Well serious for me was wearing shoes to my friend’s wedding so we’ll see how we go.


To first distinguish between the two words we need to establish their individual contextual definitions.  This article has been based upon the context of project management and I have used examples of grade and quality from different industries.  It’s easier just to focus on your industry.  If it’s not there let me know and I will add an example of grade and quality from your industry.


In the context of project management grade, the 5th edition of the PMBOK defines grade as:

“the category assigned to products or services having the same functional use but different technical characteristics.”

So if you look at this definition it’s basically classifies a good or service based upon it’s inherent functionality, characteristics, attributes etc.  In this example a product would have higher grade than another if it possessed higher technical characteristics.

Practically this could translate into the following:

Within Information Technology

You see this quite often within the IT environment with different versions;  a free version and a premium.

IT example of quality


So here the software is being differentiated on grade and we can infer that the premium software is of higher grade.

Within Construction

There are endless examples to draw upon within construction.  Initially grade is used to differentiate building products.  Easy example would be the grade of treatment for wood.  When selecting timber you can use the “H” codes, essentially the higher the H grade the more protection it provides against hazards- here we talk about decay and pests.

Hazard Level Biological Hazard
H1 Lyctid Borer
H2 Borers and termites
H3 Moderate decay, borers and termites
H4 Severe decay, borers and termites
H5 Very severe decay, borers and termites
H6 Marine wood borers and decay

Table adapted from http://www.timber.net.au/index.php/treated-timber.html

So in terms of hazard protection H6 is of higher grade than H1 treated timber.

Concrete is the same, along with steel, glass and practically any building material you can imagine. They are all assigned different grades.

Within Agriculture

An overwhelming amount of examples can be drawn from agriculture.  The most obvious is the grading of food, look up food grades.  Eggs are graded based upon weight.  The heavier the egg the higher the grade.

Land can also be graded in reference to the type of agricultural venture being pursued; in this case grade is used as a measure of ease and success.  Many governments classify agricultural zoning based upon the grade of the land.  For example in very fertile soils- translated into high grade land for certain crop production, the government may classify the land for crops, less fertile soils classified for animal production etc.

Within Mining

In Western Australia Iron ore is a well discussed topic, even for those not in the mining industry.  Practically everything extracted in the mining process is graded.  Iron ore is graded largely based around the Iron content of the ore.  I’m a chemist in background so I’m not going to go into the chemical composition differences between hematite, magnetite, goethite, limonite and siderite, nor am I going to make any “tight” jokes as this is the serious version.

In effect a high Iron content (correct me here Geo’s) in excess of ~60% may be considered high grade ore.  As the iron content decreases the grade of the ore follows.

If you would like an example of grade within your context let me know in the comments below and I will be happy to add.

So that’s grade can is based upon the level of specific attributes of the product or service.  Grade can be determined by inspecting the product or service and comparing the characteristics against another product intended for similar functional use.


The definition of quality from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils the requirements.” (ISO 9000).  Now we are introducing a new variable and that is fulfils the requirements.  The question is whose requirements: the client’s, end users’, the sponsor’s, steering committees’, the board members, the publics?

Well all in fact and for each of these stakeholders quality may be totally different.  Whilst each may be assessing the same product (i.e. the grade does not change) each may have a different interpretation of quality.  That interpretation is based upon the degree to which the product meets their individual requirements.

So whilst grade is an assessment of features and functionality, quality is the consideration of how these functions translate into benefits.

In the context of the examples I used earlier:

Information technology

The lower grade or sometimes “free version” of software may actually represent higher quality for a consumer.  This assessment is made based upon the value of the additional benefits.  In the case below if a user only required the last two features; the free solution could be considered higher quality once price had been brought into the equation.

IT example of quality


H2 grade timber may be considered higher quality than H6 if it were going to be frame an internal stud wall.  However if you were to build a marine structure such as a pier choosing H6 would represent higher quality.


H6 Grade Timber- used in Marine Construction


H2 Grade Timber Mainly used in Indoor Constuction



Eggs were the example I used so I’ll stick with it.  Choosing the highest grade eggs may not be the best choice from a quality perspective.  Remember in this context higher grade means greater weight.  I’m no master chef but by choosing super large eggs you could actually throw the proportions of your recipe out.


Lower grade ore has been used in steel production and still is.  Although the additional effort required in enrichment must be considered, for some nations the ease of access makes lower grade ore a high quality consideration.  India is a great example of a nation which is using lower grade ore due to the cost advantage and ease of access.  In this case the lower grade ore is representative of higher quality.

In my context right now

I have been asked by a client to develop a bookings management system to streamline their workflow.  At this stage the scope is fairly broad and ill defined.  There are two ways I could go about defining the scope for this project.

The first is to start with grade.  I can increase the grade of the program by adding functionality.  With this logic the more functions I add the higher the grade of the product.

Alternatively I could define the scope by increasing the quality.  That is I could ask the client “what do you want to use it for, what functionality do you need, etc…

I find that often within projects we take the wrong approach, we start by trying to define the grade rather than defining the quality.

In conclusion; remember it is completely acceptable to produce a low grade product as long as it represents high quality, but it is less acceptable to produce a high grade product with low quality.

Which approach do you use to define the scope of your project? Define by grade or define by quality?

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