Using program logic to ensure success of transport programs

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
~ Winston Churchill

Monitoring the success of the outcomes of transport programs is not done well, even though transport agencies are accountable for the effective use of public funds. Demonstrating the success of current transport programs, in delivering transport outcomes, helps when requesting funding for future programs.

Transport programs can be either a response to challenges (bottom up approach), or a future vision (top down approach). The best approach is to do both. Transport professionals need tools to measure program success in designing programs they deliver.

The logic of connecting the investment in a program to the desired outcomes needs to be carefully designed. Logic program development has been in use since the 1960’s, so it is not a new concept. My concern is that the concept is being lost with the turnover of professionals.

Logical Framework Analysis is used by international funding agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB 2007) to make development investments more effective and accountable, providing greater rigour in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programs. Logic Mapping, promoted by the UK Department for Transport (DfT 2010) is a similar approach.

To ensure success requires a carefully designed program logic.
logic
The basic concept of program logic is that delivery of projects is a systematic, sequential process: plan – manage – review; from context (responding to challenges); to inputs (funding and other resources); to actions (project delivery); to outputs (transport infrastructure and services); and culminating in desired transport outcomes (reduced congestion, improved safety, reduced emissions, etc).

The logic, based on assumptions from past experience and predictions, is that the delivery of a transport project or service will result from the inputs provided, then infrastructure and service outputs are expected from these planned actions, and desired transport outcomes are predicted based on those outputs.

Program design starts with describing the key transport challenges being faced and then going to the other end of the program logic process, defining the desired transport outcomes.

Using program logic the process can be reverse engineered to develop outputs that result in those outcomes, and then the activities to deliver these outputs and hence the inputs required. It is an iterative process to match available funding and priorities.

It should be remembered that the ‘what gets measured gets done’.

Each step along the sequence can be monitored to ensure the project is tracking to the desired objectives, rather than waiting for everything to be finished and some years down the track before being able to measure outcomes.

By designing the program logic and identifying performance indicators for each stage of the sequence of events, then those involved in managing the delivery of a transport program will have a clear focus on what is important. If we know that each critical component is going to be measured and reported, we will ensure they are monitored closely.

Program logic can thus help establish success criteria, and data and information needed to assess progress, as well as help visually communicate the benefits of a project to key stakeholders.

The bonus of using this approach is it makes it easier to get projects approved!

The logic process enables a clear, concise summary to be presented. Decision-makers can readily see what a project or program is about, what it will deliver and how it contributes to a government’s objectives. If well done, the program logic approach also gives decision-makers confidence that assumptions and risks have been adequately considered and a performance monitoring framework is available.

As transport professionals, let us commit to measure and report the success of our transport projects and programs.

References:
Asian Development Bank (ABD) 2007. Guidelines for Preparing a Design and Monitoring Framework.
Department for Transport (DfT UK) 2010. Logic mapping: hints and tips for better transport evaluations.  

1 thought on “Using program logic to ensure success of transport programs

  1. Hi Phil.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, especially your last sentence. However, for at least the past 15-20 years, there has been a subliminal move away from the approach you mention. Whether it be due to pre-determined views on what is/are the programs/projects that should be implemented (without any real evidence-based/logic decision making), or just due to de-skilling of the profession ( I’d suggest there are elements of both), it’s happening now. We as a profession (and as much as we can) need to promulgate and insist(?) the logic approach is pursued. Maybe it can be more explicitly included in the revised National Guidelines for Transport System Management?

    Regards,
    Fotios.

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