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  • Alex Mathers

What Gets Measured Gets Done

More and more there is a renewed emphasis on the quantitative aspects of construction -- on materials, equipment, processes, energy and schedule. This goes with a popular saying in management circles, often misattributed to management consultant Peter Drucker, “what gets measured gets managed”. Even today, I retain remnants of my engineering training from 15 years ago and quantify everything. I think the soundest management advice I've heard is the derivative of this saying; "What gets measured gets done."

Commissioning is all about managing the quality process and to manage quality, quality must be measured. The difficulty comes in measuring quality which is, by definition, qualitative, and not quantitative. Quality, by itself, is intangible, it is a concept - which makes it hard to measure directly.

Douglas Hubbard’s book How to Measure Anything provides this basic guideline used to make vague concepts measurable:

1. Break apart the multi-focus concept into singular attributes

2. Translate intangible concepts into observable characteristics

Functional descriptions can be a qualitative way of indicating the project goals or objectives, but specific acceptance criteria is a much more definitive measure of quality. Acceptance criteria is a set of predefined requirements that must be met to determine a project is complete. Acceptance criteria is a set of statements which defines the result that is pass or fail for both functional and non-functional requirements of the project. These functional and non-functional requirements are the conditions that can be accepted. There is no partial acceptance in acceptance criteria, it has either passed or failed.

Pass/fail criteria provide the quantitative data and a basis for measuring quality on a project. If you want things to get done on a project, we need to define what done is. But beyond just defining and measuring requirements, commissioning agents must follow-up. Simply measuring something will not ensure an action gets done. Commissioning must review, challenge, and provide feedback on the work being done.

For many builders and owners, the challenge is not only capturing and measuring this quality information, but also extracting the value from real-time quality updates during the project to protect themselves against surprise costs, schedule delays, rework, and any potential disputes. Projects move quick - and the window of time to catch mistakes is small. Commissioning agents must provide constant updates and an effective way to provide quality measurements during a project to ensure the value of commissioning is realized by the builders and owners.

Time and time again we see that a good commissioning framework that measures outcome-based quality metrics is the best way to ensure a project gets done.

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