It does not matter what sort of project you are working on; the importance of quality management is something we cannot underestimate. Whether you’re heading up a construction project or bringing a product to market, or even switching to a new technology, quality really does matter.
Effective project quality management makes sure that your team continues to deliver quality services and products and is able to cope with changes throughout a project. Consequently, customers and other stakeholders will associate your business with high levels of quality, and they will rely on you for efficient and high-quality work. But how do you develop and maintain a robust quality management plan, and how do you implement it? Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about quality management in project management and how to implement it within your business.
What is quality management in project management?
Project quality management refers to the process of continuing to measure the quality of all the tasks and activities relating to the project you are working on. In addition, it means taking corrective action until the required level of quality is achieved.
Quality management processes have been designed to control the cost of a project, establish project standards, and determine the steps required to achieve and confirm those standards. With effective quality management in place, you can ensure that the risk of unhappy clients or product or service failure is reduced as much as possible.
Three main processes are covered in project quality management: quality planning, quality assurance, and quality control. We will look at these in more detail in the next section.
What are the main processes in quality project management?
Quality management consists of three main processes, so let’s look at each one in further detail below:
- Quality planning – The first part of the process is known as quality management planning, which starts with a clear definition of the project goal. You need to consider what the deliverable or product is meant to accomplish and what it looks like. Think about how you are going to measure whether the customer was satisfied and whether the project was a success. By answering these questions and others like this, you will be able to identify and define quality requirements, enabling you to discuss the plans and approaches needed to achieve these goals. This includes defining the methods needed to achieve success, documenting everything, setting high standards, and assessing the risks to success. You will also establish tests for achieving, controlling, predicting, and verifying success. It is important to include quality management tasks within your project plan. You need to consider who these tasks will be delegated to so that quality metrics can be tracked and reported effectively.
- Quality assurance – The second part of the process is what is known as quality assurance. This procedure will supply evidence to your stakeholders that all activities relating to quality are being done as has been defined and promised. It makes sure that you have established safeguards that will guarantee that all expectations are being met with regard to quality outputs. Not only is quality assurance something that needs to be carried out in relation to the services and products a project delivers, but also the procedures and processes that are used for project management. This can be achieved via a project audit or through systems such as a process checklist. Quality assurance tests will use a metrics system to figure out whether or not a quality management plan is proceeding in a suitable manner. Both quantitative and qualitative metrics are used so that you can measure project quality and consumer satisfaction effectively. These quality audits are tests that are going to give you the ability to predict and verify whether you will achieve the goals that have been outlined, as well as identify the need for corrective actions. Furthermore, quality assurance tests are going to help you map quality metrics for your quality goals, which gives you the ability to report on project status on a periodic basis whenever your review meetings are held.
- Quality control – The third process that we need to carefully consider when it comes to quality project management is quality control. This involves the use of different operational techniques that are designed to ensure quality standards. This includes the identification of problems, as well as evaluating them and correcting them. While quality assurance happens prior to a problem benign identified, quality control is more of a reaction process, and so it happens once there has been the identification of a problem, with methods of improvement suggested here. Quality control will monitor certain project outputs, as well as determine compliance with standards applicable to the project. It will also identify risk factors for the project and deal with their mitigation, as well as search for ways of preventing and eliminating unsatisfactory performance. Quality control can also make sure that the project is delivered on schedule and on budget. Monitoring the outputs of the project can be done through testing and peer reviews. By catching deliverables that do not meet the standards that have been agreed upon throughout, you can adjust your direction with ease, as opposed to needing to redo specific aspects in their entirety.
Benefits of quality management in project management
Now that you have a good understanding of what quality management is and the different processes that are involved when implementing this within your project, we are going to look at some of the main benefits you can expect from quality management.
