Applying Rapid Appraisal & Problem Analysis

Diagramming for a Project Pre-Feasibility

Assessment: A Case Example



By Dr. Kenneth Smith, PMP

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines

The Project ‘Life Cycle’ is a common Project Management concept, but there is no universal standard of what it exactly consists. Nevertheless, while institutions may differ and even quibble over the number, nomenclature and content of its Phasesfor want of a more generic descriptive terma common initial step during whatever you call the first Phase of your Cycle is what I’ll refer to here as a Pre-feasibility Assessment.[1]

A Pre-feasibility assessment is essential to avoid premature programming, because – as the World Bank succinctly states – “some project ideas never make it past the early phase of identification; while others are reworked during the preparation and appraisal phases, and end up looking quite different from their original design.”

Pre-feasibility assessments and Feasibility studies take many different forms, depending on the resources available and urgency of the situation, but are usually quite limited in duration.[2]  Somewhat analogous to a Grand Jury in a criminal case, the process & purpose of a pre-feasibility assessment is simply to visit the proposed project site; meet and discuss felt needs with some target beneficiaries and other stakeholders, and take a quick ‘walk-about’ to observe & determine whether a more substantive study would be justified – technically and otherwise.

However, whatever its composition, duration, and extent, an ADBProblem Analysis Diagram’ (PAD)[3] is a very useful graphic tool & technique for summarizing the pre-feasibility team’s cause-effect and outcome findings & assumptions; as well as effectively visually communicating its conclusions to key stakeholders.[4]  Together with observations & any other issues for resolution, the PAD is the basis for a managerial Go/No Go decision to invest technical resources in a more comprehensive Feasibility Study.

If/when approved, the feasibility study will clarify — and where necessary correct — any pre-feasibility findings and issues; undertake detailed technical feasibility analysis; identify risks & assumptions, then recommend a project scope, components, deliverables and a preliminary estimated budget for management approval; prior to proceeding to the next Phase in the Project Cycle for project planning & detailed design.

Unable to sit still for long in my retirement chair, I recently donned my campaign hat and participated in a potential Development Project Pre-feasibility assessment.  So rather than just talking about them in the abstract, I thought it might be instructive to ‘Show & Tell’ how at-least one such assessment was conducted, and the PAD developed


On 16 December 2021, Super Typhoon Odette brought torrential rains, violent winds, storm surges, landslides and unprecedented flooding — wreaking destruction & devastation on infrastructure and personal property, as well as disorder & despair to the people living on the island of Palawan; before it exited the Philippines.


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How to cite this work: Smith, K. F. (2023). BACK TO THE BARANGAY – Applying Rapid Appraisal & Problem Analysis Diagramming for a Project Pre-Feasibility Assessment: A Case Example, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue V, May. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/pmwj129-May2023-Smith-Back-to-the-Barangay-case-study-2.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Smith

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines


Initially a US Civil Service Management Intern, then a management analyst & systems specialist with the US Defense Department, Ken subsequently had a career as a senior foreign service officer — management & evaluation specialist, project manager, and in-house facilitator/trainer — with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  Ken assisted host country governments in many countries to plan, monitor and evaluate projects in various technical sectors; working ‘hands-on’ with their officers as well as other USAID personnel, contractors and NGOs.  Intermittently, he was also a team leader &/or team member to conduct project, program & and country-level portfolio analyses and evaluations.

Concurrently, Ken had an active dual career as Air Force ready-reservist in Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines) as well as the Washington D.C. area; was Chairman of a Congressional Services Academy Advisory Board (SAAB); and had additional duties as an Air Force Academy Liaison Officer.  He retired as a ‘bird’ colonel.

After retirement from USAID, Ken was a project management consultant for ADB, the World Bank, UNDP and USAID.

He earned his DPA (Doctor of Public Administration) from the George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia, his MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Systems Analysis Fellow, Center for Advanced Engineering Study), and BA & MA degrees in Government & International Relations from the University of Connecticut (UCONN).  A long-time member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and IPMA-USA, Ken is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and a member of the PMI®-Honolulu and Philippines Chapters.

Ken’s book — Project Management PRAXIS (available from Amazon) — includes many innovative project management tools & techniques; and describes a “Toolkit” of related templates available directly from him at kenfsmith@aol.com on proof of purchase of PRAXIS.

To view other works by Ken Smith, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-kenneth-smith/

[1] The term Pre-feasibility assessment is usually for infrastructure projects. I’ve also encountered this step described as Rapid Reconnaissance,’ ‘Rapid Appraisal,’ or ‘Ground Truthing.’  The Asian Development Bank (ADB) calls the process a ‘Reconnaissance & Fact-Finding Mission.’
[2] Indeed, a wry comment by George Laudato — a former US Agency for International Development (USAID) colleague and program officer — when assigned to USAID’s Egyptian Mission in Cairo in 1998 was “We don’t do feasibility studies.  If it’s in the plan, we do it.  If it’s not in the plan, we don’t do it!” [I worked with George when I first went to the Philippines in the 1970’s.]
[3] Also known as a USAID “Problem-Solution-Results Tree.
[4] For a more comprehensive understanding of ADB’s Problem Analysis Diagram, See: “GUIDELINES FOR PREPARING AND USING A DESIGN AND MONITORING FRAMEWORK,” Asian Development Bank, pp. 27-30, October 2020