Quality Question

A Question of Quality

Over 728 000  Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are currently  certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI).  To become a PMP requires candidates to have proven experience and to pass a rigorous 4-hour examination comprising 200 questions.  There are many PMP exam preparation discussion groups on the Internet, one of them being the  very active “I want to be a PMP” group hosted by Yahoo.

The PMP multiple-choice exam questions are quite tricky as they are mostly scenario-based.  The following question on quality processes was recently posed on the Yahoo website and led to a lot of discussion:

Isabella is a project manager on an industrial design project. She has found a pattern of  defects occuring in all her projects over the past few years and she thinks there might be a problem with the processes her company is using that is causing it. She uses an Ishikawa diagram  to come up with the root cause for this trend over projects so that she can make recommendations for process changes to avoid this problem in the future. What process is she doing?

Choice 1 Plan Quality Management
Choice 2 Perform  Quality Assurance
Choice 3 Control Quality
Choice 4  Quantative Risk Analysis

Choice 2 or 3 could be correct depending on how you interpret the wording of the question.

Isabella is doing root-cause analysis on orgnisational process problems, that’s Quality Assurance. Quality Assurance is when you are looking at the way your overall process affects the quality of the work you are doing. Quality Control is when you are trying to find problems in your work products through using inspection, for example, the Ishikawa technique.

It seems that choice 2 Perform Quality Assurance may be rhe best answer. If he she was only looking at defects as indicated, 3 could be the answer. If she had been using failure mode effect analysis (FMEA) to anticipate the problem, 4 could be the answer. If advanced quality planning had been introduced into a QMS that incorporated all of the activities then 1 could be the answer.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) states “Perform Quality Assurance is the process of auditing the quality requirements and the results from quality control measurements to ensure that appropriate quality standards and operational definitions are used. The key benefit of this process is that it facilitates the improvement of the quality processes."

 The PMBOK also states “Control Quality is the process of monitoring and recording results of executing the quality activities to assess performance and recommend necessary changes. The key benefits of this process include:

  1. Identifying the causes of poor quality process or product quality and recommending and/or taking action to eliminate them.
  2. Validating that project deliverables and work meet the requirements specified by the key stakeholders for final acceptance.”

In simple terms the PMBOK says

  •  The Plan Quality Management process identifies the quality requirements and standards
  • The Perform Quality Assurance process ensures that the appropriate quality standards are used by carrying out quality audits.
  • The Control Quality process checks that the deliverables meet the specified requirements.

It is crucial to answering PMP exam questions to read the wording carefully. The question states that there is a pattern of defects occurring over a number of years due to the overall company processes. It is not a problem with a specific process or product on one project. Changes are recommended to ensure that appropriate overall quality standards and operational definitions are used.

This would indicate that 2 Perform Quality Assurance is correct.

The Editor approached Paul Harding, CEO of the South African Quality Institute (SAQI) for his views.

“The answer is not so black and white," he says.

"The Japanese do not use the terminology Quality Assurance although they perform the tasks mentioned in terms of quality requirements being fulfilled. They call this Quality Control. What the West and ISO 9000 calls Quality Control in terms of fulfilling quality requirements they refer to as Operator Control."

"So it has a lot to do with the maturity of the organization and the culture of the business. Below is the official definitions taken from ISO 9000:2015 which is the current terms and definitions that are supporting the ISO 9001:2015 requirements standard. In simple language QA sets the standard, QC ensures the standard is met."

"3.3.6 Quality Assurance: Part of quality management (3.3.4) focused on providing confidence that quality requirements (3.6.5) will be fulfilled."

"3.3.7  Quality control: Part of quality management (3.3.4) focused on fulfilling quality requirements (3.6.5)”

Let us know what you think by emailing editor@projectpro.co.za

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