Chapter 12: Quality Planning

Learning Objectives

  • Explain quality management and its significance in relation to customer satisfaction
  • Examine how integral quality is to all aspects of project management.
  • Identify tools for quality planning and management.

It’s not enough to make sure you get a project done on time and under budget. You need to be sure you make the right product to suit your stakeholders’ needs. Quality means making sure that you build what you said you would and that you do it as efficiently as you can. And that means trying not to make too many mistakes and always keeping your project working toward the goal of creating the right product.

Everybody “knows” what quality is. But the way the word is used in everyday life is a little different from how it is used in project management. Just like the triple constraint (scope, cost, and schedule), you manage quality on a project by setting goals and taking measurements. That’s why you must understand the quality levels your stakeholders believe are acceptable, and ensure that your project meets those targets, just like it needs to meet their budget and schedule goals.

Customer satisfaction is about making sure that the people who are paying for the end product are happy with what they get. When the team gathers requirements for the specification, they try to write down all of the things that the customers want in the product so that you know how to make them happy. Some requirements can be left unstated. Those are the ones that are implied by the customer’s explicit needs. For example, some requirements are just common sense (e.g., a product that people hold can’t be made from toxic chemicals that may kill them). It might not be stated, but it’s definitely a requirement.

“Fitness to use” is about making sure that the product you build has the best design possible to fit the customer’s needs. Which would you choose: a product that’s beautifully designed, well-constructed, solidly built, and all around pleasant to look at but does not do what you need, or a product that does what you want despite being ugly and hard to use? You’ll always choose the product that fits your needs, even if it’s seriously limited. That’s why it’s important that the product both does what it is supposed to do and does it well. For example, you could pound in a nail with a screwdriver, but a hammer is a better fit for the job.

Conformance to requirements is the core of both customer satisfaction and fitness to use, and is a measure of how well your product does what you intend. Above all, your product needs to do what you wrote down in your requirements document. Your requirements should take into account what will satisfy your customer and the best design possible for the job. That means conforming to both stated and implied requirements.

In the end, your product’s quality is judged by whether you built what you said you would build.

Quality planning focuses on taking all of the information available to you at the beginning of the project and figuring out how you will measure quality and prevent defects. Your company should have a quality policy that states how it measures quality across the organization. You should make sure your project follows the company policy and any government rules or regulations on how to plan quality for your project.

You need to plan which activities you will use to measure the quality of the project’s product. And you’ll need to think about the cost of all the quality-related activities you want to do. Then you’ll need to set some guidelines for what you will measure against. Finally, you’ll need to design the tests you will run when the product is ready to be tested.

Quality planning tools

High quality is achieved by planning for it rather than by reacting to problems after they are identified. Standards are chosen and processes are put in place to achieve those standards.

Defining and Meeting Client Expectations

Clients provide specifications for the project that must be met for the project to be successful. Recall that meeting project specifications is one definition of project success. Clients often have expectations that are more difficult to capture in a written specification. For example, one client will want to be invited to every meeting of the project and will then select the ones that seem most relevant. Another client will want to be invited only to project meetings that need client input. Inviting this client to every meeting will cause unnecessary frustration. Listening to the client and developing an understanding of the expectations that are not easily captured in specifications is important to meeting those expectations.

Project surveys can capture how the client perceives the project performance and provide the project team with data that are useful in meeting client expectations. If the results of the surveys indicate that the client is not pleased with some aspect of the project, the project team has the opportunity to explore the reasons for this perception with the client and develop recovery plans. The survey can also help define what is going well and what needs improvement.

Sources of Planning Information

Planning for quality is part of the initial planning process. The early scope, budget, and schedule estimates are used to identify processes, services, or products where the expected grade and quality should be specified. Risk analysis is used to determine which of the risks to the project could affect quality.


Several different tools and techniques are available for planning and controlling the quality of a project. The extent to which these tools are used is determined by the project complexity and the quality management program in use by the client.

The following represents the quality planning tools available to the project manager.

