Quality control, defined by the 5th edition PMBOK, is “The process of monitoring and recording results of executing the quality activities to assess performance and recommend necessary changes.” Quality control is important and valuable, especially for IT projects. Managers need to have a clear understanding of where things stand.  If your project is nearing deployment, you would want to know if any critical defects were still open or if any tests remained.

Quality control

Here’s the problem, a lot of organizations mistake quality control as quality improvement. Metrics are just like a thermometer. A thermometer can tell you the temperature, but it cannot change the temperature. Managers love to look at metrics and graphs, only to put more pressure on teams when they don’t like what they see.

I used to generate a defect slip rate report each month for management. The defect slip rate was calculated by dividing the number of defects found in production by the total number of defects found in prod and test. We defined a target of 20% so anytime we are over 20%, our slip rate was over our targeted threshold.

While the defect slip rate report helped give us a view into our software quality, it never improved it. Throughout the year the defect slip rate percentage on average would stay about the same.

When it comes to quality, organizations not only need to measure, they need to improve. This is part of the reason Agile and Scrum have become so popular for technology delivery. Using Scrum, project teams perform retrospectives, always looking for ways to improve.

The continuous improvement process goes back to the Toyota Production System and Deming’s Plan Do Check Act model. In Japan, the continuous improvement philosophy is called Kaizen.

The point is this, metrics are important, but what’s more important is improving quality. If you’re stuck in a pattern of putting out fires, you’re not improving quality. Fixing production issues is not improving quality. Running defect and metrics reports is not improving quality. Quality comes from improving the system as a whole, and building a quality product up front.

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