Applying Logic to the Stars

Logic Models

It’s a good thing that I’d committed to doing the next post on ‘goal frameworks’ because between then and now I might have chickened out. In fact, if you’re a diligent follower of my blog then you would have noticed that last week I let my every other Monday post slip. Somehow it became that Monday night and I still hadn’t got it straight in my head how goal frameworks align with my implementation model… It was either stay up late puzzling over it or get to bed at a decent time. I chose sleep!

But since then I think I’ve worked it out.

So… ‘goal frameworks’. A goal framework – my term rather than a mainstream one – is a methodology and structure for eliciting and organising goals (or objectives or outcomes). ‘Outcome framework’ is a term that’s used a little more, but I think that is a bit specific for where I’m at. I just want a way of sorting out and representing the hierarchy of what an organisation or organisational unit is aiming at.

The thing is, in my exploration of the virtual world anyway, there don’t seem to be many goal (or similar) frameworks around . (As always I’d love to hear from you if you know of any).

We’ve previously talked about goals needing to be SMARTER, but that was more in the sense of refining goals rather than structuring them. This can be applied to any goal framework and, to be honest, I think the most common framework is one in which goals are plucked out of the air – intelligently, but without much thought for hierarchy beyond the split between goals or objectives with outcomes and purpose. Let’s think of this as a ‘simple’ goal framework (or I suppose a goal non-framework).

So what about something more complicated? It’s worth thinking first about what additional layer/s may be required so that further complexity is useful. Where there are many goals, general grouping – as we’ve explored previously – can be very useful in ensuring they can be stored in people’s working memory. This grouping can happen in whatever way is appropriate and useful for your organisation.

In terms of a universal framework though, the question seems to be through what measures can goals be logically staggered – and the answer seems to be not many. Time is the big one though, or potentially not so much specific time stages, but the progress of time itself; the dependencies between the achievement of goals and outcomes.

Enter the logical framework approach. This was first developed in the late 1960s in the United States as a method for planning programs which were receiving foreign aid. Such aid recipients were often programs that addressed complex problems that took years to effect the change desired so standard metrics of how much was spent and how many objects were delivered would not reflect this.

The logical framework approach – often with a resulting log frame – was about mapping out the foundational activities to be undertaken and then the specific project objectives and outcomes, eventually mapping to the desired overall program outcome. It is presented in a grid and actually elicits far more than just goals, but its purpose nevertheless is on planning and tracking success. I’m not going to produce an example for this today as it would take more time than I have available, but check out  www.mindtools.com/pages/article/worksheets/LogframeExample.pdf for a good example and template.

In natural resource management and some other industries, ‘program logic’ has been the successor to log frame (often as the basis of a ‘MERI’ (monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement) framework. It uses the same principle of identifying and representing the logical path through which foundational activities create change, but the final documentation looks a bit different as it specifically identifies the expected achievements by timescales (eg immediate, intermediate, long-term).

The great thing about the logical framework approach – either one – is that it is also used to elicit metrics, something that I completely agree with. Metrics must be mapped against the goals or otherwise you will not know if you are achieving what you want to. I also like it that this approach recognizes that you often will need to take more than one step to achieve a goal, and that success will not be instant. It is best to recognize this at the outset and track progress over realistic timeframes rather than be disappointed when you don’t change the world in the first year.

Therefore I’m sold on the idea that the logical framework approach will be useful in setting goals if your organisation or organisational unit wants to create significant or cultural change. As you’d expect – as I’ve advocated this previously – I’m also sold on the idea that goals should be the prime basis of performance metrics.

However I think that the documented program logic framework of applying specific timescales to create a hierarchy of goals can be a little artificial. Really you should use as few or as many tailored timescales you need to reflect the logical achievement of goals, except where consistency across your organisation’s program logics is critical.

My other dispute – or maybe not dispute, but rather ‘suggested improvement’ – is about the foundational activities themselves. You see, unless I’m badly misconstruing the logical framework approaches, the idea is that you sort out your foundational activities solo and there is little guidance on what they must include. I guess that’s fair enough – their focus is on effective reporting, not effective achievement of goals or implementation of strategy.

But from my perspective, the actual implementation of straight, the successful delivery of a program, is the gap and the most important bit (noting that you can’t properly do it without analysis of how it is succeeding or failing). So I would say sort out your goals and how they will logically be achieved through these or another appropriate methodology and use these methodologies for also sorting out your reporting metrics. But whatever you do, don’t skim over the foundational activities… And if you do want a framework for eliciting and structuring these activities – or as I’d prefer to think of them, organisational processes and projects – you’ve come to the right place.

What do you think?

Do you know of any other goal frameworks? How well does program logic work for you in practice? And does this post make sense to you?!

What do you think?