Guideline Three | Strategy

3. Develop clear intended project logic or strategy.

We recommend that Project Leaders/teams develop what we call an Intended Project Logic, or IPL. Essentially, an IPL is a clear articulation of how the project is intended to achieve its stated objectives (intended outcomes or effects).

Thus, an IPL should be based on the project objectives, along with any significant contextual factors. IPLs can incorporate many different elements. They can be simple or relatively complex and can be represented in different ways. There is no single right way! The important thing is that the IPL makes clear how the project is meant to work (and therefore succeed).

The most important aspect of an IPL is the process of developing it; the material outcome (a representation/document) is less important. The ideal time for the process is before the first round of operational planning (i.e. before establishing plans for project implementation/activities). The emphasis in developing an IPL should be on critical and strategic thinking by the project leadership and team. This needs to result in understandings (e.g. of assumptions; likely success factors), choices and tactics that will guide operational planning and implementation.

While developing an IPL early is preferable, reflecting on and evaluating a project’s logic can be valuable even when a project is quite well advanced. Whenever the IPL is considered and developed, it serves an important formative evaluation purpose by enabling critical review of the project’s design and intended methodology (see the Supplementary Comments section below for some elaboration on this).

Typically, a good IPL will enhance understanding of, and articulate, elements such as:

  • the main methodology proposed to achieve the project’s important outcomes
  • key activities (or groups of activities)
•    any important dependencies (e.g. a stage dependent on an earlier outcome)

  • critical success factors (things such as actions, conditions, people, resources) that are considered very important to achieve project success
  • significant assumptions being made, or risks, associated with project methods/activities

  • important deliverables, impacts, evidence or other indicators of success

The order of elements, and the terminology used in ‘project logics’, vary. For example, some styles use terms like “inputs” (to cover several of the elements in the list above) and emphasize differences between “outputs”, “outcomes” and “impacts”.  Such differences are often relatively unimportant.

Supplementary Comments

As pointed out above, the elements and terminology associated with an IPL vary in different contexts. One reason for this is that the more general idea behind project logic is “program logic”, which has its roots in evaluation theory and practice, particularly program theory (Chen, 1990) and theory of action (Patton, 1997). In turn, this area of knowledge arose partly out of the need for professional evaluators to have clear understandings of how major programs (e.g. educational change or health intervention initiatives) were designed and intended to achieve their often complex and challenging impacts.

 Chen, H.T. (1990). Theory-driven evaluations. Sage: Newbury Park, CA.
 Patton, M.Q. (1997). Utilization focused evaluation: the new century text. Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA
A project manager for an OLT project on Evidence Based Practice in Optometry, Kisten Challinor, who has attended the Project Management Workshop has used IPL , to good effect. A pdf of her IPL diagram come be downloaded below

ProjectLogic_Progress_EBPoptometry.pdf69.85 KB