What is the Impact Mapping about?
Impact Mapping is a strategic planning technique that helps establish and visualize relationships between a goal, the actors involved, the impacts expected from these actors, and the deliverables that will lead the actors to make an impact. Designed by Gojko Adzic, an influential author in the Agile community, with the view of facilitating collaboration and interaction, this workshop is ideal for creating alignment between senior technical and business people.
More particularly, Impact Mapping forces teams to define the assumptions that support the plan to achieve business objectives, which leads to challenging targets and constraints along the way. Such as Mind Mapping, the visual nature of this method ensures that decision-makers share a clear understanding of key underlying hypotheses while supporting big-picture thinking.
As it should be used iteratively to build medium-term plans, Impact mapping perfectly embraces the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop of the Lean Startup method. At the end of each cycle, the workshop offers an opportunity to measure progress and distinguish valid from invalid assumptions, leading to explore further or drop some parts of the map in the future.
How to build a compelling Impact Map?
An impact Map is composed of four levels of hierarchy:
- The Goal (Why?): The head of the Impact Map answers the most essential question: Why are we doing this? The business goal definition should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely) and focused on explaining why such an objective would be useful for the organization.
- The Actors (Who?): The second level of the Impact Map is about identifying the actors who can influence the outcome. In this part of the workshop, you should provide answers to the following questions: Whose behavior do we want to impact? Who can produce the desired effect? Who can obstruct it? Who are the consumers or users of our product? Who will be impacted by it?
- The Impacts (How?): The third level focuses on listing the impacts you want to cause through the actors. It should answer the following questions: How should our actors’ behavior change? How can they help us achieve the goal? How can they obstruct or prevent us from succeeding?
- The Deliverables (What?): The last level of the Impact Map is finally about determining the scope of software features and organizational activities that should cause the impacts defined at the previous step. You should answer the following questions: What can we do, as an organization or delivery team, to support the required impacts?
Impact Mapping brings a logical context to the delivery plan by connecting deliverables to impact and goals, which may be then crucial to reevaluate decisions and eventually reprioritize the roadmap. As it gives a relevant overview of strategic challenges, Impact Mapping can also be a great workshop to start with when using the OKR Framework that addresses operational objectives in a more detailed way.
Some facilitation tips from Gojko Adzic
Based on his rich experience, Gojko Adzic has identified some common facilitation mistakes that you should try to avoid:
- Too many people: The more people there are in a workshop, the more difficult it is to facilitate it. Gojko Adzic advises limiting the session to no more than five or six people.
- Criticizing too early: Gojko Adzic encourages to let room for ideation and divergent thinking during the first phase of the workshop. Criticizing too early can kill the discussion before anyone has come up with interesting alternatives.
- Reverse-engineering an entire shopping list: Some participants can start an Impact Mapping workshop with a pretty clear list of features to implement to try to influence the group to lead it to their favorite features. As a workaround, you could use the list to draw the map skeleton and then push people to think about alternatives.
- Going too much low-level detail early on: As the technique is iterative, it’s not worth detailing the map too much. Instead, you should focus on actors and impacts first, as the deliverables are just a dynamic result of the firsts.