Monday, July 7, 2008

Standards, Regulations, and Project Quality Planning

Rules are everywhere. People are bombarded by rules in the form of standards and regulations. Do you know the difference between the two?

Quality planning requires you to be familiar with the standards and regulations that affect your project. For many projects, these are well known and your planning will reflect them. The difference between standards and regulations is explained below.
  • Standards. Although standards are approved by a recognized body, compliance with them is not mandatory. They are documents of rules, guidelines, or characteristics for projects, and will shape a project's product.
  • Regulations. These documents outline the products, processes, or service characteristics of a project. Compliance to regulations is mandatory.
Standards and regulations are inputs to quality planning that can have a great effect on projects. As a project manager or member of a project team, you need to be certain your quality system is "up to code."

As with most things in life, rules are not always clear cut. There's a definite "gray area" between standards and regulations. A standard will sometimes begin as a guideline and then become a regulation. This happens when a standard becomes well-known and is widely used.

Another example of the "gray area" between standards and regulations is when each one is authorized at different levels. For example, the government requires pilots to have a national-level license for flying. At a company level, however, a pilot may be required to have a national-level pilot's license, 1,000 hours of flying time, 600 hours multi-engine flight experience, and 150 hours of night flying time.

Standards can help companies meet their quality goals. The International Organization for Standardization is an establishment that helps companies accomplish this with the ISO 9000 series. Companies that use the ISO 9000 standards follow documented procedures for the work they perform. It does not guarantee organizations will always produce good products. Instead, the ISO 9000 standards act as a tool for helping organizations meet quality goals and confirm they have a set of quality standards in place.

In summary, standards and regulations are important inputs to quality planning. Following them helps ensure that a project product is of good quality and meets stakeholder requirements.

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