Why project management? Phase-thinking

Project management starts helping in business right from the inception of an idea.

That’s because from the very moment an idea comes into being there is a structure that can be applied. That structure helps build an idea from a mere collection of neural interactions to something that can be planned and delivered.

The overall process for any project is show below:
Fig20- Project Phases

Each yellow box is known as a phase and in projects there are four as shown above.

Project phases

The phased approach to projects means that specific things are done at specific times. This type of order helps to focus decision-making which helps minimise risk to the project (and business).


The concept phase deals with the wishy-washy nugget of an idea and develops it into something tangible. In this phase the idea is assessed to see whether it aligns with the aims of the business and determines what will need to be provided by the business for the project to succeed. The key part is to determine what the idea is expected to provide, i.e. ‘the scope’ of the idea. The final part of this phase is the production of some kind of assessment, typically this is a business case which records why the idea is, or isn’t, viable to pursue. The concept phase is completed once the assessment is reviewed. The review will either approve the idea to turn it into a project, or it will pause or cancel the idea because it is deemed not to be viable at the time of assessment.


The definition phase is where the plan comes together. I love it when a plan comes together.
In this phase the assessed idea is developed further and turned into a real project. The key aspects here include the compilation of a list of requirements for the project (i.e. things that the project must fulfill for it to be deemed a success – a more detailed version of the scope from the concept phase) and a plan that allows everyone involved to know what they need to do, when, why, with what and how. The phase ends with the review of the plan. The review will either approve, or yes, you guessed it, pause or cancel the project. If the project is not deemed viable (it may look like it could cost too much, or take too long, or not align with availability of key people) then it is a wise call to pause the project.


Once the project is approved and a plan has been shared with all people involved then work can start in earnest. The actual content of the project will vary from one project to the next, but typically the projects can be described in terms of the types shown below.

Fig30- Project Types

Some projects will span many project types (i.e. start with research and development and finish at manufacture). Some aspects of the same project will be carried out by different organisations to suit their speciality (i.e. one firm does the design, while another manufactures it). The thing to recognise is that there are different project types, and with that comes different starting points for each type and different finishing results. Here’s a superfast summary:

Research and Development

Start with a problem to investigate. Finish with a proposed answer to the problem.


Start with a requirement. Finish with a proposed solution to that requirement (a design). The input from research and development can help with the proposed solution.


Start with a design. Finish with a manufactured item (or items). Manufacture includes things made by hand, by hand and tools, and by machine.


Start with manufactured parts. Finish with deployed parts fulfilling their design intent.


Start with existing design and re-assess in line with new needs. Finish with improved solution.


Start with existing product. Finish with a ‘clean slate’.


Every project finishes. The handover phase is used to finish properly. The key aspect here is to ensure that the project actually fulfilled its agreed expectations that were derived back in the concept and definition phases. If a project doesn’t fulfill needs then the project is not necessary.

Nuggets for learning

Building any idea incrementally means that it can have more chance of success. The human mind can be distracted quite quickly and so focusing on specific things in specific phases means that distraction can be beaten. Also, by incrementally building from an idea into a project it means that everyone who needs to be involved can be identified early and in turn they can be shown how they fit into the project. When everyone knows where and when they fit into the project they can manage their own time accordingly and contribute their skills appropriately.


Nuggets for projects

The aim of the game with projects is to ensure that the scope is done as quickly, cheaply and adequately as possible. That needs to be balanced against the constraints of time, resources, money and risk. You can see that the project phases incrementally increase certainty and minimise risk by building the idea into a project – rather than just starting immediately with whatever someone had in their head as something to do. Compare the status of your projects to the project phases and project types in the blog. Were there unanswered questions at each phase. Were the phases used? Do you think they would help?

idea 2

Nuggets for business

Consider where your projects are in terms of the project phases and the type of projects you have.
Have each of your projects been deemed viable?
Do you know where they are in terms of being in concept, definition, delivery or handover?
Does the ‘project phase’ and ‘project type’ perspective help you to understand where your projects fit in with your client needs? Does it suggest new ways in which you could use the abilities of your business to help clients with new projects?


If you have any questions or comments please either comment on this blog post or e-mail: hello@preparedbyfornix.com

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