Quality Management: PMP Study Guide (PMBOK 6th Edition)

qualitfy management pmp study guide

Project quality management involves all the activities involved to determine quality policies, objectives, and procedures in an organization. Project Quality Management uses policies and procedures to implement the organization’s quality management system, and it supports continuous process improvement activities.

Quality and Grade are two different concepts:

  • Quality = The degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements
  • Grade = A category assigned to deliverables having the same functional use but different technical characteristics

While having low quality is always a problem, having a low grade may not be a problem.

You can have acceptable software that is low-grade (limited features) that is high quality (no defects). On the flip side, you can also have unacceptable software that is high-grade (numerous features) that is low quality (many defects).

You should always try to prevent defects from happening on your projects rather than dealing with consequences. This concept is called prevention over inspection.

You, the project manager, is ultimately responsible for quality. However, everyone on the project team should inspect their own work.

There are four parts to the Deming Cycle: Plan, Do, Check, and Act (PDCA). The PDCA cycle makes up the basis for continuous improvement or kaizen. Continuous improvement is the concept of continuously looking for small things that can make the project’s processes or product better.

When you invest in higher quality standards and improve quality on your project, you will decrease costs up to a certain point. Marginal analysis is the point where the benefits of improving quality equal the costs saved.

Cost of Quality (COQ) refers to the total cost of quality, including the cost of conformance and cost of non-conformance. The cost of conformance is the cost incurred to prevent quality issues from happening. The cost of non-conformance is the cost incurred in order to deal with quality issues that occurs on your project. The table below illustrates the difference between Cost of Conformance and Cost of Non-conformance.

Cost of conformance Cost of nonconformance
Prevention costs (build a quality product) Internal failure costs (failures found by the project)
Quality training rework
Document processes & equipment scrap
Appraisal cost (assesses the quality) External failure costs (failure found by the customer)
testing liabilities
Destructive testing loss Warranty work
inspections Lost business
Money spent during the project to avoid failures Money spent during and after the project because of failures

*Cost of conformance should be < cost of nonconformance

Plan Quality Management


Plan Quality Management is the process of identifying quality requirements for the project. The key benefit of this process is that it provides guidance and direction on how to manage and validate quality throughout the project. The main output of this process is a quality management plan.

Cost-benefit analysis refers to comparing the cost of preventing quality issues from occurring to the cost of dealing with quality issues when they do occur. For each quality activity, you should compare the cost of conformance to the expected benefit in order to determine the appropriate quality level for your project.

The seven basic quality tools are: 

  1. Cause-and-effect diagrams (also known as fishbone diagrams or Ishikawa diagrams) – In a cause-and-effect diagram, the program is placed at the “head” of the fishbone. The causes of the problem are placed in the branches. Sub-issues are placed within the branches. The resulting diagram looks like a fishbone, hence, the name “fishbone diagrams”. The benefit of using a fishbone diagram is that it allows you to visually trace the root cause of an issue. 
  2. Flowcharts (or process maps) – Flowcharts display the sequence of steps for a process. They show the activities, decision points, loops, and paths. Flowcharts can be used to understand and estimate the cost of quality (COQ) in a particular process through mapping expected monetary gains of pursing different paths. Flow charts can also be helpful in Plan Quality as they allow the team to see the process they must follow to ensure quality on the project. 
  3. Check sheets (or tally sheets) – Check sheets are used to keep track of data. They can be helpful for inspectors during quality inspection to ensure that they do not forget to inspect a particular section of the project.
  4. Pareto Diagrams – A Pareto chart or diagram is a type of histogram, but it arranges the results from most frequent to least frequent to help identify which root causes are resulting in the most problems.
  5. Histograms – Histograms are a special type of bar chart that shows you the distribution of data from a central tendency. It represents data in no particular order or reference to time. A histogram displays data in the form of bars and columns. This tool shows what problems are worth dealing with. A typical histogram arranges data in no particular order.
  6. Control Charts – Control charts are used to determine whether or not a process is stable. A control chart takes measurement over time. The chart has a mean (average), which is represented with a solid line, and the upper and lower control limits, which is represented with two dashed lines. If the value from the process is in between the upper and lower control limit, the process is in control. If it is not, the process is out of control. If 7 consecutive values are either above or below the mean, the process is deemed out of control (this is also known as Rule of Seven).  
  7. Scatter Diagrams (or correlation diagrams) – Scatter diagrams track the relationship of the independent variable on the x-axis to the dependent variable on the y-axis. Scatter diagrams help you determine if there’s any correlation between two variables. This diagram can be used in quality estimation and forecasts.  Things to look for:
  • If the points cluster in a band running from lower left to upper right, there is a positive correlation (if x increases, y increases)
  • If the points cluster in a band from upper left to lower right, there is a negative correlation (if x increases, y decreases)
  • Imagine drawing a straight line or curve through the data so that it “fits” as well as possible. The more the points cluster closely around the imaginary line of best fit, the stronger the relationship that exists between the two variables.
  • If it is hard to see where you would draw a line, and if the points show no significant clustering, there is probably no correlation

