Posted by: magnussonllc | November 20, 2010

Logical Framework Approach Planning for Projects

In practice, even the best project managers can find it difficult to plan major projects without missing important activities, and without failing to spot all significant risks and issues. What’s more, once you’re immersed in the detail of project planning, it’s hard to keep site of the big picture: What are you trying to achieve and why? What are the risks and assumptions? And how you can tell whether the project is a success once it’s implemented?

The Logical Framework Approach is a useful technique for helping you do these things, thereby making your projects more robust and coherent – and more successful. The Logical Framework Approach (LFA) was developed in the 1970s as a tool for strategic planning, using the ideas of Management by Objectives. It’s a tool of choice used by development agencies and in the international donor community.

Large aid organizations throughout the world use the LFA for planning, approving, evaluating and monitoring their projects. That said, this is a powerful and useful technique, and is one that richly deserves much wider application than in international development alone.

The Logical Framework Approach and the Logframe

 The Logical Framework Approach elegantly weaves together top-down and bottom-up approaches to project management. It brings together the classical, top-down, “waterfall approach” for identifying the activities in a project, with a rigorous bottom-up checking process to make sure that these activity lists are comprehensive. It then reinforces this with a rigorous risks and assumptions analysis, which is again thoroughly checked. And it concludes by identifying the controls needed to monitor and manage the project through to successful conclusion. It does this within the framework of the Logframe Matrix, shown in figure 1 below.

This cross-references seven key areas of the project to ensure that the key questions are asked:

Goal – what results do we expect?

Purpose – why are we doing this?

Outputs – what are the deliverables?

Activities – what will we do to deliver the outputs?

Indicators of Achievement – how will we know we’ve been successful?

Means of Verification – how will we check our reported results?

Risks and Assumptions – what assumptions underlie the structure of our project and what is the risk they will not prevail?

 The answers to these questions are put into a Logical Framework Matrix (Logframe) and become the output of the Logical Framework Analysis exercise. The Logframe is a four by four matrix, shown below:

Figure 1: The Logframe Matrix Logframe Matrix

Logframe Matrix
Project Summary Indicators of
Achievement
Means of
Verification
Important Risks
and Assumptions
Goal:      
Purpose:      
Outputs:      
Activities:      

The process has significant value for any size of project. It helps identify the big picture and allows you to see how other items cascade down from it. As well, it helps flesh out the core assumptions that are used in the project development process.

Using a Logframe

Carry out the following steps in consultation with your stakeholders, after you’ve completed a thorough analysis of the situation. By involving stakeholders, you’ll end up with a much more robust analysis of the project than you would on your own.

Step 1: Identifying Outputs and Activities (Project Summary, Column 1):

The first step is to brainstorm the outputs and activities required by the project, starting with the project goal. Do this in the Project Summary column (column 1) of the Logframe. Start by defining the Goal and Purpose of the project and, from these, identify the outputs and the activities required:

  • Goal: What is the “to be” state of the project? What are you trying to achieve?
  • Purpose: What good will you do by achieving the goal? Who are the beneficiaries? What is the underlying motivation for starting the project in the first place?
  • Outputs: What specific things will be delivered as a result of this project? In order for the project to be considered a success, what changes must be made, and what will the result be?
  • Activities: What will actually be done in order to deliver the intended outputs? The Logframe is not intended as an implementation guide, so this section is typically presented in bullet point form.

Tip: Don’t underestimate the amount of time and work needed to complete this process properly! Manage people’s expectations on this, and keep them focused on the task in hand. If people lose focus, you’ll miss important activities, false assumptions, and risks.

Step 2: Verify the Vertical Logic

Next, we take a bottom-up approach to checking that this list of activities will deliver the desired results – after all, it’s possible that activities have been missed, or that the actual results of these activities may not be the ones wanted. This checking process is an important part of making sure that your project plan is robust. Column one shows a hierarchy of objectives, so it is important to check that actions identified deliver the results wanted. Check the logic in column one by using an if/then test as follows.

Starting with your activities, ensure that:

  • IF you complete the activity, THEN the outputs will occur. You want to make sure your activities and outputs are directly linked.
  • IF your outputs are achieved, THEN the purpose of your project will be satisfied. Are the planned outputs closely tied to your purpose? Make sure the beneficiaries you identified in your purpose actually receive the beneficial outcome desired.
  • IF your purpose is satisfied, THEN the goal of the project is achieved. Examine your purpose and goal to make sure that the purpose fully incorporates the intent within the goal.

