Chapter 2. Planning for results: Practical applications

“The true measure of success for the United Nations is not how much we promise but how much we deliver for those who need us most.”

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon

This chapter provides step-by-step guidance on how to undertake planning for results. It focuses on the tasks involved in planning for desired results and includes considerations for operationalizing results. As noted in Box 1, monitoring and evaluation are closely related to planning. Therefore in planning, it is essential to bear in mind not only intended results, but also how results, and the process of achieving them, will be monitored and evaluated. In particular, planning needs to ensure that planned initiatives are evaluation-ready.

Planning can be done in many different ways. This chapter is designed to make the persons involved in planning more comfortable with the main steps involved in preparing a plan that can be implemented, monitored and evaluated. The steps and approaches recommended apply generally to all planning processes, whether for a global, regional or country programme; a project; or a unit work plan. This chapter is not intended to provide detailed instructions on preparing specific plans but rather to present the core approaches and steps generally involved in planning. At points, it will provide guidance for planning programmes and projects within the context of UNDP. However, for specific instructions on what is required for each UNDP planning document, the user should consult POPP.11

This chapter is divided into 5 sections as shown in Figure 3. Planning to monitor and evaluate, which is also a critical part of the planning phase is dealt with in Chapter 3.

Development organizations often use a variety of tools throughout the planning cycle. Similarly, different organizations may require stakeholders to produce different sets of ‘deliverables’ as they go through the planning process. This Handbook will draw on some of the most commonly used tools. It will also walk the user through preparing eight deliverables that are normally used to develop and finalize programme and project results frameworks. Where relevant, the Handbook will show the relationship of the tools and deliverables mentioned with either United Nations Development Group (UNDG) or UNDP tools and deliverables. However, the Handbook is not intended to elaborate on UNDG and UNDP instruments. Instead, it is intended to be a how-to guide for doing planning, monitoring and evaluation based on good practices.

The eight main deliverables that will be covered are shown in Box 4.

Box 4. Main deliverables to be produced in the planning for results process

  1. The initial issues note and draft work plan for the planning process (outline of activities and schedule and cost)
  2. Stakeholder influence and importance matrix
  3. List of key problems identified
  4. Prioritized list of problems
  5. Cause-effect diagram or problem tree analysis for each prioritized problems
  6. Vision statement for each prioritized problem
  7. Results map for each prioritized problem
  8. Results framework for the programme or project document

Note: Deliverables 1 through 4 are normally part of the United Nations Country Team’s plan of engagement or work plan (see for additional information.) Similarly, the Common Country Assessment (CCA) done by UN organizations, would normally include deliverables 3, 4, and 5. Guidance on the CCA preparation can be found at: At the project level, deliverables 1 to 6 above can used in the ‘justifying a project phase’ of the UNDP project development cycle. All the deliverables would be used for the ‘defining a programme’ and ‘defining a project’ steps as these require results, roles, accountabilities and risks to be defined.

The Benefits of planning

There are four main benefits that make planning worthwhile:

Planning enables us to know what should be done when—Without proper planning, projects or programmes may be implemented at the wrong time or in the wrong manner that results in poor outcomes.  A classic example is that of a development agency that offered to help improve the conditions of rural roads. The planning process was controlled by the agency with little consultation. Road repair began during the rainy season and much of product used for construction was unsuitable for the region. The project suffered lengthy delays and cost overruns. One community member commented during the evaluation that the community wanted the project, but if there was proper planning and consultation with them, the donors would have known the best time to start the project and the type of material to use. 

Planning helps mitigate and manage crises and ensure smoother implementation—There will always be unexpected situations in programmes and projects. However, a proper planning exercise helps reduce the likelihood of these and prepares the team for dealing with them when they occur. The planning process should also involve assessing risks and assumptions, and thinking through possible unintended consequences of the activities being planned. The results of these exercises can be very helpful in anticipating and dealing with problems. (Some planning exercises also include scenario planning that looks at ‘what ifs’ for different situations that may arise.)

Planning improves focus on priorities and leads to more efficient use of time, money and other resources—Having a clear plan or roadmap helps focus limited resources on priority activities, that is, the ones most likely to bring about the desired change. Without a plan, people often get distracted by many competing demands. Similarly, projects and programmes will often go off track and become ineffective and inefficient.

Planning helps determine what success will look like—A proper plan helps individuals and units to know whether the results achieved are those that were intended and to assess any discrepancies. Of course, this requires effective monitoring and evaluation of what was planned. For this reason, good planning includes a clear strategy for monitoring and evaluation and use of the information from these processes.