Planning using the Project Planning Matrix (PPM) - Principles and General Procedures


The PPM matrix should provide a summary of the project design and, when detailed down to output level, should generally be no more than five pages long. The PPM matrix has four columns and usually four or five rows, depending on the number of levels of objectives used to explain the means-ends relationship of the project.

The vertical logic identifies what the project intends to do, clarifies the causal relationships, and specifies the important assumptions and uncertainties beyond the project manager’s control (columns 1 and 4 in figure 1).

The horizontal logic defines how project objectives specified in the project description will be measured, and the means by which the measurement will be verified (columns 2 and 3 in figure 1). This provides the framework for project monitoring and evaluation.


Some important terms:

  • Project description provides a narrative summary of what the project intends to achieve and how. It describes the means by which desired ends are to be achieved (the vertical logic).
  • Goal refers to the sectoral or national objectives to which the project is designed to contribute, e.g. increased incomes, improved nutritional status, reduced crime. It can also be referred to as describing the expected impact of the project. The goal is thus a statement of intention.
  • Purpose refers to what the project is expected to achieve in terms of development outcome. Examples might include increased agricultural production, higher immunisation coverage, cleaner water, or improved local management systems and capacity. There should generally be only one purpose statement.
  • Component Objectives. Where the project or program is relatively large and has a number of components (output/activity areas) it is useful to give each component an objective statement. These statements should provide a logical link between the outputs of that component and the project purpose.
  • Results / Outputs refer to the specific results and tangible products (goods and services) produced by undertaking a series of tasks or activities. Examples might include: irrigation systems or water supplies constructed, areas planted/developed, children immunised, buildings or other infrastructure built, policy guidelines produced, and staff trained. Each component should have at least one contributing output, and will often have up to four or five. The delivery of project outputs should be largely under project management’s control.
  • Activities refer to the specific tasks undertaken to achieve the required outputs. Examples for a new community water supply might include: further design, establishing water users committee and maintenance procedures, site preparation, collection of local materials, tank construction and pipe laying, digging soak pits and commissioning. However, the PPM matrix should not include too much detail on activities otherwise it becomes too lengthy and potentially prescriptive. If detailed activity specification is required, this should be presented separately in an activity schedule/gantt chart format and not in the matrix itself.
  • Inputs refer to the resources required to undertake the activities and produce the outputs, e.g. as personnel, equipment, and materials. However, inputs should not be included in the matrix format.
  • Assumptions refer to conditions which could affect the progress or success of the project, but over which the project manager has no direct control, e.g. price changes, rainfall, land reform policies, non-enforcement of supporting legislation. An assumption is a positive statement of a condition that must be met in order for project objectives to be achieved. A risk is a negative statement of what might prevent objectives being achieved.
  • Indicators refer to the information we need to help us determine progress towards meeting project objectives. An indicator should provide, where possible, a clearly defined unit of measurement and a target detailing the quantity, quality and timing of expected results.
  • Means of verification (MOVs) should clearly specify the expected source of the information we need to collect. We need to consider how the information will be collected (method), who will be responsible, and the frequency with which the information should be provided.

STEP 1: Vertical Logic 1 - Defining Objectives and Activities

1. The objectives are derived from the objective tree and related goal/objective setting techniques and transferred into the first vertical column of the planning matrix, as follows:

  • start at the top of the matrix and work downwards
  • decide on one overall goal and one purpose
  • If necessary review the wording in the objective hierarchy and make it more accurate

2. The objective describes the intended impact or anticipated benefits of the planned programmes as a precisely stated future condition (i.e. ‘Completed...’, ‘Implemented...’, ‘Improved..’).
The Purpose contributes to the overall goal.

3. The outputs are expressed as objectives which the implementing agency/group must achieve and sustain. Their interrelated impact must be appropriate, necessary and sufficient to achieve the objective.

