The most successful project leaders are clear about what they want. Not just as project objectives but right down to the end product and components. The more they know about their requirements the more specific they are able to be about it. As a result the supply chain understand the expectations and are able to spend their time thinking about innovative ways to provide the solution rather than waste time trying to understand what is being asked for. These principles are transferable to all sectors and industries; whether it be a physical product or a management process.
Take a few seconds to think about a product or process that you think is excellent. It has similar characteristics – it does everything you expect, it is intuitive to understand or use, it works every time etc. It might be the way that you can buy online in one click, the process for booking a flight or the new car you just bought. The key thing is that you are satisfied or more than satisfied with your purchase. At the end of a good project the client should feel satisfied with both the process for delivery and the final delivered product. The best projects have a robust approach to quality management that can be captured in the three main elements; scope, quality management approach and quality management system.
The starting point is always Scope. Are you able to breakdown and define the parts of your products or processes. The sum of all these smaller descriptions is your scope. Over time you will find that similar projects have repetitive parts that you can replicate and that allows you to then think more deeply about each part. You will find over time that your ability to define scope will improve as you practice the art of capturing and defining your needs.
You then need a Quality Management Approach which is the thing you need to lead the team to achieve the necessary quality standard. If you imagine you are constructing a building this would include:
- Defining quality: often captured in drawings, models and specifications.
- Quality control: defining the manner in which you will check that quality is being achieved i.e. ISO standards or hold points in programmes for tests to be carried out.
- Quality assurance: the checks that you will insist upon to ensure that the product is right. This might be a clerk of works, a peer review or a specialist audit.
- Quality improvement: the process that you will instigate to ensure that any quality defects are put right, lessons learnt and then fed back to ensure it does not happen again in this project or future projects.
Quality Management Systems set out the standards, procedure and ownership for a project or organisation. Many organisations (business or project) fail to capture these in a formal way. Quality is a deliberate set of processes that systematically eliminate things that can allow a product to fail. Formally setting this out makes sure there is consistency and rigour in the way things are designed, installed and operated. This requires attention to detail and the ability to invest time to think things through.
The key thing to note is that achieving quality is a deliberate act; it does not happen by accident. You have to plan to achieve quality. Set out to be excellent and always look for ways to do things better and smarter.