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Project quality management, part three: Project planning
May 20, 2020
This is the third article in our series on a project quality management approach that incorporates a project quality manager on the team and the use of a project quality work plan. This installment focuses on project planning during project initiation. The planning process is transparent and includes the development of a shared project execution plan that is prepared by the design professional with input and approval from the client. This includes adherence to the project quality work plan prepared during the proposal phase of the project (See part 2 of the series).
As discussed in the first article of the series, this quality management system (QMS) model includes four primary roles. These roles are integral to the model:
Senior manager – In this model, the senior manager’s primary overall responsibilities are quality leadership and accountability. Their primary project responsibilities are staffing and client satisfaction.
Project quality manager – Assigned to a specific project, the quality manager’s role is to advise and mentor the project manager. They verify that project work has not only been completed but completed to meet the firm’s standard of quality. They do not assume responsibility or authority over the project manager.
Project manager – The project manager bears primary responsibility for planning, implementing and monitoring project quality (except for project staffing/resource management).
Project team – This includes everyone who touches the project, including architects, engineers, designers, and CAD and administrative staff. While the project team does not have primary responsibility for the overall project quality, team members do own the quality of the work they complete on the project.
Remember, in this model, the project quality manager is likely a new role for A/E firm projects. Typically, the responsibilities of this role fall to senior staff (e.g., principals, partners, senior managers, department managers, senior discipline leads, senior technical reviewer) who may have other roles on the project. In this model, however, the project quality manager is a separate project role with a singular focus on all aspects of project quality.
Your proposal was a success and your firm was awarded the project, with you as the project manager. Your client, your boss and the project team are eager to begin work. Now you need to transition from successfully winning the project to successfully executing it. This requires time in upfront planning. As a project manager, you know that the time you spend planning the work, before actually beginning the work, is critical.
Strong planning establishes a proactive path to successful project outcomes. You’re not hired just to complete a project, you’re hired for myriad ultimate outcomes: a new school gymnasium, a business expansion, housing, water treatment, roadway improvements, etc. Clear project goals, well-defined client expectations and an engaged team all benefit from upfront planning. A project management plan (PMP) is a concise planning document you can use for consistently initiating all projects in your organization. The PMP is similar in scope and content to project charters used in project management methods such as Agile, Six Sigma and PMI’s PMBOK (Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge).
The project management plan (PMP)
Prepare a draft PMP once your firm has received a notice to proceed or a signed contract. The PMP is a living, client-facing document completed with input from the team and the client. It will be updated for the duration of the project to reflect changes or impacts to the project. This draft document will be shared with the internal team, the client and external team members that have a significant role on the project (stakeholders). Once it’s been reviewed and discussed in a project kick-off meeting, it will be finalized and distributed.
The PMP addresses the following key elements:
Goals and objectives
- The client’s objective, including a summary of the client’s vision, needs and expected outcomes
Scope of services
- Description of the work and detailed work breakdown structure
- Identification of interim and final deliverables
- Identification of client-specific deliverables
- Assignment of tasks to internal and external (subconsultants and subcontractors) teams
- For the internal team: detailed task budgets are prepared
- For the client/external team: budget information as required or as appropriate
- Scheduled detailed work breakdown structure (for the internal team and/or as requested/required by the client)
- Due dates of tasks and deliverables
- Identified critical-path tasks and deliverables
- Procurement schedule (if needed)
- Milestones (zero-duration events marking the completion of a high priority task or interim deliverable)
- Listing of all internal and external member project roles and responsibilities, including those specified in the project quality management work plan (developed during the proposal phase to document quality management processes)
Quality management (see note below)
- Internal use of the project quality management work plan. As an example, the work plan may reference the firm’s quality management system and/or include the following processes and procedures:
- Kick-off meeting agenda
- Client approval process
- Design, AutoCAD, BIM, Revit standards
- Design development process
- Submittal review process
- Code compliance review
- Design calculation process and review process
- Data input and review process
- Technical and/or constructability review
- Document control/records management
- Procurement processes and procedures
- Design/review checklists
- Schedule of design/document review, revision, approval tasks
Risk management plan
- Budget and schedule contingencies
- Identification of potential risks and risk management strategy for technical, contractual, regulatory or financial risks
- Analysis includes identifying risk owner, trigger, probability of occurrence, estimated financial consequences, dependencies and prioritization of risks
- Prepared jointly by all party participants
Communication plan (see note below)
- Type of communication (meetings, telephone calls, status reports, shared project portals/applications)
- Participants, frequency, and medium or setting for each type of communication
Project controls (see note below)
- Signed contract in place
- Key contract provisions/terms are communicated internally
- Accounting charges/invoice review and approval process (internal)
- Metrics and measures
- Key indicators to report the status of project progress
- Key indicators that the client’s objective has been met
Scope and change management (see note below)
- Process and tools for communication and approval of additional services or change orders
- Documentation of change, impacts to schedule and budget, timeliness of request, request for approval, client approval process
Note: Small projects will not require this level of detail. Small projects are those with short duration and small budgets. The definition of what constitutes a small project is a firm decision. As an example, a project completed in a short time period (days or weeks) and for a small fee (less than $20,000) could be considered a small project.
The project management plan, like the project quality management work plan, should be flexible and reflect the project size, complexity, project type and client type. A one-page PMP can incorporate all the appropriate information needed for a small project. A multipage document with attachments would be prepared for a highly complex and high-fee project.
The next article in this series will address remaining project initiation activities and the confirmation and approval of the draft PMP.
A good overview of quality in the A/E industry is available on the AXA XL Learning Management System (LMS) – please note you must be a client to access the LMS. This series provides insight into quality concepts and includes a practical discussion of quality in the design industry. If you’re already a client of Design Professional and have access to the LMS, log in here. Once logged in, open the “Resources” tab > “Other Publications.” Scroll down to the “Focus on Quality” white paper series, Parts 1-5.
- About The Author
- Patty Huntley
- Project Management Professional (PMP), Risk Manager – Loss Prevention and Education, Design Professional