Plan Quality

With excerpts from my Project Management Novel, I will illustrate the many processes of the PMBOK.  Here is the fourteenth one: Plan Quality. Use this map to see how this process fits into the scheme of processes.  plan quality


The new steeple started rising and Abbot Crawford was spending a lot of time on the job site checking the work. Gwilym asked him about it one day.

“I am responsible for this new steeple. Long after ye have been forgotten, my name will be remembered with it. I’m sure ye will do a grand job keeping it on schedule and budget but I’m worried about whether or nae it will fall down, or the stones will come out or the statues wear down. We all remember our founder, Joseph, with a steeple that was threatening to fall over into the lake. I won’t be remembered that way.”

“But we have the requirements of the steeple that I am checking off as we complete items. Isn’t that sufficient?”

“Ye measure things only when they are complete. It is more of an Aye or Nae measurement. Who measures things as we build?”

Gwilym thought for a moment. “You have a point, there, Abbot. There are many things that we could be measuring. I’ve always had a maxim: ‘That which gets measured, gets improved.’ Why don’t we determine which things you are concerned about and make sure we measure them often?”

Abbot Crawford smiled and seemed more at ease than Gwilym had ever noted before. They walked to the common room. Gwilym asked Fred to join them.

“We’ve decided that there is one more thing we need to plan for on projects, Fred,” he announced when Fred walked in. “We need to Plan Quality as well.”

“Why is that, Gwilym?” asked Fred.

“Quality is another one of the constraints of any project. Just like adding Scope or Risk, if you add Quality, you have to balance it out with Cost, Resources or Time.”

“Like this?” asked Fred. He had drawn a seesaw with three boxes on each side, titled with the constraints Gwilym had just named.


“Exactly!” said Gwilym. Any time we add something to one side of the seesaw, we either need to add something to the other side or take away something from the same to balance it out.”

Fred titled this page of his Project Management Guide and looked up.

Gwilym spoke up. “We have to take into account the Requirements, Scope, Risk Register and the Cost and Schedule. Those provide us with the things we need to measure to ensure a high quality project.”

Abbot Crawford added, “Dinnae forget about the needs of yer stakeholders. There may be things that are nae written in the documents ye describe that are important to people like me or the Bishop.”

Fred wrote all this down. “How do tha expect to measure these things?”

“Well. The costs and schedules can be measured against the planned values whenever we want. We can keep track of those and let you know where we are against the baseline at certain intervals. Would monthly be often enough?”

“Nae. I’d like to know every Sunday where we stand,” replied the Abbot.

“How do we measure th’straightness of th’tower,” asked Fred, looking at the requirements for this steeple.

“That is something we do every day. I take a plumb bob and hang it from eight points on the tower and take readings. If the wall is too far out of plumb anywhere, I reset some stones to bring it back where it belongs,” replied Gwilym.

“Can I see these measurements?” asked the Abbot.

Gwilym blushed. “I don’t write them down,” he admitted.

“Let us change that starting today. If we keep track we can see if there are any trends we need to be concerned about. What do ye mean by ‘too far out of plumb’? Isn’t anything out of plumb bad?”

“No Abbot. Even the greatest towers in the world are slightly out of plumb. It is impossible to be perfect. But a variance of more than half an inch over ten feet would be too much. Especially if opposite walls were out of plumb in the same direction.”

The Abbot enscribed a piece of parchment while the two men looked over his shoulders. “How about if we measure the amount out of plumb over time? Every day ye plot the amount each point is out of plumb on this chart. All eight charts would fit on this piece of parchment. A positive number would represent the wall moving outwards, a negative number would be moving inwards. Then ye could have a line on this chart showing half an inch and another line showing a quarter of an inch like this.”

control chart

“That way we could keep track of all the variances from perfect and, if we see a trend, we can correct it.”

Gwilym stared at the chart with open-mouthed fascination. “This is wonderful, Abbot! I love it! We can use something like this on many other things. Level, angle of road, straightness of stones. What do you call it?”

“I call it a control chart since it shows ye how in control the thing you are measuring is.”

Gwilym shook his head in admiration.

Fred spoke up. “How do tha measure the quality of wood or stone we receive? We can’t measure everything or it will take too long.”

“We do what we have always done, Fred. We take a random sample, measure that and hope it applies to the full load.”

“And ye will document those samples from now on, right Gwilym?”

“Aye, Abbot. We will.”

Fred was frowning. “All this extra work will cost extra money, Father. Are you sure about th’cost being worth it.”

The Abbot considered this. “There is such a thing as the Cost of Quality. Ye spend money now to ensure that the steeple is built well now to avoid the cost of poor quality later. I have a feeling that the cost later will be much more. Having to replace statues or stones or, God forbid, the whole steeple tomorrow will cost many times more than the cost of making a few inspections and adjustments today.”

Gwilym and Fred nodded their heads. The Abbot left them recording the new tool in the guide.