Sunday, November 12, 2023

quality Assurance is free; QC is not

Philip Crosby is credited with the idea that "Quality is Free", and he made some money on the book by the same title ... still available from e-book sellers.

When I first heard that phrase -- around the time Crosby's book came out -- my thought was: If so, what is that line item in my budgeted WBS for quality planning and QC? It's not $0 for sure. So how is "quality free". Admittedly, TQM was everywhere at that same time (*)

Actually, the idea here is quality Assurance vs. quality control. The former is "free", perhaps even a profit center; the latter is always a cost, sometimes bolted on at the end.

Characterizing QA as a profit center has these business ideas embedded:
  • There is a direct cost for some QA activities, to be sure, but other aspects of QA as an assurance strategy is a mindset that informs PM planning and execution
  • There are attributable savings from QA -- taken holistically -- in the form of cost, schedule, and scope assurance that expectations will be met.
QA as a mindset
Perhaps QA should be written qA to emphasize that it's assurance we're after, in the context of "doing good; avoiding evil" of course!

The PM is always seeking  mission assurance. 
And the mission? 
The PM's mission is to meet sponsor expectations by returning a quality product or service in return for the sponsor's resources invested with the PM, taking calculated risks to do so. 

It's a balance sheet idea: sponsor investment balanced by resource transference into product + the baseline cost of risk (mostly the baseline cost of planned mitigation)

Two ideas inform "Assurance"
There are two ideas here to keep in mind at the same time: 
The first is that quality has these actionable artifacts :
  • Measurables that validate environmentally fit; functionally, effectively, and efficiently operable; safe and secure (**)
  • Value attained that is a multiple of cost (the whole is worth more than the parts; utility is >1)
  • Mission objectives of timeliness and scope that are achieved
And the second is that "assurance" embodies some ideas from risk management and some ideas from sampling theory
  • Schedule assurance by smart use (read: PM management) of slack to protect the critical path (some ideas on how to do this are embodied in "Critical Chain Theory" formulated by Goldratt
  • Cost-Value assurance by built-in reserves and attention to value earned by a dollar spent
  • Performance-to-scope sampling in real-time -- at a sampling frequency that's "inside the performance (work-package) timeline" -- to trap issues and correct deficiencies early when they cost the least, and make agile tactical data-driven decisions that assure strategic accomplishment.
Assurance is free:
Protect the critical path: manage slack by buffering for uncertainties at the critical milestones; have a bias toward "earliest start" rather than waiting; resource the CP before others
Mitigate uncertainties, in part, by allocating budget reserves to underwrite probabilistic event-impacts.
Stay ahead of unfolding events by sampling, measuring, and analyzing frequently enough to be inside the work-package timeline.
(*) Total Quality Management was a movement and a concept that quality ideas and expectations had to be well understood throughout the organization. That is: there had to be a consistent "deployment" from executive to doer of what was expected and also of what was to be done.

TQM audits were conducted to verify deployment (I was an auditor for a year or so).
After a while, the TQM moniker and a lot of the bureaucratic overhead faded away, but the overall concept is valid: everyone should think and do quality practices in a (culturally) consistent manner.

(**) There are a lot of ideas embedded in "effectiveness". Some go to reliable, predictable, non-chaotic performance; high availability achieved by long mean-time-to-fail and quick mean-time-to-repair; long term support after sale or delivery. 
Other ideas of effectiveness are financial: cost-effectiveness which means "good" utility for operating dollars.

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