Published here May 2019

Introduction | Never, Never, Never Give Up 
Dispelling the Myths | Completing the Definition | The Takeaway

Never, Never, Never Give Up

OK, now I've got that off my chest! The point is that in addition to the considerable difficulties of defining and managing quality, project managers (PMs) must also deal with antipathetic societal conditions. Quality is misunderstood, tough to define, subject to "sloganeering" by management, a victim of lip service, and its demands for discipline and process are unpopular.

This seems to be the game played over the past 30 years: is quality describable using inherent characteristics and is therefore objective, or is it subjective, only existing in the eye of the customer? Of the many methodologies that have bloomed and mostly withered during this time period, two persist and represent the extremes of the game — ISO9000 and Customer Satisfaction.

Prevalent corporate implementations of Six Sigma I will characterize as a statistical approach to ensuring the application of ISO9000 processes. Incidentally, an unwanted effect of the corporate ownership of quality initiatives is that it disempowers the PM. Quality gradually comes to be seen as something imposed, and ultimately the responsibility of a project outsider.

Karsh portrait of Winston ChurchillHaving worked with both objective and subjective approaches for decades and striving to make sense of the conundrum, the verdict is in: subjective customer assessment can be a valid approach, but it is not quality. It is something else. Quality has to be intrinsic, measurable, and capable of meeting a quality specification and budget trade-off. Anything else leads to a multi-dimensional view that makes definition even more painful, removes any hope of clarity, and enables "window dressing" and posturing.

So now we are on the hook. We can't declare that fickle customer satisfaction is proof of quality. We can't presume quality occurs when generic off-the-shelf quality methods are installed. Sorry, it is not that easy — but don't give up. When quality is clearly accepted as an intrinsic feature of the product, then the logical approach — setting the requirements, design, and implementation of quality factors - can be part of the project design with huge gains in efficiency.

Introduction  Introduction

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