Quality Work v/s Business Value

This post originally appeared December 16, 2010 on BetterProjects.net.

I love Laura Brandenburg’s blog Bridging the Gap. If you’re not a follower of it, get over there now as she and her fellow bloggers delivery quality every single time. One of her recent articles tackled the subject of how to win the respect of your project teammates. Here’s a snip-it…

The most direct route to earning respect from your project teams is delivering high quality work. It’s really as simple and as difficult as that.
Laura and I had an exchange in the comments section, not in any way bad, just a bit of a difference in how we phrase things. I feel as if I did a rather poor job of explaining myself there, and thought the topic was one of importance, so I decided to bring the conversation over here and see what the Better Projects readers thought about the question.

To me, high quality work is not the way to gain respect. To me, respect is gained by providing value. This applies not only to your team mates but also to your stakeholders. I can produce an extremely high quality piece of work about the process cats use to mark their territory. It can include requirements for leaving faceprints on walls, process flows for the best rubbing spots and lots of rules (which cats disregard) about when not to annoy the one who feeds them.

However, if I delivered that document to a project team installing a new CRM system, you’re not going to endear yourself to the team. Yes, they’ll probably see what a quality piece of work it was, it simply wasn’t relevant to the subject at hand. You’ll probably be accused of wasting company time and at the best, receive a stern talking to from your boss.

Yes, that’s an absurd scenario, but I use it to illustrate the point… high quality doesn’t necessarily mean it adds value. The same goes for our stakeholders viewpoint on our deliverables as well. If we deliver a system with zero defects, is under budget and early, yet it completely fails to add value to their business, then who cares how flawlessly we ran the project?

In the end, I do think Laura was meaning what I’ve just said, I just see it in different terms. If you assume that two documents provide equal value to the team, with one being a higher quality of work than the other, give me the high quality job every time.