The core meaning of quality is the fulfilment of expectations and needs, through adherence to specified requirements. Within the PRINCE2 framework, quality is evaluated according to certain features and characteristics pertaining to one or more of the following: product, person, process, service, and system. The quality theme is intended to define how the desired level of quality is to be obtained and verified within a project.
A more direct way of expressing all of this is as the following question: do the products created by the project fulfil business expectations and facilitate the user to realize expected benefits?
The quality path
The project manager’s quality activities begin with eliciting the customer’s quality expectations, which may be somewhat abstract and imprecise, but which are subsequently transformed into acceptance criteria, which constitute a list of measurable, prioritized characteristics that the product must obtain for customer acceptance.
An illustration of this is the treatment of the quality expectation that a new company car be ‘environmentally friendly’. While this provides a good basis for thinking about quality activities, it is not specific enough for project management purposes. In order to turn this quality expectation into practicable acceptance criteria, the project manager might specify that the car should emit no more than 100g of CO2/km, while travelling at 100km/hour. This criterion is a distinct attribute of the project product that can be agreed with the key stakeholders and measured through the appropriate testing.
In order to meet the quality expectations of the customer and the acceptance criteria subsequently developed, the project manager must plan appropriately. This entails identifying the necessary products and the quality criteria for each, planning quality methods (i.e. the necessary tasks for quality control and product acceptance), and designating quality responsibilities.
There are two main goals of quality control:
(1) To ensure that the quality requirements are met, for example, through quality inspections or review, or performing tests on the products;
(2) To avoid unsatisfactory performance, for example, by learning lessons and improving processes as a result.
Quality management approach
A key way to facilitate quality planning is to develop a quality management approach. This is a management product defined to help articulate quality techniques, standards, and the necessary responsibilities during the project. The project manager writes the quality management approach during project initiation.
PRINCE2 quality review technique
Project managers can employ a variety of methods for quality inspections or reviews. One method in particular is described in the PRINCE2 manual and is used for inspecting the quality of paper-based products. Known as the PRINCE2 quality review technique, this technique specifies four roles and three steps involved in quality review:
The 4 roles of the quality review technique
Chair – coordinates the review.
Presenter – presents the product and represents producers; coordinates and monitors post-review work, implementing agreed changes to the product.
Reviewer – assesses the quality of the product by assessing it against the quality criteria in the relevant product description.
Administrator – supports the chair and documents any agreed follow-up actions resulting the quality review.
The 3 steps of the quality review technique
Step 1: Review preparation
- Chair confirms that the product is ready to be reviewed
- A copy of the product (together with its product description) is distributed to all reviewers, along with a question sheet
- Reviewers assess the quality of the document by comparing it against the quality criteria in its product description
- Where the product deviates from the quality criteria, the reviewers can write questions/problems about the product on the question sheet
- Chair compiles a consolidated question list by aggregating together all the questions/problems identified by all the reviewers
- Chair uses the consolidated question list to draw up an agenda for a meeting (step 2), which is done in conjunction with the presenter
Step 2: Review meeting
- Presenter introduces the product
- Reviewers ask any questions to the presenter about the document
- Presenter ‘talks through’ the product, describing it by section and with reference to the list of questions
- Reviewers discuss necessary actions on each problem
- Administrator documents what actions/responsibilities the reviewers decide upon
- Reviewers reach a joint decision about the product quality. There are 3 decisions which can be made:
- The document is “fit for purpose”. The document is now ready to be approved.
- The document is “conditionally complete” (i.e. specified actions are needed to make the product “fit for purpose”)
- The document is “incomplete” (i.e. the product must go through another quality review cycle)
Step 3: Review follow-up
- Presenter organizes any necessary remedial action
- Following revisions, the product is re-distributed to reviewers
- Once the reviewers have approved remedial work, the chair can sign off the product
- Presenter requests approval for the product
- Administrator reports the outcome of the quality review to appropriate stakeholders and managers/support staff, and stores the relevant quality records.