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Logic Models: Both a Tool and a Strategic Process

Allen Black

Whether in government, the private sector or the non-profit sector, these key questions apply in any context:

  • Are we doing the right work?
  • Can we make better decisions?
  • Are we getting superior results?

Logic models can help with the design of your idea, program, or project to ensure the right work, the plans and implementation that reflect better decisions, and the evaluation that tests progress towards success.

Logic Models Are both a Tool and a Strategic Process

As a tool, logic models convey an idea, program, or project in a brief, visual format. As a strategic process, they offer the means to critically review and improve thinking. Whether used as a tool or strategic process, they support design, planning, communication, evaluation and learning, and provide considerable value to programs and subsequently, organizational effectiveness.

Two Types of Logic Models

Basically, there are two types of logic models – theory of change models and program logic models.

Theory of Change

“Theory of Change” models display an idea or program in its simplest form using limited information. These models offer a chance to test an idea, program or project plausibility. They are the “elevator speech” outline. A theory of change logic model offers the big picture of strategies that could generate your intended results.

It has just two basic elements: strategies and results.

Program Logic

“Program Logic” models display what an existing idea, new program, or focused change effort might contain from start to finish. Ideas, programs, or change these models support must pass the test of feasibility.

They illustrate the essential linkages needed to make a plan fully operational for each of the strategy strands identified in the theory of change. The primary elements for each strand of a program logic model include resources, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impact.

The Blending of Models

Strategies reflect a choice of optimal actions to secure intended results. They describe the actions, or what you plan/propose to do.

Results reflect the long-term effect of strategies. Results are ultimately secured through the changes(s) generated by the preceding strategies.


Resources typically include human, financial, organizational, community, or systems resources in any combination. They are used to accomplish activities.

Activities are the specific actions that make up a program. They reflect tools, processes, events, technology, and any other devices that are intentional to the program.

Outputs are what specific activities will produce or create. They can include descriptions of types, levels, and audiences or targets delivered by the program.

Outcomes are about changes as a result of the program. They often include specific changes in awareness, knowledge, skill and behaviour.

Impact is the ultimate intended change in an organization, community, or other system.  Impact sometimes occurs at the end of the program, but more typically the impact sought is much more distant.

OK, So What?

By way of example, and to illustrate different contexts for which logic models are useful, I want to explore with you several models that I had a hand in crafting for clients that cover the purposes I mentioned earlier - design, planning, communication, evaluation and learning.

Case 1 – Afghan Reconstruction and Redevelopment Framework

Of the models, this was the most complex. The model served as a way of coordinating the Government of Afghanistan National Development & Reconstruction, National Priority and Regional Development Programmes projects and activities. The programmes were the recipient of international donor funds and managed via NGO, UN or International Community direct intervention. Prior to the development of the model, many of the projects were left unchecked and carried out in isolation. Subsequently, these projects and activities were coordinated directly from Government of Afghanistan ministries.

Case 2 – International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters Monitoring and Reporting System

The model served to highlight the portions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ISAF operations that were most critical to achieving the earliest possible exit of NATO forces from Afghanistan. Information about what works and what does not was collected not by specialists, but by the many staff officers at the headquarters who performed the evaluation.

Case 3 – DND Civilian Employees Retirement Preparation Framework

The project served three purposes: to raise awareness of the changing civilian retirement environment and implications on National Defence; to formulate a new strategy and road map for civilian employee retirement preparation; and, to set the stage for follow-on work to achieve the desired changes as part of the strategy implementation phase.

Case 4 – Environment Canada

In this case, a logic model was designed primarily for the purpose of internal communications within Environment Canada, that is, to make it unmistakable how a particular directorate’s activities were connected to the Environment Canada program this directorate had responsibility for.


The practical construction of all the models began with:

  • being clear on the intended outcomes and impact;
  • from knowing what is to be accomplished, tackling the activities required to achieve the outcomes;
  • and finally, determining the outputs that would be required to produce intended results.

Logic models offer the strategic means to critically review and improve thinking. And better thinking always yields better results.


Is there scope for developing such models for your idea, program, or project?

I would be interested in knowing the context in which you developed your model.


Once again Allen you demonstrate the just how powerful strategic thinking can be to effective management outcomes. My own experience as both a senior executive and management consultant attests to the enormous advantage such thinking can bring to the executives who are faced with with these challenges on a daily basis. Of course the challenge doesn’t then there; effective execution of the strategy is required to bring real transformation into reality.

My own approach has been to see a change management strategy as necessary to lubricate the ‘results’. This seems to work best when calibrated with the Program Model steps of short, intermediate and long term outcomes. In effect, short, intermediate and long terms outcomes are only possible with a progressive adaptive learning process enables sustain long term effort.

By Alcide J. DeGagne on 2011/05/11

Alcide, thanks for your comments.

Without question, a change management strategy is a must if the project or program is to have any chance of success.

Two other things I have also come to appreciate about crafting logic models.

Firstly, how can you be sure that the choice of strategies will generate the intended results (this may mean up front the organization having to put themselves through a focussed conversation or arriving at a consensus on strategies a la ICA methodology), and

Secondly, has the ?business case? for the program, project or idea been done.

Two areas where Delta Partners also has expertise.

By Allen on 2011/05/11

what are you views on using logic modals in chnage management?

By SHANZA on 2017/04/29

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About this Article

Posted by Allen Black
Posted on May 11, 2011

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Categories: management, planning & policy, process improvement, program evaluation, strategy