The emphasis must move away from add-on processes that attempt to create quality retrospectively, to a renewed effort to improve existing processes that deal with the intricacies of a project. These intricacies are identified in a new project model. The elements in the new project model are:
Objectives: specification of project objectives, and especially quality objectives, is a foundation for quality results. They must be tangible and support the client's goal. Weaknesses to be surmounted are a tendency to specify in subjective terms, and the lack of good analytic tools to assist the vendor and client develop a correct set.
Deliverables: quality depends on completeness, an understanding of the deliverable's purpose and how it supports the objectives, and careful attention to protocols for approvals. In my experience it is rare for a client to properly fulfill this transactional role. There must be an equality of obligation and responsibility on both parties for development and approval of deliverables. The concept of quality is purposeless without the role of a customer who has explicitly (or implicitly) specified the requirements.
Activities: quality is often viewed retrospectively by PMs using QC techniques, with insufficient attention during up-front project design given to efficiency and the complete creation of deliverables. A major area of improvement for PMs is to work more diligently with the team to specify their activities and optimize execution prior to starting.
Trade-offs: again, a good quality trade-off procedure is a rarity. Clients are indoctrinated with "faster, cheaper, better", and see no need for trade-off. Vendors, unfortunately, adjust surreptitiously, or more likely let the situation ride until something breaks. Inevitably this provides a worse result than if trade-off negotiations were conducted earlier, allowing for proper project planning.
Do you believe that PMs have lost control of project quality and are failing to provide leadership? Unfortunately, in situations where quality systems have been imposed, control has been taken out of the PM's hands and a feeling of disempowerment may prevail. But as project managers, we have no choice but to lead on quality. It is our job.
I hope that the ideas in this paper can help re-establish accountability for quality with the PM, where it belongs. In a future post I will expand on tasks, techniques and methods to ensure elements in the new project model carry the attributes of quality and thus fulfill the goal of a comprehensive project quality model.