Logical framework analysis is a powerful participatory tool in planning capacity development projects. The output of this analysis is the log frame matrix. This document integrates two logics. An understanding of both is important for a proper use of the tool and preparing the log frame matrix. What are these two logics?
The primary logic is the vertical one. This demonstrates the expected value delivery chain: The required inputs, if applied correctly, will lead to the necessary activities; those activities, if managed properly, will produce the intended outputs; the outputs will, given the right conditions, create the anticipated outcomes; finally, the outcomes will, given other variable and in the longer run, contribute to certain impacts. This logic is referred to as primary because the primary objective of any project is to deliver value.
The secondary logic is the horizontal one: Each stage in the vertical value chain will lead to the next stage only if certain risks/assumptions are properly managed. For example, take a road construction project close to wildlife habitats. All necessary inputs such as materials, labour, land, and government approval may be available. However, if the risk of environmental lobby groups preventing the construction of the road is not effectively managed, the road (planned output) may not materialise. Hence, this logic is no less important than the primary logic, even though it may be referred to as the secondary logic.
As many be seen from above, a log frame has many elements: The elements in the vertical logic, the risks in the horizontal logic, as well as other elements such as success indicators, and means of verification. The question that arises is, "Which is the starting element when conducting a logical framework analysis?" To answer this question, we need to understand the primary responsibility of the project manager.
His primary responsibility is to deliver a value that positively affects the lives of the beneficiaries and is yet significantly within his influence to create. Producing outputs is creating value, but outputs per se do not necessarily affect the lives of the beneficiaries unless they actually make use of them. For example, community toilets may be built in villages areas to improve hygiene and protect privacy of women, but if they are not used by beneficiaries for any reason, their lives will not be positively affected. On the other hand, impact level value has wide-ranging effects on beneficiaries and others. However, the nature and number of intervening variables between an outcome and the subsequent impacts are such that the project manager cannot reasonably be expected to influence them in any significant way.
Thus the optimal value level that a project manager should be responsible for are the outcomes. Outcomes actually affect the beneficiaries ‘lives in a meaningful way, and at the same time are within the influence of the project manager to deliver if he manages the corresponding risks properly. That is why in log frame templates, the outcome is sometimes termed the project´s "purpose". This understanding helps us decide which value level should come first in a logical framework analysis: output, outcome, or impact?
A fundamental principle of strategic thinking is to begin with the end in mind first. Since the project manager´s ultimate responsibility is to deliver the desired outcome, the logical framework analysis should start with a clear definition of the desired outcome. With that as the starting point, the project plan can plot other elements in the vertical value chain and the horizontal logic.