Identifying risks and assumptions

The assumptions column of the logframeWhen you’re planning a project, you tend to be optimistic about its progress. You envisage what you have to do and to what beautiful results this will lead. You don’t want to think about all the nasty things that can happen.

But there are many things that can go wrong. The logframe helps you identify these risks and the assumptions that you make at each stage and level. This is the role of the fourth column.

The assumptions describe the situations, events, conditions or decisions which are necessary for the success of the project, but which are largely or completely beyond the control of the project's management.

The fourth column and the first column have an if… then… relation. If the assumptions in column four are met, or if the risks do not occur, then we’ll achieve what we’ve set out to do in column one.

If... then... relationship between the assumptions column and the project logic column

So starting at the bottom:

  • If the basic assumptions (row 4) hold true ⇒ then we can do the activities as planned
  • If we can do the activities and the assumptions of row 3hold true ⇒ then we will get the output (results) that we expected
  • If we get all these results (outputs) and the assumptions of row 2hold true ⇒ then we will realise the project’s purpose
  • If the purpose is achieved and the assumptions of row 1hold true ⇒ then we will contribute to the goals.

Identifying the risks and assumptions may seem easy, but there is more to it than meets the eye. The Results Based Management approach puts a lot of attention to this aspect, so check it out if you want more information.

When you’ve identified the possible risks, you have to assess what the probability is that each risk occurs:

  • If the risk is very likely to occur and the impact on the project is grave (it is doubtful you can achieve the project), then you have to redesign your project to eliminate or significantly reduce this risk. If this is not possible you should really think again about doing the project.
  • If the risk is likely to occur and the impact is important, but not life threatening, you should include it in the logframe and monitor the risk. If possible, you should try to influence the risk.
  • If the impact of the risk is low, you shouldn’t include it into the logframe.

Like indicators, assumptions have to be verifiable. Don’t invent problems in your head.

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