Saturday, April 16, 2011

Outcome Mapping versus Logical Framework Approach

Since recent years Outcome Mapping has been winning recognition and popularity amongst donors and international development organisations as a new tool for Project Cycle Management. Sofar the Logical Framework Approach (LFA) has been the most applied method for planning, monitoring and evaluating projects. What is Project Cycle Management (PCM)?; What is the Logical Framework? What is Outcome Mapping?
Project Cycle Management (PCM) is a management method introduced by the European Commission (1992) for the identification, formulation (appraisal), implementation and evaluation of projects. It aims at assuring quality through a consistent approach to all phases of the intervention cycle, ensuring beneficiary-orientation (relevance), a comprehensive perspective on interventions (feasibility and sustainability) and effective monitoring and evaluation. (Source: PCM Group)
Both the Logical Framework Approach (LFA) and OM (Outcome Mapping) are tools for doing PCM.
The LFA method is a step-by-step procedure applying specific techniques in a participatory workshop setting for creating ownership among stakeholders, better focus on beneficiaries, realistic and measurable result-oriented objectives, quick decision-making, transparency of proposals and reporting, and easier management, monitoring and evaluation during the implementation of projects. (Source: PCM Group)

Outcome Mapping (OM) focuses on one specific type of result: outcomes as behavioural change. Outcomes are defined as changes in the behaviour, relationships, activities, or actions of the people, groups and organisations with whom a program works directly. OM calls them Boundary Partners. These outcomes can be logically linked to program's activities, although they are not necessarily caused by them. This is one of the main differences with the LFA method. The method is not aimed at measuring impact, since IDRC (the creator of this method) beliefs that measuring long term changes are almost impossible to measure and if there are changes, it is very hard to identify evidence which can claim if a project or program has attributed to this. IDRC beliefs it can limit the potential for learning with Boundary Partners.
OM is divided into three stages. The first stage, Intentional Design, helps to answer four questions: Why? (The vision of the project), Who? (the Boundary Partners), What? (the changes that are desired), and How? (the strategy and the activities). The second stage, Outcome and Performance Monitoring, provides a framework for monitoring the outcomes (change with Boundary Partners), strategy (implementation of activities and budget expenditure) and organisational development. The third stage, Evaluation Planning, helps the program identify evaluation priorities and develop an evaluation plan. (source: International Development Research Centre -IDRC)
Pro's and Con's of LFA and OM
Through the logical way of working in relating activities, to results, objectives and goals, the LFA method is considered to be linear, putting everything into boxes and therefore killing creativity. The time necessary for formulation and report writing is intensive and makes the approach burocratic and a 'Western model'. However, the LFA approach has still a lot of positive caracteristics. The method has been widely accepted as a tool for PCM with the European Union, Multilateral Donors and International Organisations. It provides a good basis for monitoring and evaluation through the formulation of indicators. The LFA is also excellent for budgetting. And through more than 30 years experience of working with this model, many donor organisations have simplified their reporting systems based on the LFA Approach. For example, MATRA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands) only allows a maximum of a 10 page report, indicating the main achievements and lessons in the area of sustainability, outcomes, implementation of the strategy, budget expenditure and organisational development.
The strength of OM is its non-linear approach focusing on behavioural change of the partners and beneficiaries. The method allows more space for creative ideas and is more prepared for unexpected changes or surprises. Changes are more easily measurable and provide a basis for using modern monitoring tools such as video, fotos and social media.
However, the method also has its disadvantages. As similar to the LFA Approach, OM has also an intensive and elaborated step-by-step approach where a lot of information needs to be documented. Also the formats for evaluation (The Outcome, Strategy and Performance journal) create a big amount of paper work and reporting. Another big disadvantage is that the method has not yet proven itself. There are not many examples of written project proposals, planning formats, budgets and reports based on the OM model. More practise and sharing of experiences in the application of OM is needed before it can prove itself as a method.
Matching science with the reality
During the training Capacity Development (conducted by Simon Koolwijk) which was held on 12 & 14th April, 2011 at the Hendrik Kraemer Institute (HKI) theoretical models such as the LFA Approach, Outcome Mapping, the ECDPM Model and other project management and organisational analysis tools (see ICCO-Cad toolbox site) were matched with the reality.
Based on case studies, the participants from Mensen met een Missie and Theatre Embassy learned that more than 85 % of the monitoring and evaluation is done informally. Based on informal conversations during lunches, dinners or travels in the car, and observation visits information is collected on how development projects are developing. The formal moments are used to discuss and compile all the informal impressions to a report. Theoretical models and approaches are helpful in this proces and stimulate partners to meet, discuss and draw conclusions. However, the prove of good project management is in the 'informal'. Therefore, to become a successful capacity development advisor or project manager you should invest a lot of time in relationship building, listening and observing. More about practical experiences on what you can encounter as a capacity development advisor, you can read 'Everything you always wanted to know about capacity development'. Another model that is complementary to Outcome Mapping (OM) and that is gaining popularity in measuring behavioural change, is the 'Most Significant Change Method'. Read More at MSC - How to measure behavioural change?

In early 2012 Facili2transform will offer a training course were a critical review will be held about the Logical Framework, Outcome Mapping and Most significant Change approach. The training  'Learning together from Results' will not only focus on these new methods for development projects, but will also pay attention to modern monitoring and evaluation methods such as video making and social media.  Read for more information;  'Learning together from Results'


  1. The LF approach shows relationship between input and output whereas OM shows relationship between project and external change. More about attribution of the development investment.

  2. Actually, I agree with Simon on the point that LFA approach is linear although there is a possibility to add assumptions and risk vis a vis outcome indicators to capture external environment. LFA puts the project team into a straightjacket and create barriers to imagination and scenario building. I have implemented LFA approach as part of RMB in many organizations and came to the same conclusions. Once the project team is put into the box, it is very difficult to stimulate discussion on what is happening around the project. Everybody is keen to get the indicator right and put a value to show performance. I am now moving to OM as to complement the existing LFA/RBM system.

  3. Khadija Khan, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your practices. I also agree with you that the challenge is to develop new combinations of the LFA and the OM approach, including Results Based Management, so that you indeed get useful discussions about external developments influencing and interacting with the project.

  4. As per the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition, “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” and the project management is the “application of knowledge, skill, tool, and technique to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

  5. If you plan on a long term career as a project manager, then yes, even with your level of experience, I would suggest getting your PMP. You can prepare yourself for the exam in one of the PMP trainingproviders like You can do minimal prep-work to get 40 PMI® Contact Hours and apply to PMI for PMP Exam before the class begins.

  6. PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) ® credential is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers. Recently I went for a PMP prep course by the training provider mentioned above, the instructor was too good and I passed with relative ease. Looking forwards to apply what I learned in PMP class in my company.