No matter what your project, you want to ensure quality in your results. Quality means satisfied customers and increased business. On the other hand, poor quality can be costly, cause delays, and damage your business’s reputation.
If you don’t have a quality management plan in place, you are leaving a lot to chance. A quality management plan (QMP) outlines the processes and procedures by which you will measure quality. It is the guidebook for ensuring quality before your product goes out the door.
But what are the key components of a quality management plan? How can you measure quality throughout the project, not just at the end?
Let’s look at how to develop a quality management plan to follow your project throughout its lifecycle.
Creating a Quality Management Plan
Before you begin writing a quality management plan, think about the people involved in defining and maintaining quality. You want to make sure that different teams can meet quality standards, so you should have input from those directly involved.
As the driving force behind a project, the project manager is usually responsible for creating a QMP. The project manager can gather team members and stakeholders to discuss the standards for the QMP.
Quality Management Standards
A QMP is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. While you may have general standards that you apply across multiple projects, the QMP should be tailored to each project’s objectives.
Not only should your QMP include how quality will be achieved, but also who is responsible for each task and the timing. Quality is not something to address only at the end of a project, but something that should have checks along the way. The project should pass one stage of measuring quality before it passes to the next.
Here is an outline of what you should include in your QMP.
Overview of Quality Management
Some organizations have a formal quality policy that governs every project. If yours does not, the beginning of your QMP should include the overall approach to quality in the context of this project.
Outline what stakeholders, project managers, and team leaders expect in terms of quality. This is also a section to define how issues will be raised, and changes in quality are approved throughout the project.
Scope of the Project and Process
Outline what the project includes (and what it doesn’t include). Give an overview of the parts of the project that are subject to quality review.
If a timetable of the project is known, include that information. Within the timeline, identify where the quality reviews will take place. If there are any dependencies in the project moving from one stage to another, note those on the timeline.
Quality should be measurable, using the standards you outline in your QMP. Whether these are metrics, inspections, or testing results, you should list the deliverables that assure quality at each review.
You should also establish the threshold for each deliverable. For example, in complex software development, testing that covers 95% of scenarios might meet the standard for quality.
Once you have established deliverables, you need a team that completes the quality checks. Quality control can consist of human review and automated review, as long as there is a process in place. Effective quality control should stop the project from moving to the next stage if the quality standards are not met.
If quality issues arise during your project, your QMP should address how these are handled. Whether approval is needed, or the project needs to undergo additional development efforts to correct the issue, don’t leave out this important aspect.
Without a clear process for managing quality issues, the project could get “stuck.” Team leaders may not know what to do, or a project stall while a decision is made.
Roles and Responsibilities
Throughout every step of your quality management, identify who is responsible for ensuring the quality standards are met. This section should also include the lines of communication regarding quality between team members, team leaders, and overall project managers.
Customers’ Response to Quality
Ultimately, passing your internal quality measures is not enough if your customers are not satisfied with your product’s quality. You should have a means of measuring customer satisfaction, whether through surveys, reviews, or issues reported
If your product makes it into the hands of customers only to discover quality issues, then you should review your QMP. Identify where the breakdown occurred.
It is possible that you did not have enough measures in place to measure quality throughout the project. Or team members who had oversight to specific areas of quality did not do a good job of enforcing the QMP.
Whatever the reason, measuring customer satisfaction is critical for understanding the effectiveness of your QMP.
Using a Quality Management System
Creating a QMP is the first step. Next is identifying how quality will be tracked and measured throughout the project. Through metrics, tasks, and quality control personnel, your adherence to your QMP should be measurable.
A quality management system (QMS) is a tool that formalizes the documents, procedures, and responsibilities related to quality. Essentially, it takes your QMP and turns it into a trackable tool.
A QMS further serves to coordinate the efforts outlined by your QMP. It is the centralized control for every step of your quality management. For more information about quality management systems, you can read this resource here.
Using a QMS has several advantages. You will have more efficiency and greater control over the implementation of your QMP within the project. A QMS can reduce your risk within the project and facilitate better internal communication.
Quality Is Everyone’s Responsibility
When everyone is heads-down on a project, it can be tempting to accept lower quality. Projects can run behind, and you want to get the project out the door.
However, this will inevitably lead to more problems. Whether it is coming back to address the issue later or risking stakeholders’ interests, poor quality has a way of making its way to the surface. By having a quality management plan, you can ensure that your team stays on target and meets all of your quality objectives.
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