What’s Your Number (More on Metrics)

Comments from my last post mainly centered around: but are you saying that we shouldn’t do assessments or analysis?  No.  But it is important to define our terms a bit better and realize that what we monitor is not equal and not measuring the same kind of thing.

As I have written here, our metrics fall into categories but each has a different role or nature and are generally rooted in two concepts.  These concepts are quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC)–and they are not one and the same.  As our specialties have fallen away over time, the distinction between QA and QC has been lost.  The evidence of this confusion can be found not only in Wikipedia here and here, but also in project management discussion groups such as here and here.

QA measures the quality of the processes involved in the development and production of an end item.  It tends to be a proactive process and, therefore, looks for early warning indicators.

QC measures the quality in the products.  It is a reactive process and is focused on defect correction.

A large part of the confusion as it relates to project management is that QA and QC has its roots in iterative, production-focused activities.  So knowing which subsystems within the overall project management system we are measuring is important in understanding whether it serves a QA or QC purpose, that is, that is has a QA or QC effect.

Generally, in management, we categorize our metrics into groupings based on their purpose.  There are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which are categorized as diagnostic indicators, lagging indicators, and leading indicators.  There are Key Risk Indicators (KRIs), which measure future adverse impacts.  KRIs are qualitative and quantitative measures that must be handled or mitigated in our plans.

KPIs and KRIs can serve QA and QC purposes and it is important to know the difference so that we can understand what the metric is telling us.  The dichotomy between these effects is not closed.  QC is meant to drive improvements in our processes so that we can shift (ideally) to QA measures in ensuring that our processes will produce a high quality product.

When it comes to the measurement of project management artifacts, our metrics regarding artifact quality, such those applied to the Integrated Master Schedule (IMS) is actually a measure rooted in QC.  The defect has occurred in a product (the IMS) and now we must go back and fix it.  It is not that QC is not an essential function.

It just seems to me that we are sophisticated enough now to establish systems in the construction of the IMS and other artifacts, that is, to be proactive (avoiding errors), in lieu of being reactive (fixing errors).  And–yes–at the next meetings and conferences I will present some ideas on how to do that.

 

One thought on “What’s Your Number (More on Metrics)

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