Monday, August 25, 2008

The Evolution of Project Quality

The view of quality has changed dramatically over the past 100 years. Do you know how companies managed the quality of their products and services that long ago?

Project quality has evolved over time, from sorting good items from bad items, to strategic quality management. Quality was once the responsibility of the Quality Inspector. Now it's everyone's responsibility. Details about the quality time line are provided below.
  • Prior to World War I, companies stressed the importance of inspections. Problems were identified, not prevented. In the 1950s, inspections were still emphasized. However, quality control emerged as statistical and mathematical techniques.
  • From the 1950s to the late 1960s, quality assurance was developed for project management. Companies took steps to prevent problems from occurring, instead of reacting to problems once they were detected.
  • Presently, management teams emphasize strategic quality management. Quality is characterized by the customer's demands and requires the commitment of an entire organization. All levels of an organization must be accountable for the products and services it offers. Quality is a weapon that is used against competitors.
Today, quality begins during the initiation of a project, and must be planned, assured, and controlled within that project. The driving force behind higher levels of quality comes from the demands of customers. Total Quality Management (TQM) is a present-day management system that responds to these demands.
TQM has contributed significantly to the movement toward improved quality. It is a customer-oriented system that can also reduce internal bottlenecks and operating costs. This system boosts organizational morale and increases product quality at the same time.

Quality has reached present-day levels as a result of the contributions of experts in the field of project management. In particular, two influential contributors to the quality movement are W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran.

W. Edwards Deming believed that 85 percent of quality problems required changing the processes within a company. He thought the roots of quality problems should be identified and eliminated. To help organizations identify the roots of quality problems, he developed the Deming's Cycle for Improvement.

Deming believed that problem solving should be logical and systematic. Deming's Cycle for Improvement, which involves the four steps described below, enables organizations to locate and eliminate the source of a problem, rather than simply eliminating the symptoms of a problem.
  • Plan. The first step involves identifying the problem and establishing priorities. During this step a quality improvement team is formed, and the problem is defined and analyzed. Possible causes for the problem are determined, as well as possible solutions.
  • Do. During the "do" stage, a solution to the problem is selected and implemented.
  • Study. The study stage involves evaluating the solution.
  • Act. Finally, the last stage ensures that the new procedure and controls are maintained. Project teams ensure that continuous improvement occurs.
Joseph M. Juran believed that quality for manufacturers meant adhering to specifications, and quality for customers depended on "fitness for use," which involves five characteristics: quality of design, quality of conformance, safety, use by the customer, and availability.
Juran also discussed the cost of quality and the legal implications of quality. He examined the various grades of quality for products and services. Juran developed 10 steps for quality improvement that can be applied to project management. The 10 steps are:
  • promote the need for improvement
  • establish goals for improvement
  • organize a plan to attain the goals
  • provide training
  • perform projects to solve problems
  • give an account of the progress that is made
  • provide recognition
  • communicate results
  • keep score
  • make improvement part of the process.
The way organizations and customers view quality has changed over time. Today, it is understood that problem solving is an important aspect of quality improvement.

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