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According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), project quality management is a project management knowledge area which applies to all projects, regardless of the nature of their deliverables (i.e., artifacts). It aims at incorporating the organization’s quality policy regarding planning, managing, and controlling project and product quality requirements, so that stakeholders’ expectations are meet. Quality measures and techniques are specific to the type of artifact being produced and should be always identified and documented a priori.

Plan quality management is the process of identifying quality requirements and/or standards for a project and its artifacts, and documenting means that a project shall demonstrate compliance with such quality requirements and/or standards. Failure to identify and meet quality requirements can have serious negative consequences for project stakeholders. In order to understand the concept of quality within the context of a specific project, there is an extensive toolbox of methods from which the 5w2h method constitutes a simple but powerful framework for research planning, analysis, or reviewing.

The Five Ws and Two Hs

The term "5w2h" is an abbreviation of seven keywords: What, Where, Why, Who, When, How, and How Much. This is a well-known method by journalists to gather and present categories of information to their audience. These categories should indicate the essential information that people may want to know about a news story. In computer science research, the 5w2h framework has been used in natural language processing, static software analysis, and systematic mapping studies. This method may be also known as the Five Ws or 5W1H.

The Method

In project quality management, the 5w2h method can be used for asking questions about a process or problem. The 5w2h structure forces managers to consider all aspects of the situation when analyzing a process for improvement opportunities, a problem is identified but must be better defined, planning a project or steps of a project, or reviewing a project after completion.

According to Tague's book "The Quality Toolbox", the 5w2h method works as follows:

  1. Review the situation under study and the subject of the 5w2h is understood.
  2. Develop appropriate factual questions about the situation for each keyword.
  3. Answer each question. If answers are not known, create a plan for finding them.
  4. What you do next depends on your situation.
    • If you are planning a project, your factual questions and answers should help form your plan.
    • If you are analyzing a process for improvement opportunities, your questions and answers should lead you into additional questions about possible facts.
    • If you are reviewing a completed project, your factual questions and answers should lead you into additional questions about modifying, expanding, or standardizing something.