control) are being adequately performed and that the project is adhering to any corporate standards that are relevant to the project.
Quality Assurance involves pre-planned, regular reviews and independent audits to verify that work is being carried out consistently in accordance with defined procedures and to provide confidence to stakeholders the project will satisfy relevant quality requirements and standards.


Review structure – Reviews can be formal or informal.
Assessment – The assessment that the review performs may be direct or indirect, i.e. a product review directly addresses the quality of the project. Any faults identified may actually be caused by the project management process being inadequate. The review is therefore indirectly assessing the process! This should be recognised and documented.
Type – a review may be aimed at project management processes or project deliverables.
Decision – a review should identify 3 possible outcomes:
  1. Subject for review fit for purpose and can be signed off.
  2. Subject for review needs some correction but subject to completion of clearly stated actions it can be signed off. No further reviews required
  3. Subject for review is sub-standard and requires re-word and a repeated review.

Quality Control

Quality control consists of inspection, testing and quality measurement verifies that the projects deliverables conform to specification, is fit for purpose and meet stakeholder’s expectations.Quality control techniques are varied and the technique used should be driven by the nature of the project.The most obvious example of quality control is the inspections and tests that are done to check whether a product meets is specification. The exact inspection method used depends entirely on the technical nature of the product being developed by the project. Inspections that may be relevant:
Construction – part of Quality Control would be to check the strength of the concrete. Aircraft – part of Quality Control would be to check the quality of the welding·
Process – part of Quality Control may be to pilot before making live. Having inspected the products and gained the data on their performance, we need to identify any problems and understand the causes – tools that can be used to display the inspection data are:
  • Histogram – plots frequency of variables.The height of the bar shows how often a particular result occurs and the number of bars indicates the range of results
  • Scatter Chart – used where there are 2 variable and we want to see if there is a relationship between them, i.e. the strength of number of cubes against recorded outside temperatures may show relationship between strength and temperature.
  • Control Chart – plots value for each of a number of outputs of the same process. It also sets tolerances for the values measured. This allows us to identify if the process is in or out of control. For example plotting the results for the test of each weld on the ship to ensure our welding process was within acceptable control limits
  • Run Chart – plots the history of a single variable. For example if a key performance criterion for a project was the variance between actual and cost, this variable could be plotted over time to track its variation and identify trends.· Tools for understanding causes or prioritising areas for action:
  • Pareto Chart – this is a type of histogram that orders the information in a particular way. This is sometime called the 80:20 rule; 80% of the observable faults are cause by 20% of the root causes. This enables us to direct problem solving where it will be most effective.
  • Process Control Chart –  a graphical representation of a process showing activities and decision points. A flow is used to show how different parts of a system interrelate. It can help the project team identify where quality problems may occur or redesign a process to correct problems.
  • Cause and Effect – is simply a graphical technique to help develop an understanding of how certain causes may lead to a particular effect.This section may also define how the project should control change and perform configuration management

Continuous Improvement

There may be opportunities to improve management processes during the life of the project or information that assists the management of future projects. Continual systematic approaches to quality improvements such as adherence to Total Quality Management (TQM), ISO 9000, Six Sigma or any external industry standards, can be used.
This is part of corporate governance – if there is a variance on a project then it must be corrected, however the root cause of the problem must be understood to ensure that the same problem does not occur on further projects. A continuous systematic approach to Quality Management creates steady growth and improvement to keep a Company focused on its goals and priorities.

Read More Sample Answers for APM Exam Questions:

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Read our in-depth Guide To Project Management Qualifications for information about the range of professional qualifications that provide a progressive structure for project managers to boost your career prospects.

8 thoughts on “Describe the four main components of a quality management process”

  1. It’s interesting that quality reviews measure the effectiveness of processes and identify non-compliance areas. My brother needs to have a quality control measure for his new construction site around some utility poles. He should find a service that can provide quality control for the entire site.

    1. All the components of quality management tie together. The best place to start would be a quality management plan. You should be able to find a template for electrical installation.

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