Impact mapping using rings

Click to enlargeI’ve been doing a lot of impact mapping recently, but when my friend Matt Hosking got involved he noticed a problem: it makes very poor use of wall space. And as a result of that he suggested laying it out differently—in rings. I’ve now had a chance to try it, and I can report that this is an excellent approach.

The idea of impact mapping is to make clear connections between your deliverables and your over goal (or, less ideally, goals plural). A goal is connected to actors, who are the people to whom this makes a difference. Each actor is connected to a number of “impacts”, which are tangible changes that they witness or feel. Each impact is connected to those deliverables that we make, which achieve those impacts. A workshop creating one of these usually involves sticky notes on a whiteboard, and it’s typically laid out as a mind map expanding from left (goal) to right (deliverables).

But Matt found “there was only one thing on the left (the goal), and then a crescendo of things to the right. Efforts to spider off this as more items were analysed was going to lead to a very odd use of wall and a lot of wasted space.” So he suggested we use rings instead. The goal is in the centre, around this is a ring of actors, around that is a ring of impacts, and on the outside is a ring of deliverables.

With the experience of just one session like this, I like it a lot. The image above is what we produced—I’ve emphasised the borders and the labelled the rings more clearly. You can click the image to enlarge it.

It is a better use of wall space, but there’s another practical benefit, too, which comes from using lines as borders instead of connectors: it’s much easier to move the sticky notes around (which happens often when we need to make more space for another idea). There are fewer lines, so they’re easier to redraw, or we move around the sticky notes within borders, meaning there’s no redrawing needed at all. All in all, it meant more time focused on the conversation and less on niggly mechanics.

So thanks, Matt. I’ll be using this approach again.