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The measure of success in project management is gauged from a customer perspective. The project manager’s role is to ensure that the project is delivered within the contracted constraints of time, cost, requirements, resources, risks and quality. All of which contributes ultimately to customer satisfaction. Adoption of some of the elements of Total Quality Management into what we could refer to as the four pillars of TQM will in our opinion facilitate successful project management.


Four Pillars from Total Quality Management

Davis&Dean advocates the adoption of four elements from TQM into what we refer to as the Four Pillars of Total Quality Management. The four pillars are (1) to take a systems approach in defining the work and required outcomes we wish to produce from our projects, (2) to get people involved and invested in the project management process from start to finish, (3) to have a customer focus in delivering project outcomes, and (4) to institute a Process of Continuous Improvement in project management.

Systems Approach

There are two general types of systems in the world. The first which we will define and then exclude is a closed system. The closed system functions in isolation and does not interact with its external environment or with other systems.

The second system type is an open system, defined by the elements that make the system work, which require inputs from the external environment and in turn provide output to the external environment.
In taking a systems approach in project management we want to define our system as a set of cohesive elements that are inter-related and need to work together to contribute in producing quality results, by design, for a common goal.

People Involvement

In projects people work in teams. These teams are required to deliver to contracted objectives, and to customer satisfaction while working within the imposed project constraints of time, cost, requirements, resources, risks and quality. It requires meticulous planning, monitoring and control with contributions from all team members to meet project demands and to deliver optimal outcomes with such imposed constraints.

In most organisations the appointment of the project team and its members happen a little belatedly, leaving it up to individuals to catch up. The appointed project manager is always challenged to get all team members as invested as possible in the project, and to build community.

In the early stages of the project the project manager’s challenge is to play a facilitative role, calling on all the leadership skills they possess. The key to people involvement as a TQM pillar, is through the facilitative role played by the project manager, to ensure that all team members play a part during planning and scoping, thereby allowing members to make the plan their own and to take ownership in the process. Once people are fully invested ownership extends to the project outcomes allowing the project manager to manage, coach and mentor team members but most importantly also allows for adequate time to ensure healthy customer relationship management.

Customer Focus

Customer focus is more of a philosophy than an action. It assumes that a chain of sequential and parallel events are required to collaborate, in developing the final delivery of a product or service. The people that have responsibility for their specific contributions toward the final outcome adopt a customer focus by taking responsibility for the quality of their own work. Hereby acknowledging that the next person in line that has to add further value to the process, becomes a customer to their output and will only be able to maintain a high quality standard if the input they receive was of an acceptable quality standard. The litmus test would be if the next person in line had a choice, would your work be preferred?

Process of Continuous Improvement

Instituting a Process of Continuous Improvement necessitates measuring and recording our progress toward achieving our contracted goals. Steven Covey advocates as one of his principles to start with the end in mind. This fits in nicely with Ishikawa’s approach to problem solving by investigating causal effects, all of which are addressed through Six Sigma.

The point is by keeping well defined Measurements of Man, Method, Machine, Materials, and Mother Nature, appropriate to our system, we are able to take a view of any periodic point in time, relating the actual measurement to our planned progress, determine positive or negative deviance, do an analysis for root causal effect that we are able to use to institute breakthrough and continuous improvement.
Quality issues are addressed in the process with little or no quality inspection required.