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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chapter 48: Planning Quality

In the previous chapter, we saw the importance of planning for a projects quality. We saw a high level overview of how quality management happens in an organization but we haven’t jumped into the details yet. Well, this is the chapter where we jump into the ocean.

So, lets get started!!!

What is Quality?

According to PMBOK, quality is defined as the degree to which a set of characteristics of project deliverables and objectives fulfill the project requirements. Therefore, any characteristic that influences the satisfaction of the stakeholders is included in determining the quality. The project quality management processes include performing quality planning, quality assurance, and quality control. Quality planning is the quality process that is performed during the planning phase to accomplish the following goals.

• Identify which quality standards are relevant to the project at hand
• Determine how to satisfy these standards

The picture below explains this process:

Input to Quality Planning

The key input items for this phase of quality planning are:
Project performance baseline - The project performance baseline constituted by the scope baseline, schedule baseline, and cost baseline contains the list of all the deliverables and objectives to which the quality needs to be applied. For example, the following components of the project scope statement are especially relevant to quality planning:
• Project deliverables.
• Project objectives.
• Project requirements.
• A product scope description that may contain the details of technical issues and other quality-related concerns.
• Product acceptance criteria. The definition of acceptance criteria has an impact on the quality cost.

You find out the accepted schedule performance from the schedule baseline and the accepted cost performance from the cost baseline.

Stakeholder register and risk register - The stakeholder register may help in identifying the stakeholders that will have interests in quality. The risk register will help identify positive risks (opportunities) and negative risks (threats) that may have impact on deliverable quality.

Enterprise environmental factors - Guidelines, regulations from a government agency, rules, and standards relevant to the project at hand are examples of enterprise environmental factors that must be considered during quality planning. For example, procedures relevant to the application area of this project should be followed. Working or operating conditions and environment can also affect the project quality.

Organizational process assets - The following organizational process assets can affect the project from the perspective of quality planning:
• Information from previous projects and lessons learned
• Quality-related historical database
• An organizational quality policy, which is composed of overall intentions and high-level direction of an organization with respect to quality, established by the management at executive level

If the performing organization lacks a quality policy, the project team will need to develop a quality policy for the project. Once a quality policy is in place, it is your responsibility to ensure that the project stakeholders are aware of it and are on the same page.

Tools and Techniques Used for Quality Planning

The tools and techniques used for quality planning include benchmarking, cost/benefit analysis, experiment design, and brainstorming.

Benchmarking - Benchmarking is comparing practices, products, or services of a project with those of some reference projects for the purposes of learning, improving, and creating the basis for measuring performance. These reference projects might be previous projects performed inside or outside of the performing organization. Improvement and performance are of course quality-related factors. For example, you might have a similar project performed in the past that accepted no more than two defects in each feature. You might use that as a quality criterion or simply put a benchmark for your project.

Cost of quality and cost/benefit analysis - The cost of quality is the total quality-related cost during the lifecycle of the product. That includes the costs incurred in implementing conformance to the requirements, reworking due to the defects resulting from failure to meet the requirements, and updating the product or service to meet the requirements. The cost of performance consists of prevention costs and appraisal costs. Prevention costs include the costs of appropriate equipment, documenting and performing processes, time and effort to perform the project work the right way, and needed training of the team members. The appraisal costs include the costs of inspecting, testing, and loss due to destructive testing. Cost of nonconformance includes rework and waste of time and effort if the product is rejected internally because it did not meet the quality standards. If the problems with the product were found by the customer, however, the results could be more much more costly and damaging, including liabilities and loss of business.

During quality planning, you must consider the tradeoff between the cost and the benefit of quality and strike the appropriate balance for a given project. Implementing quality has its costs, including quality management and fulfilling quality requirements. The benefits of meeting quality requirements include less rework, resulting in overall higher productivity; lower costs of maintaining the product or service; and higher customer satisfaction.

Experiment design - Also called design of experiments (DOE), this is a statistical method that can be used to identify the factors that might influence a set of specific variables for a product or a process under development or in production. You look for optimal conditions by changing the values of a number of variables simultaneously rather than changing one variable at a time. By using the results from this technique, you can optimize the products and processes. For example, you can use DOE to strike the right balance between cost of quality and its benefits. During planning, DOE can also be used to determine the types of tests and their impact on cost of quality.

Other quality planning tools - Other tools that you can use in quality planning, depending upon the project, include brainstorming, flowcharting, control charts, and statistical sampling. Statistical sampling involves randomly selecting a part of the population for study. Control charts, flowcharting, and statistical sampling will be covered in great detail in future when we discuss Quality Control. Some other tools of quality planning are:
Affinity diagrams - A business tool used to organize a large set of data and ideas into logical groups based on the relationships among these ideas.
Force field analysis - A technique to understand the forces (factors) influencing a situation. It can be used to separate the forces that drive movement toward a goal from those that either block that movement or drive it away from the goal.
Matrix diagrams - This method is used to explore the relationships between different entities, such as objectives and causes, by displaying these entities in a matrix, with cells of the matrix representing the relationships.
Nominal group techniques - These are the decision-making methods that are used among groups of different sizes with two goals in mind: Make the decision quickly and take everyone’s opinion into account. One example involves decision making by a group of one size, then a review of all those ideas from brainstorming by a group of another size, and then making the final decision by a group of yet another size.
Prioritization matrices - This is the method of prioritizing entities, such as problems, ideas, and issues, by using some ranking criteria.

Output of Quality Planning

The outputs of the quality planning process are:

Quality management plan - The quality management plan describes how the quality policy for this project will be implemented by the project management team. It includes approaches to quality assurance, quality control, and continuous process improvement. The quality management plan also contains the quality baseline that sets the criteria that specify the quality objectives for the project and thereby makes the basis for measuring and reporting quality performance. For example, a project that is finished on time, with everything delivered in scope, and that stayed within its cost is a project with high quality performance.
This plan becomes a component of the overall project management plan.

Quality metrics - This is an operational criterion that defines in specific terms what something (such as a characteristic or a feature) is and how the quality control process measures it. For example, it is not specific enough to say the defects in the product will be minimized. Rather, specifying something such as that no feature will have more than two defects is a measurable criterion and hence a metric. Some examples of quality metrics are cost performance, schedule performance, defect frequency, failure rate, and test coverage. The metrics that you set during quality planning will be used in quality assurance and quality control.

Quality checklist - A checklist is a structured tool used to verify that a predetermined set of required steps has been performed. The checklists can come in imperative form (“to do” lists) or in interrogative form ("have you done this" lists). Checklists are prepared during quality planning and used during quality control.

Process improvement plan - This plan describes how to improve some of the processes that will be used in the project. For example, one purpose of improvement is to prevent activities in the processes that are not needed for this project. This is accomplished by describing the purpose, start, and end of a given process, the input to the process, and the output of the process. This is equivalent to drawing boundaries around the process. The process improvement plan may also include some metrics used to measure the efficiency of the process.

Updates to project documents - During quality planning, you may end up making changes that will require modifying corresponding documents, such as the stakeholder register and responsibility assignment matrix (RAM).

Prev: Big Picture of Quality Management

Next: Big Picture of Risk Management


  1. Hello,
    I understand why scope baseline is important for quality planning. But, how does schedule and cost baselines factor into plan quality?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi,
      The schedule and cost baselines are important because - Quality comes at a cost and time has to be spent. Without knowing how much time you have in your schedule in order to improve quality and without knowing how much budget you have at your disposal to spend, how can you plan properly for quality?

      Get the picture?


    2. "Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten". Gucci
      So don't forget the cost baseline early on!


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