When you’re planning how to deliver quality results, and what needs to go into your project schedule, it’s worth looking at what regulations and standards you need to adhere to.
In this article we’ll look at the difference between regulations and standards and what that means to you managing a project.
What is a regulation?
A regulation is a requirement for your project. You have to follow regulations.
Regulations include applicable laws.
For example, there are a range of regulations that can influence the way you approach your project and what you can and cannot do. Here are some areas affected by regulation:
Laws vary between countries, so check what is applicable to where you are based. Also note that in multinational projects, the laws and regulations might differ for people on your teams in different locations.
What is a standard?
A standard is a guideline. Your project should follow guidelines because they are there for a reason, but if you can justify why you need to approach something in a different way, then you don’t have to follow the standard.
For example, it might be the standard that no one in your office works on a bank (public) holiday. Let’s say it is normal for the office to close over the end of year period when many colleagues are celebrating Christmas. However, your project is to upgrade the telephony switches. Knowing that the call volumes will be low and no one will be around to answer calls anyway, you might decide that the Christmas period is the perfect time to do that project work. It’s not standard, but it’s the most appropriate solution for your project and least disruptive for the business.
Not all standards or regulations are going to affect every project. It’s important to have a view as to what is important for this project. It is something I would consider and resolve as part of project initiation, so that I can go into project planning with all the information needed.
How do standards and regulations affect projects?
Standards and regulations affect projects in a number of ways.
1. By affecting project scheduling
Any time legal compliance is required, you can bet you need to add extra time to the schedule to have the legal team check out what you are doing and ensure the project is ticking all the boxes. Build in enough time for regulation-related checks and work.
Equally, with resource-related regulations, you may have to constrain working time which will have an implication for the schedule. For example, you may not be able to use overtime hours, or you might have to factor in travel time to your schedule if your resources aren’t permitted to go over a certain amount of travel before taking a break.
Some of these constraints could be legislation affecting workers, others might be the way your company operates (or as PMI would define them, enterprise environmental factors). An example would be dictating that the standard working week is 40 hours. You would take that data and ensure your schedule reflects a 40-hour standard working week.
2. By affecting project quality
If you have to follow regulations or stick to standards, this could have an implication for project quality. You might have to do additional quality checks, or use particular materials. An example would be building control. In the UK, you need building control to sign off on construction work. You can’t simply carry on building or assume everything will be OK without having someone come round and inspect the site. That’s an external quality check you have to consider and plan for.
3. By affecting project budgets
If your project needs a building control check, you have to pay for that. The building controller will charge you for his or her time. That cost needs to go into your project budget forecast. Depending on what regulations and standards you have to abide by, your project costs will need to accommodate the related charges.
Once you understand the standards and regulations that affect your project, and how they are likely to affect the project, you are able to plan for them. Some might need mitigating factors and adding to the risk register. Others will be easy to manage, perhaps by adding a little extra time or an additional task to the schedule.
Do a bit of research at the start of your project and then incorporate what you need to so that your project, and your organisation, stay compliant with the relevant regulations and standards.
Pin for later reading:
3 Levels of Project Quality [Infographic]
How do you define the right level of quality on your project? Your project sponsor probably has expectations you need to meet. Your team has a level to which they can deliver. You have to find a way to balance the competing needs and hit a quality level that suits as many people as you can.
At least, that’s a good approach if you want to avoid too many grumpy faces round the table at your project lessons learned meeting.
This infographic, inspired by a fantastic short little book on project management called Project-Driven Creation by Jo Bos, Ernst Harting and Marlet Hesslelink, sets out the three levels of project quality that you can reach for your deliverables.
Which one do you hit most often?
Read more about this topic in the article here.
7 Key Concepts For Controlling Quality
You can’t control quality without understanding some of the concepts behind statistical quality control. Here are 7 concepts that are important for managing quality on projects.
Whether it’s widgets, people or processes, population refers to the lot of them. It’s the whole of what you want the information about.
It’s easiest to think of this in terms of physical deliverables. If your project is to make 1000 steering wheels for cars, the population is 1000.
When your population is big, you won’t want to test quality on all of them. That would take too long and cost too much. Take a sample when that’s more practical: a smaller group or subset that represents the whole.
Probability is the likelihood that something will happen. You can express it as a fraction (between 0 and 1) but it’s more commonly seen as a percentage (“There’s an 80% chance that we’ll hit the deadline”).
This is the average of whatever it is that you are calculating. If you had to say what the expected value was for a variable, then you’d say you expected it to be this.
5. Normal Distribution (The Bell Curve)
Every process has variation. That means some of your quality control values will be high, others low, and most fall somewhere around the mean. When you plot those values on a graph you get a line that looks like a bell. This is normal distribution: the most common distribution of values that you should expect from a process.
6. Standard Deviation
This took me a while to get my head around. What it expresses is how close all the values are to the mean. Standard deviation is measured in terms of ‘sigma’. It’s just the name given to the unit, like ‘centimetre’ or ‘dollar’. It’s a statistical term that tells you the spread of the results. A high sigma means the values are spread out from the mean. A low sigma tells you that there is less variation and that the results are all bunched up together.
Without knowing your upper and lower quality specifications all you’ll find out from standard deviation is how bunched up your results are. You need to plot your quality control targets on there too in order to see if your results fall within the target. Otherwise you could be celebrating having a small standard deviation (which is good) only to find out that it is wildly outside your control limits (which is bad).
7. 6 Sigma
The final term it’s worth discussing is Six Sigma. Also the name of a process improvement method, it’s a way of describing what good looks like. First, you need to do your standard deviation work. Know what your quality specifications are. Take the standard deviation output that you’ve created and work out your sigma spread.
Six Sigma is where your results fall +/- 3 sigma from your mean specification limit. In other words, 99.73% of the values in your data set fall between the mean and +/- 3 sigma. There’s little variation in your process and your results consistently hit your quality targets.
You might also see six sigma expressed a +/- 6 sigma. That gives you a breadth of 12 sigma in total (6 each side of the mean of your distribution curve) and that equates to your results falling inside your target 99.99 and a bit% times. All but 3.4 times in every million your process, deliverable, widget or whatever will be on target.
Read next: 3 Levels of Quality
Rest assured that you personally don’t have to know the details of all this. You just need someone on the team who understands it and can apply it. If you are in the kind of company that measures quality in a statistical way, then you probably have a QA team or an analyst who lives and breathes this stuff.
Talk to them; set expectations and work out how you can collaborate to get the best quality control and reporting possible on your project.
You might not need your projects to deliver such as focused, quality result, but regardless of the type of work you are doing it helps to understand what quality means to you and the tools you can use to prove that it exists on your project.