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Take Control of Your Project With Phase One – Concept and Feasibility – Part 1
By Mark L. Reed

We already discussed the difference between a “Business” Lifecycle and a “Project Management” lifecycle and working with the theory that every project is a project within another project; the only project we are responsible and accountable for is our assigned piece of the bigger project. This piece/project is now your number one priority.

We know there are four phases to the project management lifecycle:

  • Phase One – Concept/Feasibility
  • Phase Two – Organization/Schedule
  • Phase Three – Execution
  • Phase Four – Review/Audit

When your boss calls you into the office and tells you that you have six months and one million dollars to do this and that, you really need to make sure you can do it, before agreeing to succeed.

This is where Phase One – Concept/Feasibility begins your Project Management Lifecycle and sets you up to succeed; and if your piece succeeds, then you have done all you possibly can towards the success of the bigger project.

Let’s review the tasks in Phase One – Concept/Feasibility

  • Project Customer Definition
  • Functional Team Review
  • Kick-off Meeting
  • Communication Plan
  • Objective Definition
  • Project Definition Document
  • Project Management Plan
  • Project Team Time and Cost Estimates +/- 50%
  • Agreement to Proceed with Project Customer

This month we will discuss the first five of the tasks, starting with:

Project Customer Definition

Who is my Project Customer? Get that answered and you will have the Chain of Agreement established and increased your chance of success by 90%.

Odds are you may find out that the organizational politics have driven the time and cost of the project, and the objectives are only visionary and without much detail.

When you and your functional team members define the objectives as you understand them, and then calculate time and cost based on the team’s subject matter expertise, more often than not, there will be a discrepancy that needs to be discussed and understood by the senior level management teams and committees.

We all know there needs to be a little statesman in every Project Manager, but bringing time, cost and objective changes and issues to the most senior of the management should be left to the highly paid professional politicians, and in our case, this is our Project Customer.

Remember, the Project Customer owns your project; you own the work that you agree you and your team can do.

Functional Team Review

As you share team members with other projects, full well knowing you do not have any real formal authority (the ability to fire and bribe) over them, it is imperative that you spend the time necessary with each assigned person on your team in order to get yourself a warm and fuzzy that the individual will follow-though with any assigned tasks.

To be a productive team member, each person needs to have the necessary available time required from them by your project, along with the drive, desire, skills and subject matter expertise.

Meet with everyone on your team prior to any commitment making, if just to get to know them a bit and if your project is virtual, at least pick up a phone and call them. Leaving this very important component of project management to an e-mail introduction is asking for trouble.

The time you spend up front with the individual team members will come back ten-fold during the execution phase, when you need them the most.

Kick-off Meeting

A kick-off meeting is where you can finally discuss what you know (or think you know) about your project with any and all stakeholders of your project.

Invite your Project Customer, team members, boss and anyone else that you can think of that can contribute to the understanding and definition of your project.

A kick-off meeting also establishes you as the Project Manager and allows you to establish the “Chain of Agreement” of your project as this is the perfect time for any misunderstandings (which will lead to understandings) of the roles and responsibilities of everyone going forward.

Whenever possible this meeting must be one-on-one, so reserve a conference room and make a presentation. If the project is virtual, then a conference call is in order, but just sending a slide pack and hoping everyone interprets it the same way, is woefully inadequate.

You want everyone to be participating and asking questions so that openness and clarity rule the project. The kick-off meeting is the moment group communication really begins.

Communication Plan

How everyone involved in your project is going to communicate with you, and each other, needs to be established right up front in the beginning of your project.

A published communication plan on how you expect everyone to communicate should be presented at the kick-off meeting and then carried throughout the project.

Poor communication is the number one reason that projects fail, so getting it all on paper up front allows the discussion and negotiation necessary for open communication.

Objective Definition

How can you bring time and cost estimates back to your Project Customer if the objectives have not been defined (and agreed-to) by all involved? You can’t!

Your job as Project Manager is to manage the process of objective definition, presentation and agreement. To accomplish this, you and your Project Customer have to be on the same page with the objectives.

If objective definition with your Project Customer is not possible, then ask your team what they think the objectives mean, as seen within their areas of expertise. Then build a presentation and take it back to your Project Customer for agreement.

In Conclusion…

Next we will discuss the final four tasks of Phase One – Concept/Feasibility and re-establish the absolute need for agreement between you and your Project Customer before proceeding into the detailed planning.

Mark Reed, Project Management expert, Executive Consultant and President of Mark Reed Project Management, Inc. has brought his unique “Project Management… by the Numbers” methodology from his ProSess International division, to companies in 45 countries. Mark’s dynamic style, humor and extensive 20+ years experience in project management execution and training provides companies with a strong practical approach and innovative techniques for delivering over-the-top results. Mark Reed’s “… by the Numbers” program is a lifesaver for struggling project managers and their frustrated CEOs. His innovative techniques and fast-pasted, value-rich seminars have helped his clients achieve timely and cost effective programs and satisfied customers worldwide. Consultant /Trainer Mark Reed is also available for private consulting. For a free newsletter with project management tips or more information, visit, e-mail to or contact their headquarters at +1 206-251-9910.

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