Project Cycle Management and the art of Log-frame Analysis The widely-used strategic planning tool, Project Cycle Management, along with the Logical Framework approach, can ensure quality design for projects, and is simple to apply and monitor. S&T has been using it in the design of M and E systems for a number of government departments. Matthew Smith explains how it works
Strategy and Tactics is presently running workshops across
South Africa on behalf of the Department of Labour to assist Labour Centres
and provincial offices in preparing implementation plans for the Labour Market
Skills Development Programme. These plans are developed using the Project
Cycle Management (PCM) approach.
We are also helping to design a monitoring system for the
LMSDP based on the log-frames.
PCM and log-frames may appear to be new buzzwords in strategic
planning, but are neither new nor just another planning fad. Introduced by
the European Union a decade ago, PCM was developed to ensure the quality of
project design and to strengthen the quality of management on the project.
Anyone who has been involved in PCM will know that its value
relies on its simplicity. As the name suggests, PCM is a cycle which follows
a logical path. Each step relies on the success of the previous step.
Most projects are conceived as part of a programme, often
at a national level. As part of the programming phase, national problems are
identified and the objectives of the programme specified. Next comes the identification
phase, where projects (components of the programme) and other forms of intervention
are identified. This is followed by the formulation phase, in which ideas
for projects are turned into operational plans, and consultation takes place.
Once the proposals have been drawn up, financing is sought
and/or apportioned to the projects. At this point the project can be implemented.
Embedded in any coherent project design is evaluation, which can begin as
soon as the cycle begins.
Each stage of PCM is a mini-cycle that should be monitored
and evaluated. After implementation begins, evaluation becomes critical.
The results of the evaluation will feed back into the cycle
at the identification stage. This allows the management of the programme and
the project to assess whether the particular project is achieving its objectives.
If not, it may be decided that another project be introduced, or the existing
project be modified. S&T's preferred design sees evaluation as an ongoing
tool, utilised to judge and improve performance in all phases. It also
ensures that all players are open to evaluation, not just implementing
At the centre of the PCM cycle - in the version S&T utilises
- is ongoing monitoring, evaluation and reporting (M,E & R). All steps along
the PCM path are cycles in themselves, and each is open to measurement, assessment
and dissemination of the results (the M,E & R sequence). The danger of the
standard PCM design is that evaluation is left as a summative-only activity,
and reporting is frequently forgotten.
The core tool for PCM is the logical framework (often simply
referred to as log-frame), the construction of which is typically done in
two phases. In the first phase, the analysis phase, key problems and opportunities
are identified, from which objectives that will address these problems are
clarified. The underlying principle is that projects are designed to address
the problems faced by beneficiaries. In the second phase, the construction
of the log-frame is completed. Once the log-frame has been designed, activities
can be scheduled and resources can be allocated.
The log-frame matrix provides no magical solution, as the
official EU PCM handbook warns: 'if you put garbage in you will get garbage
out'. However, advocates of PCM argue that the log-frame is extremely useful
in that it assists with making logical connections between different levels
of the project. Moreover, it provides a useful aid to thinking strategically
about the project.The key is to remember that all plans, proposals, and log-frames
should be seen as dynamic tools that should be revisited and revised regularly.
The actual log-frame is a 4x4 matrix. Running down the matrix,
in order, is the overall objective of the programme, the purpose of the project,
the results of the project and the activities that the project will deliver.
The other three columns provide the basis for measuring the project's performance.
OVIs are indicators that provide a means for measuring the
objectives of the project and also lay the foundations for monitoring. The
SOVs are the sources of information and the methodology to be used to measure
the indicators. Assumptions are those factors external to the project which
could affect the implementation and sustainability of the project. Be warned
about the "killer assumption" as it kills the project dead.
The completed log-frame thus provides a concise summary of the objectives
of the project, the indicators by which the project will be assessed and the
key risks and assumptions which may affect the achievement of the objectives
of the project. From this log-frame a detailed workplan can be drawn up.