Let’s do an exercise. I promise you it will make a relevant point! So, grab a pen and some paper – as I am going to give you a project mandate (what PRINCE2 refers to as the ‘trigger’ for a project).
When you receive my project mandate, what I would like you to do is just sketch what this project is – don’t worry about the sketch being perfect or even artistic, just legible!
So here it is… My project mandate is a: ‘state-of-the-art pen’. So, what you need to do is draw a ‘state-of-the-art pen. Take a couple of minutes and then read on….
How did you get on? When I do this exercise with a group of delegates, overwhelmingly people draw some form of ‘scribing implement’. Is this what you have drawn? To be honest, some sketches I have seen would give psychologists enough material for a scientific study!!
What I actually wanted was a ‘state-of-the-art’ enclosure to keep sheep in (i.e. a pen). Those of you feeling smug right now thinking: ‘I drew an enclosure’, I bet your idea of ‘state-of-the art’ is different to mine.
So, what point am I actually making and how does it relate to quality on a project? Well, quite simply at the outset of a project you need to know what quality expectations are expected of the project. In other words, what is meant by a ‘state-of-the art’ pen? PRINCE2 has two quality concepts that address this: Customer Quality Expectations and Acceptance Criteria. According to PRINCE21, Customer Quality Expectations are defined as: “a statement about the quality expected from the project product’ whereas Acceptance Criteria (derived from Customer Quality Expectations) are defined as: “a prioritized list of criteria that the project must meet before the customer will accept it’.
Don’t Acceptance Criteria have to be measurable? If you can’t measure it, how can you say it has been met? So on a project, if you don’t know what measurable quality is required for sign-off how can the project be planned, a budget produced (a budget to produce what exactly?), resources allocated, risk management undertaken effectively? Need I go on? What’s more, it is evident from this discussion quality needs to be established at the earliest opportunity in the project. And this is what PRINCE2 says. During start-up and initiation, quality is established not only in the definition of Customer Quality Expectations and Acceptance Criteria but also in the existence of a Quality Management Strategy (to define the quality processes, standards, responsibilities – i.e. how quality will be achieved). What’s more, any Quality Management Strategy should be derived from any corporate-level quality standards that the organisation conforms to. Can you see all the pieces of the ‘quality jigsaw’ coming together?
Sound a lot of work? Well, think of it as what if you didn’t do all this? Are product recall’s an extreme case of quality failure? A company can measure the cost of replacing recalled products, but how do they measure a loss in consumer confidence? Or reputation?
It’s the old cliché: ‘Quality Costs’, but surely it is more beneficial to have an integrated quality approach in the project than ad-hoc or none at all?
1 Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, Edition 5, The Stationary Office, Norwich, 2009. ISBN 978-0113310593
About the Author: Dr Ian Clarkson is Head of Project and Programme Management Product Development aQA -leading providers of Prince2 courses. His role provides business direction and ownership of QA’s portfolio, programme, project and risk management curriculum. Ian is an experienced lecturer, author, speaker and consultant, having delivered programmes and projects in all industry sectors.