You got the project delivered on time and within budget, but your stakeholder deems the project a failure. The quality just didn’t meet their expectations—bummer. Project managers can get so wrapped up in the minutia of scheduling, keeping resources moving and monitoring progress that they can forget about the most important aspect of the job.
If you’re tasked with producing a service or product, it not only needs to be delivered on time and within budget, but also at a level of quality that makes the service or product viable. Quality might be the unsung hero of project management, and quality management is the methodology to keep your project delivering at the highest level.
The quality management plan is part of any successful project. It lays out a process to keep tabs on the quality of your service or product throughout the project life cycle.
What Is a Quality Management Plan?
A quality management plan is the document in which every quality-related point in the project is noted (with detailed criteria) to determine if the project can move forward or not. These checkpoints catch any defects, and allows project managers to resolve them before they grow in severity as the project progresses.
The periods in the project when the deliverable’s quality is assessed can be looking at a number of different aspects. For example, there might be legal or regulatory standards to meet. It could address the process or product features. All of these measurements are laid out in the quality management plan to make sure that quality requirements are being met.
A proper quality management plan includes the standards, practices, resources, specifications and tasks related to the service or product—particularly where they intersect with the project’s quality. A quality management plan also includes quality objectives, which are the steps in the process needed to reach the desired quality of the service or product.
Additionally, a quality management plan keeps track of any documents that pertain to standards, practices, and procedures related to quality. There will be a period of testing, inspection and examination or auditing throughout the life cycle of the project, which act as checkpoints for the service or product to pass.
All this feeds into the larger project plan and aligns with the overall strategy of the organization. That’s the high-level view, but the quality management plan is also a list of actionable tasks.
When Do I Make a Quality Management Plan, and Who’s Involved?
Since it is part of the project plan, a quality management plan is developed during the planning phase of the project. The plan must be formulated before the project is executed, so that the various points when quality is tested can be added to the schedule.
Thinking about quality begins with planning and then continues throughout the project through delivery. It’s during the planning phase that the quality policies, procedures and criteria upon which quality will be judged must be finalized before moving on to executing the project plan.
Everyone should be consulted when creating a quality management plan. It will guide the project manager as they lead the project, but will also be a key document used by the project team as they execute the project. Naturally, the project sponsor or stakeholder will be involved, as they often set the quality expectation.
Whoever will be involved in the testing of the service or product to make sure it’s meeting quality standards will also be involved. This is often a test engineer, but depending on the type of project, it could be anyone from the project team. Whoever that person is, their input is invaluable regarding requirements.
Steps for a Quality Management Plan
Usually, the creation of a quality management plan is within the purview of the project manager or senior management. Once they have spoken to everyone in the organization who can offer perspective on the level of quality expected, they will put together their plan. The following steps will make sure your quality management plan is hitting all the right marks.
Start with an overview of the quality plan. Provide any background that will put the plan in context. Speak to the needs of the project to keep up the level of quality expected and its scope, activities and important dates.
Roles & Responsibilities
Use an organizational structure or some such chart to determine who on the team and who is contracting on the project and their relationship to testing the quality of the project. List each team member’s responsibilities and qualifications. Give ownership to specific team members for carrying out various tasks and who checks their work to make sure it’s correct.
Suppliers & Standards
List all the qualified suppliers who are bidding on the project and what quality specifications they must meet to be contracted to work on the project.
When testing your service or projects, have a detailed list of the parameters that will determine if they will pass or fail. This should include performance standards and how the tests will be documented. Finally, detail the acceptance criteria that the service or product must pass to move on to the next activity in the project.
Just because your service or product has passed a quality hurdle doesn’t mean your out of the woods yet. It’s important to have a mechanism in place to collect and respond to feedback, both internal and external. You want to hear back from sponsors and stakeholders, as their expectations often change in the midst of the project, but also from your team to get their perspective.
Corrective & Preventive Action
Your quality management plan must also include a response to when your deliverable doesn’t meet the criteria set to pass the checkpoint. This is a two-tier problem, one of which deals with preventative measures to take to reduce the failure rate. The other sets in motion a plan to respond and resolve quickly the causes that stopped your deliverable from meeting the quality requirements.
If you’re going to have teams test or audit the project as it moves through its life cycle, you want to make sure that they have the skills to do the job. If there are any gaps in their knowledge, then it’s imperative that you set up training prior to executing the project, so they’ll be able to test properly.
Best Practices for Maintaining Your Plan
Once you’ve formulated and implemented your plan, you need to revisit it and make sure you’re keeping up with the standards of quality demanded by your project. Keeping your project running smoothly, not only on time and within budget but also at the level of quality expected by stakeholders, is paramount. Here are some tips to better achieve that goal.
- Be sure to have a clear definition of what quality means in your project. You can’t hit that target if it’s not visible. Broadly, quality conforms to requirements, but you want to go deeper and speak to quality as it pertains to your project.
- Get buy-in from not only the team but also the whole organization. If there are any weak links in terms of supporting the quality management plan, whether that’s a lazy team member, or management more concerned with cost savings, the project quality is going to suffer.
- Beware of change. You’ve defined quality, but retool that definition in the midst of executing the project. There will always be change to manage, of course, but before accepting any change request calculate the impact on your quality, as well as cost, scope and time.
- Audit your process throughout the project life cycle to make sure you’re always working at a high level and hitting the benchmarks laid out in your quality management plan. Meet with your stakeholders and team regularly and get their feedback.
- Do a post-mortem after every project and include a quality review. Did your plan meet the requirements of your stakeholders? If not, why? Document the process and use the lessons learned and apply them to the next quality management plan you create.
How ProjectManager.com Helps Your Quality Management Plan
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning tool that organizes teams and projects. Our cloud-based software helps you make better, data-driven decisions, which means you can track quality and respond swiftly when those requirements are not being met.
Keeping an eye on your project performance is one way to catch a dip in quality and respond to it before it takes you off-track and threatens the success of the project. Our real-time dashboard automatically collects data from status updates and calculates that information which it then displays in easy-to-read graphs and charts. You get six project metrics immediately and can catch overruns in costs, workload imbalances and more that will negatively impact your project quality.
Once you catch an anomaly, you can get more information on it by using our one-click reports. Generate reports on tasks, project variance and more to make sure you’re hitting all your milestones. Reports can be easily filtered to show just the data you’re interested in seeing. Then share them with stakeholders and keep them in the loop.
When it comes to implementing your quality management plan you need tools to schedule, assign and monitor progress. Our online Gantt chart collects, organizes and sets due dates for all the activities on your quality management plan. It then populates your tasks across a project timeline, where you can link dependencies and set up milestones. Progress is shown by how shaded the duration bar is between a task’s start and end dates.
Teams can visualize their workflow as they execute the quality management plan on our kanban board. All the tasks on your Gantt are represented on the board as cards, which move from column to column as they complete a phase in production. This project view also gives the project manager transparency into the process, so resources can be reallocated to avoid bottlenecks.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that helps with planning, scheduling and monitoring projects of any size. We have features to track the quality of your deliverable and quickly respond to any issues that might arise. See why over 10,000 teams are using our tool by taking this free 30-day trial today.