Tag Archives: planning

The Logical Framework

Have you ever executed a plan, only to find that you did not accomplish your original goal?

The Logical Framework is a tool that will help ensure that the plan you execute causes you to deliver the outcomes needed to achieve the purpose you want that means you accomplish the goal you desire. The idea is that you link the things you do directly to the desired goal through a logical thought process.

In the Logical Framework you define success measures, verification method and assumptions behind each of the planned actions (the model calls these “Inputs“), “Outcomes” of executing the plan, the “Purpose” behind wanting those outcomes, and the end “Goal” you want to achieve.

The core of the Logical Framework is the “temporal logic model” that runs through the matrix. This takes the form of a series of connected propositions:

  • If these Inputs are implemented, and these Assumptions hold, then these Outcomes will be delivered.
  • If these Outcomes are delivered, and these Assumptions hold, then this Purpose will be achieved.
  • If this Purpose is achieved, and these Assumptions hold, then this Goal will be achieved.

This tool was developed by the US Aid government department to ensure that the ultimate outcomes of delivering humanitarian aid to a country were achieved as a result of the aid program. Basically, this is a reinforced outcome based approach to project planning.

For all of the detail, have a look at the following:

The Logical Framework, A Manager’s Guide


Overseeing Implementation Of Strategies

Over the last 2 months I’ve received the national plans or national objectives from 70 different countries for our organization, along with plans from 11 regional leadership teams. This is a record for us. So, what next?

These plans vary from a summary of the philosophy of their work, to short list of objectives, through lists of key action items, to comprehensive lists of key actions with dates, resources and finances allocated. However, the important thing is not the plan, but the execution of the plan.

So, if you are a leader, how are you going to ensure that the plan gets executed?

Different teams are taking different approaches, for example:

  • Some teams have taken a “4 Disciplines of Execution” approach, with weekly reviews of lead measurements, lag measurements, and actions.
  • Other teams are holding bi-weekly reviews of progress towards targets.
  • Other teams plan to hold monthly reviews of completion of actions, and progress towards goals.
  • Other teams will review widely accessible dashboards.

The important thing is that progress is being monitored, and if insufficient progress is being made, that corrective action is taken. A long time ago I shared that I thought the hardest question that a leader can ask someone who is working with them is: Show me that you are making the most effective progress towards your goal. The implications of this being asked by a leader are that the leader will listen to an answer from time to time to see this “most effective progress”.

So, have you:

  • allocated regular time in your calendar to review progress against the plan in the coming year;
  • made this the priority in your calendar so that it does not get usurped by the urgent;
  • figured out how you are going to do this when you are travelling or otherwise away from your normal routine;
  • made sure that the team executing the plan has allocated time to review its progress with you over the coming year?

What’s the Point of a SWOT Analysis?

We’ve all completed SWOT analyses in our time. But why?

Well, the idea is that the strategic plan is actually affected by what the SWOT analysis uncovers. It’s really simple. I’ve read a lot of plans that include a SWOT analysis that highlight all sorts of interesting looking opportunities and threats, and then the strategy seems to completely ignore them.

The idea of the SWOT analysis is that it identifies:

  • Strengths – that the strategic plan then builds upon in an identifiable way.
  • Weaknesses – that the strategic plan then corrects or circumvents in an identifiable way.
  • Opportunities – that the strategic plan recognizes in an identifiable way, and then shows upon how they are capitalized.
  • Threats – that the strategic plan circumvents or mitigates in a recognizable manner.

Let’s look a couple of examples.

  1. If the SWOT analysis identifies that “lack of staff”  is a major weakness, then the strategic plan should include a line item that makes direct reference to how staff will be recruited, or how additional staff are not needed. I would certainly expect there to be a direct reference to the word “staff” and it’s level in the plan.
  2. If the SWOT analysis shows that an upcoming conference is a major opportunity, then the strategic plan should refer to that conference by name, and explain (albeit in one or two sentences possibly) how that conference would be used to achieve the maximum amount of progress towards the goal of the organization.

If a SWOT analysis is not directly used to influence the strategic plan, then don’t waste the time to generate it. Instead of having a one hour brainstorming meeting of your 6 most valuable team members, have them go do something else that will directly contribute to the goal of the organization – you’ll be 6 man hours of good stewardship ahead. However, if you use those 6 man hours to identify ways to create thousands of man hours move value, and you actually do something with those ideas then you will be leading strategically.

Keeping The Strategy Simple

I received a strategy plan by e-mail today from a colleague who I met last year. The plan is for the next 12 months. I like what I see. The reasons that I like what I see in this plan are:

  • It all starts with the Vision of what we are trying to achieve as an organization.
  • It has one objective for the team of 5 people – to make a clearly defined amount of progress directly towards the Vision in the time-frame of the plan.
  • The objective looks achievable, but focused on stretching the team to the next level of implementation.
  • They appear to have abandoned doing what they were doing for the last 10 years that did not lead towards the Vision. Yippee!!
  • The plan seems realistic as to what resources it will have available. There are not wild assumptions about availability of people or money to execute the plan.
  • The plan has specific actions by specific people during the year to do specific things that seem simple but important. Again, no wild “faith” assumptions.
  • The whole thing was three pages – and that includes lots of white space. I think that each of the 5 team members who are due to execute the plan could read this and remember what they are supposed to do by when.

All in all, I think that this plan is not a barrier to its completion in its own right. This is good in my opinion.

I will meet the authors of the plan next month. I think that the key question that I will ask them is: What could stop this plan from being implemented as the next 12 months unfold?

What is a Strategic Plan?

I had a heated discussion with a colleague of mine this week. You might have called it an argument, except we both agreed with each other. We were discussing “strategic plans”. My colleague pointed out that the term strategic plans is heavily loaded, and carries a history with it of things that are:

  1. at least 20 pages long
  2. are written by subordinates for supervisors
  3. are re-written the following year upon demand
  4. have no impact on the funding received by the writer
  5. have no impact upon the work that will be carried out by the writer.

However, personally, I don’t recall ever having written a plan like that. I may have written some, but the fact that I don’t recall ever doing so is indicative that any like that written by me were never owned by me.

I have written many plans that I recall. These plans were all written by me to enable me to clarify my thoughts of what I needed to do, and then to help me through the process of doing them.

I can’t remember ever having to do so, but if I had been asked to define what the term strategic plan was I would have probably come up with something like:

“A description of what we need to do to best meet the customer’s requirements using the capabilities of our organization in a way that provides competitive advantage.”

I would have based this definition upon the premise that there are three sources of ideas for products and processes (the three “C”s):

  1. CUSTOMER – The customer’s ideas of what they want.
  2. COMPETITION – Improving upon what the competition is doing.
  3. CAPABILITY – The engineers dreaming up what they think that we can do.

These three domains of ideas intersect with a product or process concept that meets some of the customer’s ideas, while dodging around the competition in a way that uniquely builds upon the capabilities of our internal resources.

I would have said that the strategic plan was the actions that need to be taken to implement something in this sweet spot of intersection of the three domains of ideas.

In Christian ministry we do not have the same concept of competition as we did in the telecom industry. Our “competition” is spiritual. However, there are other ministries doing God’s work, and rather than provide competitive advantage, for the sake of macro level stewardship, we avoid directly doing what another ministry is doing. The principle of the definition of the strategic plan has a strong parallel with that which I would have given in my old role:

“A description of what we need to do to most effectively move towards the Vision of the organization using the unique capabilities of our organization.”

This description might be hundreds of pages, or it might be one page. The length depends upon the complexity of the problem being solved and the personal need of the implementors to have written guidelines to which they can refer during the execution of the plan.