Here’s a fun phrase to help you remember the 7 basic quality tools: Carol Flabbergasts, “Here’s the Powerful, Checkered Saber-toothed Cat!”  

Here’s some key terms related to this process:

Bench-marking – This technique involves looking at other projects to get ideas for improvement on the current project and to provide a basis to use in measuring quality performance.

Specification limits – Specification limits represent the customer’s experience or contractual requirements for performance and quality on the project. Specification limits are characteristics of the measured process and not inherent.

Design of Experiments (DOE) – DOE is a statistical method that allows you to systematically change all of the important factors in a process and see which combination has a lower impact on the project. This technique is faster and more accurate than changing the variables one at a time.

Statistical Sampling – Statistical sampling involves choosing a portion of the population to inspect for quality control because inspecting the entire population may take too long or cost too much. The sample size and frequency are determined in the Quality Management Plan and the actual sampling is done during the Control Quality process.

Attribute sampling – results confirm yes/no – GO or NO GO decision

Variable sampling – results rated on continuous scale that measures the degree of conformity – cooking time measured in minutes

Special causes – when something goes wrong and you can point directly to it and say that is the problem

Random causes – part of the process itself – sometimes things go wrong

Additional Quality Planning Tools – These tools include brainstorming, force field analysis, nominal group techniques, etc.

Quality Management Plan – This plan is the output of the Plan Quality process. This document describes how the organization will ensure quality is implemented and what constitutes as high quality for the project.

Process Improvement Plan – This plan details the steps for analyzing the project’s processes to identify activities to remove or enhance.

Quality Metrics – Quality metrics describes project attributes of interest and how Control Quality will measure them. The Quality Management Plan should also include what the project’s quality metrics should be when everything goes well.  

Quality Checklists – Quality checklists are used to verify that the required set of steps has been performed. This checklist should be part of the acceptance criteria in the scope baseline.


Manage Quality


Manage Quality is the process of comparing quality requirements to actual quality measurements from the project. The goal is to ensure the project is meeting quality requirements and to look for ways to improve processes.

Note: Perform Quality Assurance deals with quality control in the project’s PROCESSES. Control Quality deals with quality control in the project’s PRODUCTS.

Quality control measurements – These are tools that help you assess whether the procedures set out in the Plan Quality process are being followed.

Quality management and control tools are tools that can help you ensure quality in your project’s processes. These 7 tools are:

  1. Affinity diagrams – Used to generate ideas. Similar to mind-mapping. Related ideas are linked together. Helps you see patterns.
  2. Process decision program charts (PDPC) – PDPC can be used in conjunction with tree diagrams to decompose a goal into steps required to achieve it.
  3. Interrelationship digraphs – Provides a process for solving complex problems with many items and intertwined relationships.  
  4. Tree diagrams (systematic diagrams) – Used for decomposition of data for analysis or visualization. Tree diagrams shows hierarchy. It is useful for visualizing parent-to-child relationships. E.g. WBS, RBS, and OBS.
  5. Prioritization matrices – These matrices help you identify the key issues and prioritized implementation actions
  6. Activity network diagrams (arrow diagrams) – These diagrams show you the path or “network” between project activities. The activity network diagram allows you to calculate the critical path.
  7. Matrix diagram – Matrix diagrams are used to perform data analysis. They show the similarities and differences between different factors.

