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and development. This decision is made in the project review session at the end of this phase, and the whole phase activity is focused on gathering "actionable" information for a go or no-go decision in project review.

Controlling premature product lock-in

Before we discuss the concept definition phase it is important to focus on what is actually managed in this phase. In addition to the normal controls on time (schedule), cost and resource, and quality issues, the major challenge to project management is to avoid locking into a product design before options and impacts are explored. The purpose of this phase is not to pin down the exact specifications and design for a product, but rather to explore its performance requirements and business promise. Management must work hard, especially in technical and engineering processes, to keep options open and to offset the tendency of engineers and technical staff to lock in on a design too early. When product design begins before a thorough review of customer needs and requirements and alternative solutions is completed, product development often fails in the end.

The way project management avoids this premature lock-in is to frame this phase in terms of options and alternatives, e.g., solutions. Project outcomes should be seen here as performance outcomes, e.g., to meet a customer's need for a mobile communication system, not to design and produce a specific mobile radio product. Product concept is defined in terms of picturing a customer need and exploring alternative solutions.

Concept Definition Phase

The concept phase includes the process shown in Figure 4-1.

Schedule Template

Concept definition is an uncertain process, but it is important to start with a generic new product concept model as the basis for planning and scheduling. In project management terms, this is called a process work breakdown structure—a process model that controls the work and assures all the steps in good product concept definition are followed. The process template for a typical new (consumer) product development project might look similar to Table 4-1.

Note that several tasks are going on concurrently, and as the product functional specification is set, another set of tasks proceeds in parallel. The secret to faster, cheaper, and better new products is the management and scheduling of product development as a dynamic, interactive process. The estimates of task durations are made by the project manager using past project experience plus the insights of those who will do the work. The focus in this phase is starting dates,

Figure 4-1 Product concept phase.

not task durations. This means, for instance, that the project value assessment (ID 3 in Table 4-1) is estimated to take five days based on past experience, but the task manager is expected to get it done as soon as possible. Durations are not seen as the authorized window for the work; they are seen as outside estimates.

TABLE 4-1 Concept Process Schedule
Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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