Competencies for Project Managers

Mini-Case Study: Quality Management at Global Green Books Publishing

Global Green Books Publishing is growing its eBook business, satisfying demand for

customized eBooks for the college market and for a growing number of commercial customers.

These customers expect a high-quality product that works in each of the environments that

there users use – various operating systems, eBook readers, and hardware (desktop

computers, tablets/phablets, and smartphones).

As part of the standard development process, each eBook goes through several quality checks.

When the order is received, a customer service representative checks the order and a more

senior customer service representative verifies the order. During the Production Phase, a quality

assistant will check the eBook against the job order and customer order to make sure it is ready

for production, and once approved by quality, each of the requested eBook formats are created.

A second quality check is performed by the customer service representative who is assigned to

the customer to make sure that each requested format is ready to release to the customer.

Some customers (and their eBook users) are complaining about quality problems in the eBooks

they have received from Global Green Books. Sometimes the eBooks do not work correctly in

the intended environment. Sometimes, content is not clear or fuzzy. Sometimes, a quality check

will find that not all parts of the requested order have been included in the eBook. This causes

rework before the eBook can come back for a second quality check before being released to the

customer service representative for the final quality check. In each of these cases, the “cost of

quality” is the cost of NOT creating a quality product. Every time the project has to rework an

eBook to correct a quality defect, the cost of quality increases.

Samantha and her project managers met with a key group of supervisors who are managing a

critical number of the eBook projects. They reviewed the lessons learned data and brainstormed

from their experiences with producing eBooks to identify some of the quality problems that they

were seeing in the eBook projects. They identified a number of issues:

 The customer’s quality requirements are never discussed within the project team. They

are dealt with by the customer service representatives at the beginning and end of the

eBook production process. This means that team members do not know what the

customer expects and just do the tasks assigned without knowing what is “good”. They

may have a very different or no understanding of what the customer’s quality needs are,

unlike the customer service representatives.

 The standard job template doesn’t suggest that supervisors plan into their project any

reviews or checkpoints at which quality can be verified. The only quality checks come

after the eBook is finished. This does quality checks of the whole eBook, but doesn’t

allow for checks on each component –content formats, correct conversions or desk top

publishing checks.

 These two factors lead to a perception among team members that quality is just simply

some testing by some other groups (quality and customer service), rather than a way of

working and reviewing or checking work as they proceed. Further, many team members

don’t even see quality as their responsibility, because it’s something done by someone

else.

 One of the challenges facing the customer service representatives is that they do test

each eBook, but they cannot always check each eBook in an environment that is the

same as that used by the end users of the eBook. Sometimes users have different

equipment than the customer service representatives have to use for their testing. There

are times when this causes surprises after the eBook is released. This leads to external

failure costs for dealing with processing customer complaints, dealing with rework to fix

the eBooks, and releasing a revised eBook. Luckily the customers handle distribution to

their users, so Global Green Books is not bearing the cost of customer returns and

warranty claims that they might have if they were selling a consumer product directly to

consumers.

The group agrees that they would like to make some changes to bring their total quality costs

below the costs of quality that they are currently incurring. This means that they want to reduce

the costs of failing to meet customer requirements or expectations, and reinvest those savings

into preventing problems as they go that do not meet the customer’s requirements, and

checking to make sure that the eBook and all of its components conform to the customer’s

requirements. Catching some of the quality problems sooner, before the entire eBook is

produced will also reduce the internal failure costs that they are experiencing. These internal

failure costs are rework and re-checking following the quality checks by Quality and the

customer service representative.

Comment on the following aspects of the case study:

a) Consider the problems that Samantha and the group identified. What do you think are

the causes of these problems?

b) What would you suggest they do differently to eliminate these problems?

c) Who should be responsible for quality? What would you recommend be the specific

responsibilities of each identified role?

d) What prevention activities would you suggest to prevent poor quality in the eBook

products? Examples could be planning for quality activities or team building activities

focused on improving quality

e) What appraisal activities would you suggest to evaluate the eBook product to ensure

that it meets quality standards and customer requirements? Should they add in-process

checks of eBook components in addition to their current final inspection/tests? If so,

who should do these?

f) What would you suggest they do to involve team members more in pursuit of high quality

eBooks for their customers?

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