Quality: Who’s Responsible for it?? By Steve Kathol, P.E., S.E.

Every entity that produces a work product is challenged by it.  Engineers and architects strive to perfect it.  Clients demand it.  Attorneys often get involved if one fails to produce it.  What is it?  Quality!

The quality of our work product is often the difference between a great client/architect-engineer experience and a good or perhaps poor experience.  This is true, not only for our work product, but also for the quality of the professional services we provide.  Poor quality often leads to construction change orders, schedule delays, exceeded budgets, unhappy clients and possibly litigation.  So it’s simple –produce high-quality deliverables and the likelihood of a successful project and happy client is high; fail to produce quality deliverables and the likelihood you’ll need your attorney is equally high.

So how do you produce quality? 

At Schemmer, our Quality Assurance/Quality Control plan is based on the following FIVE principles:

  1. Quality is everyone’s responsibility.  All team members have equal responsibility in ensuring high-quality deliverables.  It is not the sole responsibility of a principal, project manager, a department manager or project engineer/architect. This environment allows all team members to observe and take action.
  2. Quality control is continuous throughout project development. Good quality control does not happen only at the end of a project, but instead it is continuous throughout the entire project development.  Quality must be developed over time, just like other aspects of the project. 
  3. Quality, as defined by the client, is unique for every project. Not all clients define quality the same way.  The definition of quality, unique to the project, is articulated and written down for each project.  This becomes the team’s mission statement for project success.
  4. Items critical to the quality outcome of a project are identified and reviewed often.  Every project is unique and has its own set of critical items that can make-or-break a project.  These critical items are ‘focus points’ for the team to consider during project development.  These focus points will undergo particular scrutiny when ensuring quality.
  5. Quality is budgeted. Just like any other critical design task, quality control needs to be deliberate and appropriately budgeted to be effective.

Following the five steps above is a good start to producing quality. Keep in mind, simply sitting down with the client and communicating before beginning a project will help you get a better understanding of their expectations and unique definition of quality.  Using this simple communication approach, as well as the five principles, your attorney will be busy finding other things to do.