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QualityOK, I must confess I was – figuratively speaking – caught napping on the job. In the middle of a project review, a young graduate engineer had, politely but firmly, pulled me up for overusing the word quality. “What do you actually mean?” she asked.

Being in a hurry to move on, I nearly fobbed her off with one of my usual platitudes: “Quality is doing it right when no one is looking” – or – “Quality doesn’t mean gold-plated; it means fit for purpose, available on time and able to accommodate change.”

But she had me bang to rights; guilty as charged.

Unless you take the trouble to define it – and I mean define it quantitatively – then quality is indeed a meaningless word. There are many good ways to define quality using real, hard numbers. Too many project managers fail to do this because they think it’s difficult. But that’s really just laziness and will likely lead to failure.

All projects can – and must – define quality. It as just as important as defining schedule and cost. And if you can’t define it, then you can’t deliver it; simple as that.

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