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Time to drop quality from project management

OK! Now I’ve got your attention, I’m not really saying we should drop the idea of quality in project management, I’m just saying we should look at it in a different way.

Take the ‘triple constraint’ for example. Its creation is usually attributed to Dr. Martin Barnes and the basic idea is that you can’t have everything you want. An idea that can be traced back at least another 150 years to John Ruskin when he said “The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done.”

The fact is that any project is a compromise between what you get, when you get it and how much you have to pay for it. Personally, I prefer the terms time, cost and scope because quality should be inherent in all aspects of a project – not something to be traded off against time and cost.

But this blog is not just about the third corner of a triangle, it’s something more fundamental than that.

Any P3M guide you pick up has a chapter on quality. Whether it be PRINCE2®, PMBoK® or any other ‘standard’, quality is dealt with as a function alongside time, cost, risk etc.

The one exception is ISO10006 which, ironically, is titled “Quality management systems – Guidelines for quality in project management” (two exceptions if you include www.praxisframework.org – but that owes its approach to the path set out by ISO10006).

So, the one standard that focuses primarily on quality is the one standard that does not have a chapter on quality. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Project management is about defining and producing outputs that are fit for purpose, i.e. it’s all about quality. Quality is not a separate function of project management – it is implicit in all functions.

‘Does this really matter?’ I hear you ask. I think it does because it influences the way we think. By making quality a separate function we mentally put it in a box, detached from managing time, cost, risk etc.

What we should really do is to put quality, in the forms of planning, control and assurance, at the heart of every function. That is the real route to achieving quality in project management.

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