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Impact Mapping

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What is it?

Impact Mapping is an engaging, graphical, strategic planning technique. It was introduced by Gojko Adzic in 2012. At the end of the impact map, you should have:

  • A shared understand of your effort’s goal or problem statement
  • An inventory of human behavioral changes that must occur (or not occur) for your project to be successful. These are the impact from which the technique gets it name
  • Optionally, an inventory of project scope that could be delivered to achieve the aforementioned impacts
  • Some sort of prioritization of scope and/or impacts
  • A physical or digital diagram with the above information

Why use Impact Mapping?

  • Most planning activities revolve around juggling a “shopping list of features,” as Gojko calls them. Even though the features are delivered, often the business objective is not achieved. Impact Mapping reorients us towards delivering value, not delivering features.
  • Impact Mapping introduces a very simple human centered design process, and as such, it is a great way to put lightweight design thinking techniques into practice
  • It’s a graphical mind map, which reduces the barrier to entry for participants and facilitators alike
  • The technique is highly adaptable, because the core mind map is so simple. Gojko’s original text describes a ~4 week executive level strategic planning workshop. At Labs, we typical run a 4-6 hour session with Project Sponsors during a Discovery Session. These are just two of endless possible variations of the technique.
  • Start At The End is another practice which leads to the same outputs. Compared to Start At The End, Impact Mapping produces a higher fidelity understanding of the domain, but at the cost of increased complexity for facilitation. Generally speaking, Impact Mapping is the better fit when building products or services, and Start At The End is a better fit when discussing organizational change or other generally nebulous efforts.

Who do you need?

  • Facilitator
  • Product Owner
  • Project Sponsor, both technical and business
  • Architects

Suggested Time

For the shortened variation Labs uses:

  • 2-4 hours of prep to establish a goal or problem statement before the session. This is important, or your session will go sideways!
  • optionally - 2 hours before the session to create an outline of the Impact Map based on your current understanding, as a way to introduce the subject to participants
  • ~4 Hours to facilitate the session, not including breaks
  • Facilitate in small sessions @ around 60-90 minutes each
  • Session can be done on different days

For the executive level session format, see the Impact Mapping book1:


  • Facilitator: Moderate
  • Participants: Easy

Facilitation Materials Needed

Digital Variation:

  • a mind mapping tool. we recommend coggle2

Physical Variation:

  • a large whiteboard
  • whiteboard markers
  • sticky notes
  • markers for stickies

Process Phase

When run strategically, at senior levels, Impact Mapping is a great way to run the “Define the Area to Focus Upon” phase of the Double Diamond design model3. When applied more tactically, Impact Mapping can used as a transition from the first diamond to the second, largely as a way to synthesize strategy work down to date in an easy to consume format.

Additional Resources for Red Hatters (we’re working to share more broadly)

External Resources

  1. Gojko Adzic’s original book
  2. Impact Mapping tool: coggle
  3. Double Diamond design model
  4. Short video introduction
  5. Site on Impact Mapping
  6. Blog post on Using Impact Mapping to foster innovation