Setting the standard: Kansas City District recommits to delivering quality

Published March 22, 2023
A man stands behind a podium and presents a training which is displayed on a projector screen in the background.

Michael Coates, Kansas City District program management support branch chief, presents the PDBP and BQP training at the district on March 8, 2023.

A man in a green shirt sits at a desk and holds up a framed certificate.

Blaine Stevens, Kansas City District quality manager, holds up the district's ISO 9001 Quality Management Certification.

Since its inception, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, has worked hard to solidify itself as a trusted federal partner who engineers quality projects for the nation. Within the organization, a select few districts have taken the commitment to quality a step further. The Kansas City District is one district that puts quality above all else.

One way the Kansas City District ensures quality remains at the forefront is by providing district-wide training. Leadership at the district required all Kansas City District employees to attend the Project Delivery Business Program, or PDBP, training during the first quarter of 2023.

The PDBP training was developed at the headquarters level and outlines the basic process of how USACE delivers projects. Having a standardized training for the enterprise ensures that all USACE projects have a defined process and are completed consistently across the organization.

“The training is to familiarize everyone that works at USACE about our basic project delivery business process, how we deliver projects in USACE,” said Michael Coates, Kansas City District program management support branch chief.

The last time the PDBP training was required at the Kansas City District was over 20 years ago. In that time, the district has experienced an increased number of new employees, so leadership felt it was time to reemphasize the district’s commitment to quality. Coates explained the importance of the training as districts within USACE are working together across the nation with more frequency.

“You are seeing more and more regionally blended teams so it’s difficult to work together as a team if one district has one way of doing things, and we have a different way,” said Coates.

Pushing the envelope

While the PDBP training is enterprise-wide, the Kansas City District has taken its commitment to quality one step further and developed a Business Quality Procedure, or BQP, training, which supplements the PDBP training. What makes the BQP training unique are the BQPs themselves.

The Kansas City District has developed over 40 different BQPs which are documents that outline the steps required to complete a project. The district saw a need to standardize its procedures to ensure its projects are completed in a consistent manner every time. As a result, the Kansas City District has led the charge of BQPs across USACE.

“We share [our BQPs] with others and [USACE Headquarters] has some BQPs, too … a lot of those are rooted in some of the ones that the Kansas City District initially developed,” said Coates.

The BQP training focuses on seven of the Kansas City District’s BQPs, including project management plans, management responsibility and review, acquisition strategy for projects and lessons learned and after-action review. Each BQP outlines the exact steps that need to be taken to deliver a project from start to finish, ensuring a quality product every single time. 

“[The Kansas City District has] been recognized for a long time as on the leading front. Are we the experts? No. We learn from others, too, but we’ve certainly been pushing the envelope,” said Coates.

Certified in excellence

Fewer than a dozen districts across the entire USACE organization have an International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, certification; the Kansas City District is among the few that do. For over 20 years, the district’s leadership has invested heavily in its reputation as a reliable partner by obtaining, and maintaining, an ISO 9001 Quality Management Certification.

The district’s program management, engineering and construction divisions are all ISO 9001 Quality Management Certified. The ISO certification is a framework for how an organization can build a quality management system. The Kansas City District built their quality management system with its BQPs as the blueprint.

“While having achieved certification of our quality management system can represent an admirable milestone, it is only a static observation in time,” said Blaine Stevens, Kansas City District quality manager. 

The ISO 9001 Quality Management Certification is valid for three years and must be renewed to remain current. This is done through an annual audit by an internationally recognized third party organization. Certification is not guaranteed; an organization must show that they are committed to establishing and maintaining a quality management system that meets international standards.

“What really matters is the extent to which our quality management system consistently adds value and mitigates risks to the effective execution of our mission, which is superior project delivery and customer satisfaction,” said Stevens.

Organizations that have an ISO certification are among the best of the best when it comes to delivering quality projects and products. With its ISO certification and recommitment to quality through district-wide training, the Kansas City District continues to maintain its reputation as a trusted partner throughout the USACE enterprise and beyond.

“I’ve seen the value of having a certified quality management system … it helps to mitigate risk,” said Stevens. “You can reward a system that is good at fighting fires, or you can reward a system that’s good at avoiding fires. Which one do you want?”