Occasionally we are asked by our policyholders to provide guidance in the creation of a quality control manual for their firm. Quality assurance or quality control plans have to be specifically prepared to address the internal procedures with which a firm feels comfortable. An “off-the-shelf” plan provides no real value in monitoring for deficiencies or correcting errors in real time. In fact, a static QA/QC plan which is not being used by a firm on a continuous basis and updated to meet project-specific or client-specific contractual requirements or the evolving standard of care for the services provided can be detrimental to a firm. Nothing is more harmful to a firm defending itself against a claim than an admission that the firm has a QA/QC plan but it is not understood by everyone providing services on the specific project or was not followed as prescribed.
While there is no model QA/QC plan that can be recommended, it is reasonable that a firm take the following steps:
- Assign only one project manager to be responsible for the services on a project throughout the planning, design, close-out, and final client contact.
- Develop the project’s schedule and budget to include the time and costs of reviews by individuals not involved with the initial design.
- Foster in-house expertise, or use an outside expert cost estimator when necessary, to check design recommendations against real-world pricing and routinely update the cost of items with suppliers and contractors.
- Encourage the use of constructability reviews by emphasizing to clients and staff that the earlier construction expertise can be tapped during design, the more likely it is that change orders and delays will be minimized.
- Adopt a formal checking system in which firm members or outside consultants who are not responsible for the project determine if additions or corrections in process or deliverables are necessary and address all modifications through a scheduled final design review after all documents are prepared.
It’s also important to invest in the education of all employees. A continual training process should include sending people to job sites. For designers and drafters working on details, such involvement has been shown to improve the quality of their work.