Impact Mapping

An engaging, graphical, strategic planning technique
Contributed by

Justin Holmes

Matt Takane

Edited by
Published September 06, 2017

What Is Impact Mapping?

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 Do 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. It can also be run in a 4-6 hour session with Project Sponsors in the early stages of product development planning. These are just two of endless possible variations of the technique.
  • It is an excellent way to allow leadership and autonomous teams to have a conversation around strategic priorities and how they translate into the work of the team.
  • The focus on Impacts for key actors translates well into outcomes.
  • Impact Mapping is a way for leaders to practice leadership by intent (ref David Marquet)

How to do Impact Mapping?

Who do you need?

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

Suggested Time

For the shortened variation:

  • 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 book in the links section below.


  • Facilitator: Moderate
  • Participants: Easy

Facilitation Materials Needed

Digital Variation:

  • a tool capability of building mind map like visualisations, for example Miro, Mural or Coggle (check the links section below).

Physical Variation:

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

How does it fit?

  • Typically done in the Why area of the Discovery of the Open Practice Library

Tips for remote sessions

Remote facilitation doesn’t differ much from the face to face, but you need to be more clear on the preparation of the draft GOAL done by your Product Owner.

It works well if you have stakeholders and a multifunctional team, but it could be difficult to gather all data in one session. You can evaluate to running the practice 2 to 3 times with an interval between each iteration to allow people to review and fill the gaps.

The facilitator will become a single point of failure if he/she is the only one updating the map.

You probably need more time than the one it takes for a face-to face session.

Be sure everyone is aware of commands to move multiple sticky-notes in a large map.

Related Practices

  • 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.

Look at Impact Mapping

Links we love

Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Impact Mapping practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.

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