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Real World Project Management: Quality Projects Take Time, Money, and Tasty Beer

Master the art of customer service as it relates to the field of project management while keeping the level of quality in your projects at an all-time high. Joe Phillips muses on service and quality for the benefit of project managers and barflies everywhere.
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Have you had any great customer service lately? No? Me either.

Customer service, or the lack thereof, is unbelievable these days—especially in restaurants. My favorite watering hole (well it's hardly a favorite, but it's a safe distance from home) has some horrible service. It seems that the waiters, waitresses, and bartenders are more interested in their personal pub dramas than in getting me my Reuben sandwich and frosty brew.

So why do I go? Other than it being close to home, their food is tasty, the beer is always cold, and the price is right. I know what to expect and they usually deliver. When I visit, I can expect to be ignored, overlooked, looked over, and then eventually served. It's familiar, and all in all, they meet my expectations.

I'm sure you have similar restaurants, stores, and services where you live. Regular places where you aren't overly impressed with the service, but in spite of that they somehow deliver to your level of expectation. But what would you do if you went to a four-star, high-dollar fancy restaurant and got the same level of service as the local pub? Expectations would not be met and you'd be disappointed, right?

Quality is Meeting Expectations

The point I'm making is that when expectations are met, it goes without saying that the demand for quality is met. That's right. When you expect a certain level of service or a predefined level of satisfaction, and then those expectations are met, you feel that your demand for quality has been fulfilled.

If you've ever had the opportunity to read The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), you have my condolences. This book, in my opinion, reads like a toaster manual. Having said that, the PMBOK is often referred to as the Bible when it comes to project management. According to the PMBOK, quality is defined as "the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs."

Whoop-tee-do. Did they get an attorney to write that?

To say it again in English—when it comes to project management, quality is the ability of the project to meet both all of the project scope requirements and the implied needs of the project scope. Let me give you an example: you and I are building a brick house and we've approved all of the blueprints, the design documents, the landscaping, and everything else down to the types of door knobs and bathtub drains.

The builder builds the foundation, frames the house, and has the mason lay the bricks. On our first inspection, however, we notice that the mason has done something terrible. Each brick, on one side, is embossed with "Chicago Brick Company." Our mason has consistently laid the bricks with the text "Chicago Brick Company" facing out. Our beautiful brick house looks great from a distance, but up close we're one big ad for the Chicago Brick Company. Say it with me: Greeaaat.

Of course we object, but the mason and the architect counter-object because we never stated that the text should face inward, not outward. Besides, they have built the house exactly to our design documents and blue prints, complete with the doorknobs and bathtub drains, so what's the problem?

The problem is that the house, while satisfying stated objectives, does not meet implied objectives. Who wants to look at "Chicago Brick Company" every time they walk into the house? Now attorneys have to get involved and I'd rather eat worms than deal with attorneys. (Wow! Two cracks on attorneys in one article—here come the lawsuits!)

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