Quality audits – Identify lessons learned to improve performance on all project scheduled or random – completed by anyone internally or externally. Confirm implementation of approved change requests, including corrective actions, defect repairs and preventive actions.

Quality audits include:

  • Identify all good and best practices being implemented
  • Identify all non-conformity, gaps , and shortcomings

Process analysis – Follows the steps from the process improvement plan. Undertakes root cause analysis of problem identification


Control Quality


The Control Quality process is the process of monitoring and recording results from quality activities and assessing their performances. Perform quality control helps ensure a certain level of quality in a product or service. It looks for products or services that do not meet the standards of quality.

The key benefit of this process is that it allows you to identify the causes to poor quality and taking action to prevent or correct them. Additionally, the Control Quality process allows you to validate the project deliverable against the project requirements.

Here are some key terms you will need to know for this process:

Prevention – keeping errors out of the process

Inspection – keeping errors out of the hands of the customers

Attribute sampling – The result is binary; it is either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Attribute sampling is used to test if the product conforms or does not conform to requirements.

Variable sampling – The result is a continuous scale to measure to what degree the product conforms to requirements.

Tolerance – specified range of acceptable results

Work performance information – analysis of raw performance data that is useful for decision making.

Mutual exclusivity – Two events are said to be mutually exclusive if they cannot both occur in a single trial.

Probability – This term refers to the likelihood that something will occur

Normal distribution – A normal distribution is the most common probability density distribution chart

Statistical independence – The probability of one event occurring does not affect the probability of another event occurring (i.e. the probability of rolling a six on a die is statistically independent from the probability of getting a five on the next roll).

Standard deviation – A measure of how far you are from the mean – not the median

SigmaSigma is another name for standard deviation.

  • Sigma is take on both sides of the mean. Half of the curve is to the right of the mean, and half of the curve is to the left of the mean.
  • +/- 1 sigma (or one standard deviation) is equal to 68.26% % of occurrences to fall between 2 control limits
  • +/- 2 sigma (or 2 standard deviations) is equal to 95.46% % of occurrences to fall between 2 control limits
  • +/- 3 sigma (or 3 standard deviations) is equal to 99.73% % of occurrences to fall between 2 control limits
  • +/- 6 sigma (or 6 standard deviations) is equal to 99.99985% % of occurrences to fall between 2 control limits

OPA updates – can include completed checklists and lessons learned


Things to Remember

1 Quality related questions can be confusing because many of the topics on the exam are not in the PMBOK Guide and because PMI quality philosophy may be different from that of your organization. Some organizations refer to what PMI calls Perform Quality Assurance as quality planning
  • The project manager should recommend improvements to the performing organization’s standards, policies, and processes. Such recommendations are expected and welcomed by the management
  • Quality should be considered whenever there is a change to any component of the project constraints
  • Quality should be checked before an activity or work package is completed
  • The project manager must spend time trying to improve quality
  • The project manager must determine metrics to be used to measure quality before the project work begins
  • The project manager must put in place a plan for continually proving processes
  • The project manager must make sure authorized approaches and processes are followed
  • Some quality activities may be done by a quality assurance or quality control department
3 The costs of conformance should be lower than the costs of non-conformance. The exam has asked about three questions on this topic.
4 On the exam, assume that specification limits are outside the upper and lower control limits
5 Remembering the following phrases about Pareto charts should help you:

  • Help focus attention on the most critical issues
  • Prioritize potential “causes” of the problems
  • Separate the critical few from the uncritical many

Before you go…

Lastly, don’t forget to check out the other study notes in this series and download our free 200 practice questions by clicking the links below:

Integration Management – PMP Study Guide

Scope Management – PMP Study Guide

Time Management – PMP Study Guide

Cost Management – PMP Study Guide

Quality Management – PMP Study Guide

HR Management – PMP Study Guide

Communications Management – PMP Study Guide

Risk Management – PMP Study Guide

Procurement Management – PMP Study Guide

Stakeholder Management – PMP Study Guide