Quality is often thought of as subjective, in the eye of the beholder, something to strive towards. How do we plan a project to achieve subjective results? We can’t. Quality must be defined in specific and measurable terms. Easier said than done? It is as simple as asking specific questions to specific stakeholders.

A colleague of mine convinced me to expand my idea of quality and provided me with a definition based on one of Philip Crosby’s Absolutes of Quality:

Quality is conformance to REQUIREMENTS.

Keeping this simple definition in mind helps to minimize ambiguity around what the plan is meant to accomplish. We either have quality or we don’t. We either meet the requirements or we don’t. The hard part is identifying the requirements of the many stakeholders within our project.

PRINCE2 defines a great roadmap to understanding what information relates to quality, what project management documentation contains quality related information and who is to provide this information. Once this information is gathered it is much simpler to build that information into your planning discussions.

This PRINCE2 Quality Roadmap begins in the Starting up process (pre- project work) while creating the Project Brief. When defining the Project Product Description, we should be asking the Customer/User stakeholders for their perspective on:

  • What is good enough?
  • What are the standards that you want us to meet when developing the project product?
  • What will make you sign-off at the end of the project?
  • What are the specific measurable criteria that need to be in place at the end of the project relating to the project product/final deliverables?

This information is recorded in the Customer Quality Expectations and Acceptance Criteria sections of the Project Product Description. We can then ask how we can validate that these criteria have been met and who will be involved in this validation. This information will then be translated in to specific tasks and deliverables to be executed when performing the Closing a Project process in the final delivery stage.

During the Initiation Stage of every PRINCE2 Project, the information from the Project Product Description will be used by the project manager, team managers and specialist resources to help define the products/deliverables that need to be created in this project that will contribute to the creation of the project product. The specifics of quality criteria, quality methods and quality responsibilities will be documented in the individual product descriptions for all products listed in the product breakdown structure. This information is then used when creating the delivery stage plans to help identify specific tasks for product creation using the appropriate skills who are capable of creating something of the required quality. Tasks will also be added to perform the quality methods, checks and tests to verify that the desired quality criteria have been met.

Defining the specific quality criteria required aids in better planning, resource assignments and time/cost estimating. When we know, what is expected we can build these tasks into the plans. These tasks will then be scheduled, resourced, budgeted and therefore completed. They will not be an afterthought as we travel with lightening speed towards the end of the project. Things are very hectic during these last few weeks of any project, so having tasks already listed in the plan makes it much smoother.

When Quality products/tasks/resources are built into the plan at the start, they are less likely to be forgotten and the project will have fewer issues with quality in the end.

Paul Atkin