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29 September 2005

Quality Plans

Project Planning is a fairly complex and comprehensive activity.

A project plan is "A formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. The primary uses of the project plan are to document planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines. A project plan may be summary or detailed." (PMI)A quality plan should show

  • What specific things will be done,
  • Who will do them,
  • When or at what milestones or process points they will be done
  • What are the relevant quality standards, and finally
  • Why this particular quality plan is in place (for context for the users of the plan)

Stakeholder analysis is a critically important task. According to Prosci ensuring stakeholder buy in is one of the top success criteria for projects.

Also knowing what will be done by whom (i.e. in the project plan) clears much uncertainty about the activities that will be done by the project in both the project tam and in the wider audience of stakeholders, customers and suppliers.

Planning takes a more methodical approach to solving problems, and enables the problem solver (i.e. project manager or team) to develop priority tasks, milestones etc as checkpoints along the way to the project’s success.

Steven Covey says that checklists are a fairly unsophisticated method of managing work. Covey puts forward the important/urgent-Quadrant 2 model as a better way to manage time and activities. He also suggests orienting work activities to relationship and outcomes rather than the detailed tasks.

Having thought further I can add some more opinions on what should be in the plan:

  • The plan should be focused at things that matter (you have to manage the project overhead and focus on where the most benefit can be found)
  • The plan should have specific start and end dates for activities
  • The success criteria or quality standards should be specific and measurable
  • Quality processes should have owners assigned to them

Quality plans in particular might be thought of as unnecessary overhead; after all they are often referring to things that are already in the project plan or the project process. Articulating the benefits of a quality plan can assist in ensuring that quality is given the right priority in the project.

Often those benefits are the same as normal project planning – the knowing the who, how, when etc to improve accountability and reduce uncertainty.