Assumptions in the logical framework methodology

The project assumptions are all those factors that are sufficient for the fulfillment of the project but are beyond our scope of action, i.e. they are not controllable.

We have just defined the means of verification. This time we will concentrate on the last column of the logical framework matrix, the assumptions.

Another post on the Logframe methodology:

This is today’s topic in Ingenio Empresa.

What are assumptions in the logical framework?

Assumptions are all those conditions or factors that are sufficient to guarantee the success of the project at each of its levels: Goal, purpose, components and activities; however, they are not controllable by the project team. In other words, an assumption is a fact that we assume to be true.

Think about what can cause an assumption not to be fulfilled. These are project risks and an assumption may contain one or more risks.

In this sense, we must strive to meet the assumptions in order to be successful with the project both in the immediate and long term.

So, to define the assumptions we ask ourselves what can go wrong, and we do this for each level of objectives starting with the activities.

The importance of assumptions in the logical framework

  • They allow us to identify risks “before”. I say “before” because when you start thinking about what can go wrong, you will most likely decide to include an additional activity or component to prevent what can go wrong from materializing. In this sense, assumptions are vital in the planning stage in order to avoid messing up the execution.
  • They allow us to avoid the materialization of risks “during”. In other words, having defined assumptions allows you to foresee, confront or mitigate the event. In this sense, when you become aware that something can go wrong, during execution you do everything necessary to avoid reaching that state.

How to obtain, select and write project assumptions

Step 1: Defining assumptions

Consider the risk factors that apply to your project. Among the most common factors are: financial, political, social, legal and environmental. Using the PESTEL model is also a good idea: political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal.

Another way to define assumptions is from their source of generation, which is nothing more than asking where does the assumption come from? Consider the following sources:

  • Tools: There are tools such as SWOT or PESTAL that allow you to address the factors that can be useful to ensure the success of the project.
  • Lessons learned: What events or situations occurred in the past that can be useful to bring to the present moment to avoid a repetition.
  • On the feet of the stakeholders: Stop and think as if you were each of the stakeholders involved in the project. What do they expect from it? How does it benefit them? How does it affect them? Are there conflicts among them?

Step 2: Selecting assumptions

We evaluate the “assumptions” from step 1 to select those based on the following criteria:

  • That they cannot be controlled. In other words, that they are external.
  • They are important to the project. Ask yourself, if the assumption were not met, would the project succeed? If the answer is yes, then eliminate it. It is important to remember that the assumption is what must be in place for the project to succeed. Anything that threatens not to happen is considered a negative risk of the project.
  • Its probability of occurrence is medium (for example between 10% and 90%).

If the probability of occurrence of the assumption is low, it means that the project has a high probability of failure (in other words, any materialized risk would collapse it as it is very likely), since it is considered that something that must happen for the success of the project will surely not occur. In this case, the project should be redesigned to increase the probability of occurrence of the assumption.

If the probability is very high, it indicates that there are no risks or those that exist have a very low probability of occurrence. Therefore, this is not an assumption.

As you can see, it is important to be clear about the difference between assumption and risk.

Step 3: Writing the assumptions

We do this in a positive way, as if it were an objective to be achieved or maintained.

As it was done with the indicators, it is done with the assumptions. They must be measurable: quality, quantity and time.

Example of assumptions in the Logical Framework Methodology

The example we have been using throughout the logical framework methodology has been that of a web services company. Because of this, there are not many assumptions that we are going to handle. In this project, most of the things depend on the company itself. Nevertheless, I show you the analysis done.

In the first image I defined the assumptions for each item of the narrative summary. I further categorized them according to the aspect they touch.

Note that we removed aspects such as environmental or political because in a project of this nature they will only get in the way in the table. On the other hand, I included the technological aspect, which is totally applicable.

Notice also that I placed three additional columns to reduce the probability of choosing the wrong assumption.

Shows an assumptions example of the logical frame

Can you guess what they are?

With this done, this is the finalized logical framework matrix:

example of logical framework matrix

Vertical logic of the logical framework

Finished with the assumptions, analyze the matrix. Will it be well done?

We can tell through its vertical logic, which is nothing more than the cause-and-effect relationship between the levels, from activities to the end, from the bottom up.
We can tell through its vertical logic.

So, analyze the following:

Question Yes No
By having the activities performed with confirmation of the assumptions, will you have the components? X  
By having the components made with confirmation of your assumptions, will the purpose be achieved? X  
With the purpose achieved and your assumptions confirmed, will there be a contribution to the end of the project? X  

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