The Project Quality Review – A Helpful Friend or A Pesky Foe

I’ve spent a great deal of my career leading or facilitating quality management for technology projects and programs. These days I focus my energy on Project Quality Reviews. Project Quality Reviews address the need for independent review and analysis to determine if a project: (a) is on track to be completed within the estimated schedule and cost, and (b) will provide the functionality required by the sponsoring business entity. Performed proactively, this review process is designed to enhance a project’s probability for success.   

The Project Quality Review (PQR) process depends on participation from members of the project team. Project team members are those individuals who are assigned a role and responsibility on the project. They are technical, functional, and management representatives from the sponsoring business entity as well as subject matter expert consultants. These individuals are combined into one team to complete the work required for achieving project scope.

Sometimes project team members don’t understand the value of the Project Quality Review, and approach it as a “necessary evil” that must occur in order to fulfill a leadership mandate. These individuals often attend PQR discovery meetings “because they have to” and display body language that seems to say, “I don’t want to be here, so let’s just hurry up and get this over with so I can get back to what’s important.”

Passive or reluctant participation in a review is like paying for a tune-up on your car but not letting the mechanic start the engine to perform diagnostics. You’re paying for the service so you can attain improved performance, so why not provide as much information as possible so you can garner the desired outcome? This reluctance to participate can impede the participant’s ability to benefit from the process and learn how to perform faster, better, or cheaper while achieving positive project results.

Project participants who willingly attend and actively participate in Project Quality Review activities ultimately benefit the most from the process. Here are some suggestions that project participants can use to ensure they get the most out of their participation in the Project Quality Review:

  1. Be Prepared. It sounds easy enough, but you’d be surprised how infrequently folks are prepared for the review. Before the review, take a few moments to jot down your expectations for the review, and be prepared to convey the expectations to the quality consultant. At the very least, you should expect the review to recognize your significant contributions to the project. You might also want to know how your specific project deliverables compare to those of successful projects that are similar in scope. Most importantly, you should expect to receive meaningful and useful suggestions for improving any identified weakness.
  2. Speak Up. A closed mouth cannot be fed! So make sure you open yours and use it to convey your perspective on the project’s health. When the quality consultant asks you a question, answer it as thoroughly as possible, and use examples to illustrate your point. If there is a specific issue or risk that is keeping you up at night or one that just cannot seem to get resolved, talk about it so the quality consultant gains a thorough understanding of the problem and can do additional research to help get it addressed.
  3. Share Good News. I think good news gets a bad rap. We seem to expect things to be “good” all the time, and because it’s expected, we don’t think good news needs to be talked about, especially during a quality review. However, the quality consultant needs to hear both bad and good news – weaknesses need to be addressed and strengths (i.e., that which is conveyed through good news) need to be recognized so they can be built upon.
  4. Recognize People. If you think someone in the project community is doing a fantastic job, let the quality consultant know. If you observe an individual or an entire team doing something that culminates in positive results, explain your observations during the review.
  5. Convey Second Thoughts. At the end of my day, I sometimes think about things I wish I’d said during a meeting that day. I’ve found this isn’t unique and that people have additional or second thoughts that are meaningful enough to be shared after they’ve participated in a PQR session, or after they’ve submitted their PQR survey. Don’t be afraid to share those niggling thoughts or additional observations with the quality consultant. Call or email them – they will be grateful!

Project Quality Reviews aren’t going anywhere. They will continue to exist in the technical project and program community for years to come. The more we embrace the process – and follow the above suggestions – the more we will all get out of it.

Finally, I hope I’ve motivated a few folks to recognize the PQR process as a Helpful Friend. As a proven process for enhancing the probability for success, the benefit definitely outweighs the cost.

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