In any company, quality management is essential to ensure a good product or service to the customer/client. For engineers, in particular, quality is at the top of the list. But you’d be surprised how many poor project quality practices I’ve seen. Does your organization display any of these?
- Dependence on inspection and rework
- Reliance on trial and error
- Rewarding of fire-fighting behavior
- Little focus of quality measurement
- Function silos that inhibit collaboration
- Past success which have bred arrogance
Dependence on Inspection and Rework
Many companies simply produce something and ask questions later. Prototypes are a “first step” not a complete attempt to produce a finished product. In these companies, a high level of defects are expected, and the focus is on maintaining a good inspection program helps to find and fix the defects.
Although prototypes usually undergo significant changes before they are finalized, anything less than a “best attempt” at a final product results in additional costs due to the many cycles of changes and rework. It is almost always cheaper to spend a bit of extra time on the prototype and prevent an additional cycle of changes and rework. It also promotes a high level of quality “culture” within the project team.
Reliance on Trial and Error
The Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates that planning should comprise about 30% of a project’s resources. This is heavily dependent on the type of project and industry, of course, but it is interesting how high of a number that is. At Roseke Engineering, I tried for a time to think in terms of that type of planning percentage, and I have come to largely agree with the PMI. Of course the additional time and effort costs money, but the lack of project issues and problems, and subsequent client satisfaction that accompanies it, is of high value. It’s hard to put a number on that, but the longer term your horizon, the bigger the benefits.
Reward Fire-fighting Behavior
I love this one. I saw it almost every day at the large company I spent a decade working for before I started my own firm, and I know it happens everywhere. Something goes wrong and the hero who fixes it gets a promotion, raise, or at least some brownie points. It’s even more amusing when the same person instigated the problem and then gets rewarded for solving it. I think most people can easily find examples of this in their workplaces.
Prevention is the key, which means management should be investigating the root causes of the conflict.
Little Focus on Quality Measurement
Does your organization measure the quality of your products/services? If not, management has nothing more than a vague idea of the quality being produced, and has nothing to base decisions on except the odd project issues that arise from poor quality. The likely outcome of not measuring quality is the rewarding of fire-fighting behavior (see above).
I don’t care how you do it, but some sort of quality measurement is necessary to ensure high quality products/services over the long term.
Functional Silos Inhibit Collaboration
In order to produce high quality work, project managers need the input of various departments, but in most companies their career path and compensation structure is not aligned with the goal of helping them. This is a common problem that plagues many project managers who are competing with functional managers for resources and personnel.
Past Success has Bred Arrogance
In many companies, a certain division, or the whole company, has been successful in the past. Maybe that’s how you got where you are. But over time people become complacent and stop working as hard as they used to, while still expecting that success to continue. Meanwhile the competitors are busy working hard to experience that success. Nobody can rest on their laurels. In fact, the company I used to work for is in this boat. I joined when it was a growing, successful, and exciting company. But over time the quality of work deteriorated while the management was too arrogant to stop the slide. I believe that maintaining a leading position is almost as hard, if not harder, than achieving it in the first place.