If, in this step, you find that activities and outputs are missing or are wrong, add or adjust them appropriately. And bear in mind that if you identify issues with elements higher up in this hierarchy, you’ll need to go back to Step 1 and identify appropriate outcomes and activities for those elements.

Step 3: Identify the Risks and Assumptions of your plan (Column 4)

We now cross over to the other side of the Logframe to identify risks associated with the project, and possible false assumptions that may undermine it. There are any number of external factors that can throw projects off course. In the planning and design phase, it is prudent to identify the major assumptions you’ve used and the degree or risk associated with them. For each of the points in the project’s structure (Column 1), identify the assumptions you’re making (which may or may not be correct), and look at the associated risks.

To define your assumptions, ask “What actions or variables must exist for the project to start and proceed as planned?” Start at the bottom and work up.

  • Activity Assumptions: What do you need to happen for your activities to be completed successfully? And what conditions and resources are you assuming will be in place?
  • Output Assumptions: What factors outside of your control must be present to achieve the outputs you need?
  • Purpose Assumptions: To achieve the purpose, what external factors do you need to have in place?
  • Goal Assumptions: What are the necessary conditions for long-term viability of the project goal?

Clarify these assumptions with stakeholders immediately, if you can. If you can’t, make sure you have early activities in place within your project plan to confirm that your assumptions are correct. Next, repeat this process looking at risks (see our article on Risk Analysis.) Make sure you plan in all of the activities needed to manage or eliminate risk, and if risk can neither be managed or eliminated, make sure that it’s clearly identified so that it can be evaluated in the next step.

Step 4: Verify the Logic of the Risks and Assumptions

Once you have identified assumptions and risks, you need to check them to determine:

  • Whether your assumptions will link one level of the project to the next;
  • and Whether risks are too large.

First of all, check that your assumptions are logical using an if/and/then analysis. Start at the bottom and work up to ensure:

  • IF the activity is completed successfully, AND the assumptions underlying it are true, THEN the output will be delivered.
  • IF the output is delivered, AND the assumptions underlying it are true, THEN the purpose will be achieved.
  • IF the purpose is achieved, AND the assumptions underlying it are true, THEN the goal will be achieved.

Then, check some additional points related to your risk and assumption analysis:

  • Make sure you have identified as many assumptions and risks as possible. Have you talked to everyone involved? Have you looked at the project from all angles?
  • Make sure your assumptions are stated specifically and are not too vague. You can’t assess risk accurately if you are working with generalities.
  • Do you have plans at each level to manage the risks you have identified?
  • If the risks you’re not able to manage are too high, consider redesigning the project or, if you still can’t reduce these to sensible levels, reconsider the project’s viability.

Again, where this process exposes issues with your Logframe, update it appropriately.

Step 5: Determine the Indicators of Achievement and Means of Verification

When you are satisfied with the structure of the Logframe so far, and are comfortable that you can manage the risks related to your assumptions, you can move on to think about how you will monitor progress towards success. Performance indicators are the specific measures used to monitor this progress. Here are the criteria for a good indicator of achievement:

  • Valid – it must measure the intended result.
  • Reliable – the measure must be consistently attained over time.
  • Sensitive – the measure should respond to changes, and should sufficiently-quickly identify if things are going wrong.
  • Simple – the measure should be easy to collect or perform.
  • Useful – it must help with decision making or provide information for future learning.
  • Affordable – you need to be able to afford the financial and time costs involved in taking the measurement on a regular basis.

Using these criteria, for each goal, purpose, output and activity, indicate what will be used to determine whether it was successfully achieved. Also note who will be responsible for setting these targets. Then indicate exactly how you will verify that achievement. What sources of data will you use? How will you collect the data? How often?

Make sure that appropriate activities are in place within your plan to set up and manage these monitoring systems. Click here for an example Logframe.

The Logical Framework Approach is a great technique for making sure that your project plan is robust and coherent. By using it, you significantly increase the likelihood that your project will be successful.

Firstly, it provides a useful framework for working through the design of your project with key stakeholders, making sure that you can take full advantage of their knowledge, insights and experience.

Secondly, it provides a useful process for testing and checking your project plan, making sure that it contains all the necessary activities, is based on sound assumptions, and fairly weighs and manages the risks inherent within the project.

Thirdly, it helps you ensure that appropriate control measures are embedded within the project, meaning that you can quickly identify where things are going wrong, and take appropriate corrective action

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Responses

  1. what really framework does


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