  • Cost-benefit analysis is looking at how much your quality activities will cost versus how much you will gain from doing them. The costs are easy to measure; the effort and resources it takes to do them are just like any other task on your schedule. Since quality activities don’t actually produce a product, it is sometimes harder for people to measure the benefit. The main benefits are less reworking, higher productivity and efficiency, and more satisfaction from both the team and the customer.
  • Bench-marking means using the results of quality planning on other projects to set goals for your own. You might find that the last project in your company had 20% fewer defects than the one before it. You should want to learn from a project like that and put in practice any of the ideas they used to make such a great improvement. Benchmarks can give you some reference points for judging your own project before you even start the work.
  • Design of experiments is the list of all the kinds of tests you are going to run on your product. It might list all the kinds of test procedures you’ll do, the approaches you’ll take, and even the tests themselves. (In the software world, this is called test planning.)
  • Cost of quality is what you get when you add up the cost of all the prevention and inspection activities you are going to do on your project. It doesn’t just include the testing. It includes any time spent writing standards, reviewing documents, meeting to analyze the root causes of defects, reworking to fix the defects once they’re found by the team: in other words, absolutely everything you do to ensure quality on the project. Cost of quality can be a good number to check to determine whether your project is doing well or having trouble. Say your company tracks the cost of quality on all of its projects; then you could tell if you are spending more or less than has been spent on other projects to get your project up to quality standards.
  • Control charts can be used to define acceptable limits. If some of the functions of a project are repetitive, statistical process controls can be used to identify trends and keep the processes within control limits. Part of the planning for controlling the quality of repetitive processes is to determine what the control limits are and how the process will be sampled.
  • Cause-and-effect diagrams can help in discovering problems. When control charts indicate an assignable cause for a variation, it is not always easy to identify the cause of a problem. Discussions that are intended to discover the cause can be facilitated using a cause-and-effect or fishbone diagram where participants are encouraged to identify possible causes of a defect.
  • Check sheets and histograms are used to solve several quality problems. When a quality-control issue occurs, a project manager must choose which problem to address first. One way to prioritize quality problems is to determine which ones occur most frequently. These data can be collected using a check sheet, which is a basic form on which the user can make a check in the appropriate box each time a problem occurs or by automating the data collection process using the appropriate technology. Once the data are collected, they can be analyzed by creating a type of frequency distribution chart called a histogram. A true histogram is a column chart where the widths of the columns fill the available space on the x-axis axis and are proportional to the category values displayed on that axis, while the height of the columns is proportional to the frequency of occurrences. Most histograms use one width of column to represent a category, while the vertical axis represents the frequency of occurrences.

Once you have your quality plan, you know your guidelines for managing quality on the project. Your strategies for monitoring project quality should be included in the plan, as well as the reasons for all the steps you are taking. It’s important that everyone on the team understand the rationale behind the metrics being used to judge success or failure of the project.

Quality Assurance

The purpose of quality assurance is to create confidence that the quality plan and controls are working properly. Time must be allocated to review the original quality plan and compare that plan to how quality is being ensured during the implementation of the project.

Process Analysis

The flowcharts of quality processes are compared to the processes followed during actual operations. If the plan was not followed, the process is analyzed and corrective action taken. The corrective action could be to educate the people involved on how to follow the quality plan, or it could be to revise the plan.

The experiments that sample products and processes and collect data are examined to see if they are following statistically valid sampling techniques and that the measurement methods have small enough tolerances to detect variation within control limits.

Because projects are temporary, there are fewer opportunities to learn and improve within a project, especially if it has a short duration. But even in short projects, the quality manager should have a way to learn from experience and change the process for the next project of a similar complexity profile.

Example:  Analyzing Quality Processes in Safety Training

The JIBC is responsible for training employees in safe plant practices evaluates its instructor selection process at the end of the training to see if it had the best criteria for selection. For example, it required the instructors to have master’s degrees in manufacturing to qualify as college instructors. The college used an exit survey of the students to ask what they thought would improve the instruction of future classes on this topic. Some students felt that it would be more important to require that the instructors have more years of training experience, while others recommended that instructors seek certification at a Work Safe BC training center. The institute considered these suggestions and decided to retain its requirement of a master’s degree but add a requirement that instructors be certified in plant safety.

The purpose of quality assurance is to build confidence in the client that quality standards and procedures are being followed. This is done by an internal review of the plan, testing, and revisions policies or by an audit of the same items performed by an external group or agency.

Key Takeaways

  • Managing project quality enables you to go from identifying customer needs to achieving customer satisfaction
  • Effective quality management is consistent with effective project management.
  • Managing project quality is tightly connected with:
  • Managing requirements/scope
  • Managing stakeholder/sponsor expectations
  • Managing risks
  • Provide clear communication
  • Provide clear completion/acceptance criteria


This chapter is based on chapter 14 in Project Management by Adrienne Watt.

Chapter 14 in Project Management by Adrienne Watt CC BY 4.0 is a derivative the following text:


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NSCC Project Management Copyright © 2021 by NSCC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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