You should reduce project quality to save time and money

OK, let’s start with the get out clause. There are many projects where high quality is essential. To reduce the quality in many projects could (and will) be disastrous. However, there are those projects where more focus on quality standards (reducing them) could save valuable time and money.

There are many types of project and for some, high quality and quality generally is very much on the agenda. However, as will be shown, it appears that quality is not on the agenda, nor talked about in some projects and as a result, there is lost opportunity. Let me give you an example.

The 5 star public conveniences

A manager in a local council suggested on one of our project management training courses that the pressure to deliver on him and his staff was huge. He queried whether it was worth while increasing the rating for part of his service (public toilets) from 4 stars to 5 stars. “Is 4 stars an acceptable level of service? Could we put the time and effort we did raising it to 5 stars into other parts of the service?” These were his words.

The interesting aspect is that little or no discussion was put in to the decision to raise it to 5 stars.

Is it change management projects where there is more leeway on quality?

Many of the people who come long to our project courses are involved in change management projects. From discussions it appears quality does not seem to be talked about or addressed. I frequently raise this with course participants and what is clear is that many people seem to be going for the ‘5 star’ outcome without even discussing it. Unsurprisingly, there is little recognition on the impact this has on project management time and costs.

There are clear implications for reducing project quality

There are clear implications for companies, for clients, for stakeholders, for project managers in this issue and yes, there are risk implications as well. To repeat, there are many projects where high quality is essential and to reduce the quality in many projects could (and will) be disastrous.

What are your views?

 

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10 Responses to You should reduce project quality to save time and money

  1. Dan says:

    Well done to note how top-notch quality is the elephant in the room that nobody talks about. It is pushed aside, I fear, primarily due to the common assumption that 5 star is implied in the delivery of a project. No one really wants to be seen as a corner-cutter. Fair or unfair, no one would want to look at a monument and say, “We could have made it 5 star, but Lord Nelson won’t mind his memory honoured as a 4 instead to save a few pounds.” I surmise that to admit that a mere 4 star quality delivery is in play from the outset is somewhat debilitating. In consideration of resources, maybe we need to get over that way of thinking.

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  3. Ron,

    I’m not sure I get your point. I think what you’re saying is that if you aren’t planning on actually gunning for the highest quality from the outset, but only doing the minimum to please the customer, then why say you’re going for 5-star from the beginning? If so, then yes, I agree.

    However, it all goes back to planning! If you PLAN for 5-star quality from the beginning, then you don’t have to reduce quality. Poor planning is the number-one reason projects fail, because planning involves every aspect of the project. That doesn’t mean the project can’t be produced in iterative phases.

  4. Dan thanks for the comments. I certainly agree that it is like an elephant in the room that no one talks about.

    This leads nicely on to LAURA’S point. The issue is that quality is often not talked about (hence the elephant in the room….) so using the stars example; no one raises the question as to what the standard should be so that effectively means you cannot plan for it as you have no clear idea what the quality standard is! (My apologies for not being explicit)

    Ron

  5. Thanks for clarifying Ron. I thought that’s what you meant and I agree!

  6. Denis says:

    Hi Ron,

    I agree that quality is often assumed rather than explicit, or that lip service is paid to quality (5 star) but everyong knows what will be produced is less than that. It reminds me of a Dilbert sketch I saw where the boss says “we only employ the best but we pay the market average”.

    I’ve been thinking about how to structure projects recently so that the quality is there no matter what happens along the way (budget cut, timeline chaged etc):
    http://www.expertprogrammanagement.com/2010/11/planning-and-risk/

    Denis

  7. Hi Ron,

    This seems to me like this is very much related to Agile principles, where releasing working features in minimal time is key.

    Quality however should not be impacted! The idea of working with iterations and releasing viable features quickly and regularly works around the idea of VALUE. You prioritize your feature release in order of perceived value and not by the sheer number of features.

    In this equation( -Quality = +Money and +Time ), you can replace Quality by Features, Money by budget or risk and Time by Time to Market.

    We get : – Features (but more prioritized) = Less Cost (and risk) and less time-to-market. All-in-all, a winning situation.

    That’s how we manage projects and feature releases at Planbox

    -Alex

  8. Hi Denis & Alexander. Thanks for the response to the blog.

    My company, Project Agency works with professional staff who need to develop their project management skills. Primarily they are the professional accountant, solicitor, social worker etc who is suddenly involved in a project. The issue for them (and others) is that quality is not talked about in any clear way. The course obviously does raise this issue. But for many when we do the issue is what standards should we be aiming at. In the example in the blog we talk about 5 start (highest star rating) and there are many projects where it is not appropriate to hit that target. For some, it is essential.

    I am not an agile expert and would never suggest I am. However what strikes me about your comments Alex is that as long as you agree what the quality standard should be it should not be impacted upon, unless the client suggests that they will accept a lower standard!

    Very much appreciate the comments.

    Ron

  9. Hi Ron,

    I wouldn’t claim to be an agile expert either, I run business programs, but have had to pick up a working knowledge of it given the field I work in.

    Adding some context of who you’re working with has helped me understand what you mean. I think that as project professions we bring to the table our knowledge of these areas (such as quality) and can help non-experts to espouge them, even if they may not have thought about them before. Hope that makes sense.

    Denis

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