- A quality management system can help with leadership – Goals and objectives of the company are vital because they govern the strategic direction and values. An error in management and leadership teams is that they tend to make objectives that are oversimplified. For instance, objectives that focus just on headcount, revenue, or growth. A quality management system means that your top management needs to make sure that there is a balanced number of objectives for the project in question, which is going to meet the needs and requirements of all the interested parties. For instance, you may want to incorporate objectives that cover health and safety or the sustainability of the project. A quality approach makes sure that your company has well-rounded goals that enable you to monitor and evaluate performance throughout the project.
- Improve your bottom line – Of course, the main thing that all businesses want to do today is boosting their profits. We do not want to spend money on processes and tools that are not going to enhance our bottom line at the end of it. The good news is that quality management is one of the best ways to take your profits to the next level. With a quality management system in place, you will be able to encourage everyone on your project team to systematically address both opportunities and risks. This means that as issues creep in, fresh technologies emerge, customers change their minds, and so on, all your employees are going to be able to spot opportunities to boost profit and eliminate waste.
- Enhance the culture within your project team and the business as a whole – Quality has two meanings, and they are both distinct. The first, and most critical, is the quality as a philosophy for the entire business. This defines the primary objective of all the people within your business in terms of meeting your customers’ needs. The second meaning of quality is to put in procedures, policies, and processes that will aid decision making and operational planning to ensure you make the right moves forward at your business. Both of these forms of quality are critical when it comes to delivering projects that exceed your customers’ expectations. Plus, it helps to enhance the corporate culture at your business. There are clear processes and objectives in place for people to achieve so that they can reach their goals. Everyone knows what they are working toward and what is expected, and this could make a real difference in terms of improving workplace morale and company culture.
- Understand why things are not going well on the project you are working on – Although we would like things to always be a bed of roses in business, the reality is that this is rarely the case. It is unusual to work on a project without there being some changes requested or some sort of issues along the way. The great thing about following quality management procedures is that you are going to be able to identify when things are not quite going to plan so that you can make the required changes. If your project is experiences symptoms of decline, such as getting further and further away from the projected budget or deadline, you can jump in and make changes to rectify this. A lot of project teams are guilty of jumping to conclusions before they understand the genuine root cause of the problem. This results in changes being made without fully understanding what is going to occur as a consequence. You will be better positioned to connect the dots if you have a quality approach and quality management system in place. This means you can identify risks at the earliest opportunity, and you can put the best plan in place to stop these risks from derailing your project altogether.
- Manage new innovations effectively – In addition to the benefits that we have discussed so far, another reason why you need to make sure you implement quality management is because this is going to help you effectively manage innovation. Innovation and new developments are at the core of most successful businesses today. After all, you cannot afford to remain stagnant if you want to impress your customers. Continually improving your business and what you have to offer is the only way you are going to be able to sustain profitability and growth that is above average. However, it is not easy to fast-track innovation. If it was, we would all be doing it. Innovation demands a quality approach. You need to have a complete understanding of the changes that are going to be implemented, the collaboration of subject matter experts, and the right documentation to ensure that the service or product you are delivering is going to be suitable for your purpose.
- Create a customer-led business – Finally, another reason why quality management is so critical is that it helps to promote a customer-led business. Lower barriers to entry, rapidly changing technologies, and the information revolution have all meant that there is fierce competition on the market today. This makes it even more costly and difficult to acquire new customers. It is more important than it ever has been to retain consumers. Nevertheless, retaining customers begins with understanding the needs of your customers and satisfying them. If a business does not satisfy its customers, it is not going to survive. A quality management system plays a critical role in making sure that your consumers are satisfied, as well as making you aware of what your company needs to do to provide services and products that are fit for purpose.
Who is responsible for quality management?
When you are putting together a quality management plan, one of the most important elements you are going to need to consider is who is going to be responsible for quality management. Typically, the project manager is the individual who has the overall responsibility for the process of quality management. However, it does really depend on the nature of your project. For example, you may have a specific role for a quality expert or a quality assurance person. Some project managers like to put together a small team that has the responsibility of managing all tasks relating to quality management. It all depends on the size of your team and the scope of the project.
