Do you know the difference between Quality Control and Control Quality? You read that right: the PMBOK guide has two different terms that you need to know, one called Quality Control and the other called Control Quality. Especially if you do not have to work closely with a quality assurance department, the Quality Management knowledge area in the PMP guide can be confusing.
Don’t fret! Approach the Quality Management processes methodically and slowly, and make sure you know what you’re reading. As an operations guy, I still doze off occasionally while reading this PMBOK chapter.
The three Project Operations Management processes are:
1. Plan Quality Management – “identifying the quality standards and documenting how compliance to those standards will be achieved throughout the project”
2. Perform Quality Assurance – “reviewing quality requirements as well as results from measurements to ensure the right standards are being used”
3. Control Quality – “reviewing the results of quality activities to see how they are performing and make changes where necessary” (PMBOK, 227)
Okay, so those are the PMBOK definitions. Let’s explore how they might apply to you:
1. Plan Quality Management – Ask yourself: “What will quality look like on my project?” and “How will we ensure this quality is adhered to?”
2. Perform Quality Assurance – This process is where the work of the quality management plan happens. Project team members review the requirements and the results.
3. Control Quality – Think of this process as a check-up on quality. You need high-quality review processes if you are going to produce high-quality deliverables.
Did you catch that? Control Quality is essentially about ensuring that the quality of the quality activities is high! No wonder Project Quality Management can be tough if you don’t have experience with it. Quality Control is an output of the Control Quality process, just as the Quality Management Plan is an output of the Plan Quality Management process.
Project Operations Management and their process group
It can be helpful to think of them in terms of their process group:
- Plan Quality Management is part of Planning
- Perform Quality Assurance is part of Executing (hey, that’s a synonym for Performing!)
- Control Quality is part of Monitoring & Controlling
The PMBOK guide also starts the quality chapter by defining a few key terms. Let’s look at the PMBOK definition but also make them our own.
Quality and Grade
ISO 9000 (save their website for a REALLY rainy day) defines quality as “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements.” You can think of grade, however, as the number of features built into a product.
I’m going to share with you a ridiculous product I recently purchased to illustrate the difference between product and grade. (I’m not paid to push the product, I swear!)
My fiancee and I have three cats. We purchased the largest, highest-rated litter box that you can find. The litter box was fairly standard but large and sturdy, so cat owners across the internet raved about it. This litter box was of low grade (not many features) but high quality (kept the litter in, serviced many cats).
Unfortunately, the low grade meant that our otherwise reliable litter box required that we clean it daily, if not multiple times daily. Worse, we had heard that self-cleaning litter boxes didn’t work well (high grade but low quality). Gross!
Our friend, however, recently purchased the Litter-Robot III Open Air, a highly-rated self-cleaning litter box. We did the same, and it is what it promises: a high grade AND high quality litter box! Not only does the Litter-Robot III promise to self-clean (high grade), it really works (high quality).
Accuracy and Precision
Fortunately for all of us, I’ll avoid the cat litter box metaphors when discussing accuracy and precision. Use this image instead to remember the difference between accuracy and precision:
Here’s what I’d say to you during a game of darts:
- Low Accuracy & Low Precision – “You’re all over the board! Either you’ve been drinking too much, or you’re terrible at darts.”
- Low Accuracy & High Precision – “Wow, all of your darts are close together, but they’re way up in the left! If only you could do the same and hit the bullseye.”
- High Accuracy & Low Precision – “You’re hitting the Bullseye consistently, but all around the edges. I’d say beginner’s luck!”
- High Accuracy & High Precision – “Well, you win.”
Note that this metaphor fails majorly in one key way: in quality management, unlike darts, accuracy isn’t necessarily desired over precision. Both are key, and quality metrics regarding accuracy and precision should be developed.
Now let’s test if you can apply this knowledge with some sample questions.
Quality Management PMP Questions
1. Quality Audits are a tool and technique of which Quality Management Process?
A. Plan Quality Management
B. Perform Quality Assurance
C. Control Quality
D. Validate Scope
2. As part of the Control Quality process, your project team is focused on completing an activity that keeps errors out of the hands of the customer? They are most likely focused on:
C. Attribute sampling
3. Your team members are arguing about the acceptable budget range for a particular deliverable. Jim says the acceptable range is +/- 5%, and Katherine says the acceptable range is +/- 10%. Where should Jim and Katherine to look to determine the acceptable quality metric?
A. Cost Metrics
B. Scope Metrics
C. Quality Metrics
D. Schedule Metrics
4. Which of the following is unacceptable to the customer?
A. Low quality & high grade
B. High quality & high grade
C. High quality & low grade
D. Quality & grade refer to internal processes that do not involve the customer.
5. You are experienced a number of problems with the smartphone you are producing for your customer. The end users of the smartphones want a lightweight device that takes photos. It should have fast-loading software with reliable internet connection. Which of the problems below is related to the grade of the phone?
A. The phone is slow to start up.
B. The camera is only .3 megapixels.
C. Internet connection drops regularly.
D. The phone is heavy.
6. The target weight of a widget is three pounds. You as the project manager take a sample and find that the weights of the five widgets are 3.4, 3.41, 3.4, 3.39, and 3.4 pounds each. You would describe the weight of the widgets as:
A. Accurate but not precise
B. Precise but not accurate
C. Accurate and precise
D. Neither accurate nor precision.
1. B – Perform Quality Assurance. When you first see a question like this one, you might be tempted to memorize. Don’t! Apply your understanding. You can guess — even if you aren’t 100% sure — that a Quality Audit is a structured process undertaken to ensure that a process complies with all relevant policies and procedures. (PMBOK, 243 & 247)
2. B – Inspection. Although a number of these statistical method might play a role in ensuring a customer does not receive a deliverable with errors, the best answer is “Inspection” based on its definition (PMBOK, 250).
3. C – Quality Metrics. This question probably wasn’t too hard in the context of an entire article about quality. Imagine it, however, in the context of your 200-question PMP exam. You might be tempted to choose Cost or possible Scope Metrics. Only Quality Metrics is a valid term used by PMI (PMBOK, 242).
4. A – Low quality & high grade. Remember, missing quality standards is always bad for a project, but low grade is okay if that is the intent. High grade isn’t necessarily better than low grade when considering cost. Our high grade litter box cost much more than our low grade one! (PMBOK, 228).
5. B – The camera quality is low. Without knowing the quality specifications in detail, you must use the information given in the problem to deduce the answer. While quality standards are given for each of the other answers, the problem only states that the phone must have a camera. So, it may be acceptable that the camera is of low grade (PMBOK, 228).
6. B – Precise but not accurate. Did you remember your darts? “Precision is a measure of exactness…[accuracy] is a measurement of correctness.” (PMBOK, 228.)
What problem did you find to be the most difficult? Share below, and we’ll discuss!
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