4. Write down those inputs which are necessary to sustain the outputs, noting that to ensure clarity:


  • that not too many detailed activities are listed, but rather that the most essential actiities necessary for achieving the programme (output) are detailed;
  • in contrast to the objectives, the inputs are expressed in the present tense (i.e. Plan project on population birth control, etc).

5. The inputs and outputs are given consecutive, related numbers.
The numbering CAN be used to indicate the sequence of events or the priorities.

6. The narrative summary covers the operational MEANS ENDS Relationships in the plan structure (IF THEN).


STEP 2: Vertical Logic 2 - Adjusting the “If-Then Logic” with Assumptions

1. Examine whether the activities directly generate the set of results or whether an additional event must also take place that is outside the project’s influence.

2. Some of the important assumptions can be derived from the means ends relationships in the objective hierarchy and which were not incorporated into the project.

3. At each level, that is Input to Output, Output to Purpose and Purpose to Goal, the same procedure as in step one above takes place. Each level must contain the necessary and sufficient conditions (including assumptions) for the next higher level. At the lowest level, it may be necessary to define PRE CONDITIONS, these may be necessary for implementing the activities but they are outside the control of the project.

4. Important assumption are expressed in the same way as objectives, namely as positive conditions:

  • Important assumptions are described precisely, so that the planner can see whether these external conditions have taken place or not.
  • Only important assumptions are stated which are logically necessary additional conditions.

5. Assumptions that are important and are probable are termed ‘Killer Assumptions’ and they cannot be planned for. Should these Killer Assumptions occur the project plan must be amended or if there is no alternative strategy, the plan may have to be abandoned.


STEP 3: Horizontal Logic 1: Defining Indicators

1. Indicators must be Plausible: Indicators should measure what is important in the narrative summary statement. It is very easy to fall into the trap of measuring what is easy rather than what is important. Sometimes what is important is also easy to measure, however one must focus on importance first, then on measurement. Indicators, to the extent possible, must correlate with what is being measured. The usefulness of an indicator diminishes if there could be several other reasons for a change in the indicator.

2. Indicators must be Independent: Indicators measure the change, which through implementation of the plan is trying to happen. The indicators are not the things that make the change. The question of independence of indicators at different levels is difficult. Perhaps, while trying to determine whether the indicators set are independent of the next higher level, assistance can be rendered by asking the following question: ‘Are the indicators set, say at the purpose level, the things needed to create the purpose or are they signs that the purpose has been achieved?’

3. Indicators must be Objectively Verifiable: The prescribed statement must be accurate enough to make the indicator objectively verifiable. An indicator is objectively verifiable when different persons using the same measuring process obtain the same measurements quite independently of one another.

4. Indicators must be targeted: Indicators must be targeted in terms of quantity quality and time (and where necessary location):

  • Quantity
    How much:
  • Quality
    How well:
  • Time
    By when:
  • Location
  • Gender
    For whom:

5. If any of these criteria are missing, one cannot be entirely objective about whether one has been successful or not.


STEP 4: Horizontal Logic 2: Defining the Means of Verification

1. Stipulate the sources of information to verify the indicator.

2. The means of verification column of the matrix contains an exact description of what information is to be made available, in what form and, where necessary, by whom. The sources of verification should be allocated numbers corresponding to those of the indicators.

3.Sources of verification which are external to the project, programme or plan are reviewed as to:

    How much information they contain which is specific to the region and to the target groups,
  • How reliable, up to date and accessible this is,
  • Their composition and how they were obtained.

4. When suitable, external sources of verification cannot be identified; the information necessary to verify the indicators may need to be collected. For this purpose particular activities have to be planned.

5. Other, verifiable indicators must replace indicators for which it is not possible to identify suitable sources of verification.

6. Indicators which, after careful consideration of the costs and benefits, are too cost intensive.


STEP 5: Checking the Logic

Finally, one has to check that the vertical and horizontal logic holds true. The following questions are helpful in doing this:

  • Is the objective statement clear?
  • Have the expected results been clarified with realistic and clear indicators?
  • Is the source of evidence needed to verify the status of the indicators available?