Best practice in quality management
As you can see, there are a lot of different benefits associated with quality management. However, to experience these benefits, you are going to need to make sure that you implement the best quality management practices. Let’s look at them below so that you can get a better understanding.
- Choose a quality management method that makes the most sense for your business – There are several different quality management methods that are used today, with each having its own benefits and drawbacks. Some of the most used options include Total Quality Management, PDSA Model, FASE Model, and Six Sigma. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to selecting the best quality management model for your business. It is all about figuring out what is going to be the most appropriate and suitable for you. Therefore you need to spend your time doing your research and understanding the different options that are available.
- Be sure that you have a proactive approach – Earlier, we spoke about the different processes that are involved when it comes to quality management, and you will see that we established a process for being proactive; not just reactive. However, the trouble with a lot of project management teams today is that they treat quality control in a reactive manner. This means that they only make changes when something goes wrong. If you operate in this way, the changes that need to be made can often be a lot more expensive and time-consuming. Therefore it makes sense to have a proactive approach so that you can spot any risks early on in the process, which will enable you to make tweaks and changes that can prevent bigger issues from occurring later down the line.
- Create employee buy-in by keeping your team involved and in the know – The only way you are going to be sure to meet your quality objectives is if you keep all your project team involved. There are a lot of different things you can do in this regard. For example, personalising employee tasks in a manner that plays to their strengths comes highly recommended. It will, in effect give them as much autonomy as possible when solving problems. It also makes sense to continue to follow up with your workers throughout the process so that you can make any changes when needed. If a change is going to be implemented, you must explain to your employees why a change is required, and how it will work. Naturally, we don’t like change, so understanding the why when making changes is vital.
- Invest in fresh quality management technologies – The applications for technology improvements in quality management are almost limitless. First, you need to think about your methodology, the needs of your sector, which will help you determine the sort of technology to invest in at your business. Some of the different technologies and areas you can consider include using more accurate and durable equipment to produce fewer errors and IoT devices that will monitor the manufacturing process and spot defects early. You could also implement improved automatic quality control sampling technologies, more in-depth and intuitive training tools, and enhanced data collection and consumer feedback. Be sure, for instance, that your quality control team has all the tools that are required, and that training is provided whenever needed. After all, you can have the best software and equipment globally, but if your workers do not know how to use it properly, you will never leverage it to its full capability.
Analysing the quality of your project
While quality control is a critical part of the quality management process, you will never be able to take steps forward if you do not have any idea of how you are performing at present in terms of meeting your quality objectives. Therefore you need to carefully consider quality tracking and how you will go about assessing the quality of your project.
Implementing quality tracking is pivotal to understand what is happening to your projects as time goes on, enabling you to make informed decisions regarding how to improve your projects.
Quality tracking is the act of tracking quality as time goes on. The objective here is so that you can effectively measure the standard of your work. As a result, you will be able to get a hold of what you are doing right and where improvements can be made so that you can continue to boost the quality of your projects in the future.
Several different factors need to be considered when it comes to tracking quality at your business. Firstly, you will need to make sure you have a good tool in place that will automate the process as much as possible, enabling you to put reports together with the click of a button and assess trends.
In addition to this, you need to make sure that you are tracking the right metrics, to begin with. You need to think about what sort of things you will track to make sure that quality is being achieved. Your metrics will differ from project to project, so do keep this in mind, yet there are several generic quality metrics that all businesses should track. For example, some of the most popular quality metrics include defects, cost of quality, scrap, customer complaints and returns, overall equipment effectiveness, yield, and much more.
As you can see, quality management plays a critical role in making sure that your projects are delivered on time, on budget, and to the standard that your client expects. This is an imperative part of the project management process because the only way you can be sure that customers will leave positive reviews about your business and keep on coming back for more is if you wow them with the products and services you provide. You can use the advice and suggestions we have provided above about implementing quality management to ensure that this is the case.