Project Management

Resolve quality problems in six steps

When you have problems, guessing the cause of the problem rarely works. A structured approach works much better. You want to not only resolve this particular problem, but you also want to understand the problem well enough to ensure that it doesn't occur again.

Quality problems can arise on any project, and can take on many forms. Many of the problems are minor irritants that keep you from implementing the most optimal solution, but nevertheless can be tolerated. Many need to be resolved before you can implement your solution. A few of them are "show-stoppers." All of these problems can be resolved using similar techniques. Obviously the larger the problem, the more complex the solution might be. However, the same basic problem solving approach can be applied to each situation.

When you have problems, guessing the cause of the problem rarely works. A structured approach works much better. You want to not only resolve this particular problem, but you also want to understand the problem well enough to ensure that it does not occur again.

Use the following general process to identify and resolve quality problems. 

1. Identify the problem or symptom

You shouldn't assume that everyone knows the problem already. Take the time to document the problem in clear terms that everyone can understand. Make sure to also explain the impact of the quality problem to the project. The first rule of problem resolution is that if you can't define the problem, you can't resolve it.

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2. Identify the root cause

Try to identify the root cause of the problem and explain how the root cause ultimately results in the problem that has arisen. If you can't track the root cause to the perceived problem, you haven't taken your investigation far enough. There are a number of problem-solving techniques you can utilize, including root cause analysis and Fishbone Diagrams.

3. Determine alternatives and impacts

Once the cause is identified, you should look at the alternatives and the impact of each alternative. Although it's best to try to solve the root cause of the problem, sometimes it's not possible and sometimes it's not cost effective. In these instances, you might need to look at alternatives that resolve the symptoms of the problem. Sometimes there's a very obvious solution that needs to be implemented. However, in many cases there are a number of potential alternatives. For each alternative, they should also address the impact to the project in terms of costs, benefits, and risks. It's worthwhile to make sure you look at the solutions as holistically as possible, so that you can make select the best alternative.

4. Select the best alternative

Depending on the severity of the problem, the project team may be able to choose the best alternative to the problem. If the problem is large enough, your sponsor and management stakeholders may need to be involved as well.

5. Execute

A mini-plan is put into place to address the quality problem and implement the chosen alternative. These activities should be moved into the project workplan to ensure that they are performed

6. Monitor

The resolution plan needs to be monitored to ensure that the quality has improved as expected. If the quality has improved or is moving in that direction, you may allow the plan to continue. However, if the quality is not improving as expected, further corrective action may be required.


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