Strategy Deployment and Impact Mapping

I’ve had a couple of conversations in recent weeks in which Impact Mapping came up in relation to Strategy Deployment so here’s a post on my thoughts about how the two fit together.

An Impact Map is a form of mind-map developed by Gojko Adzic, visualising the why, who, how and what of an initiative. More specifically, it shows the goals, actors involved in meeting the goals, desired impact on the actors (in order to meet the goals), and deliverables to make the impacts. The example below is from Gojko’s website.

As you can see, an Impact Map is very simple, reductionist visualisation, from Goals down to Deliverables, and while the mind map format doesn’t entirely constrain this, it tends to be what most examples I have seen look like. It does however work in such as way to start with the core problem (meeting the goal) and allow people to explore and experiment with how to solve that problem via deliverables. This is very much in line with how I define Strategy Deployment.

Lets see how that Impact Map might translate onto an X-Matrix.

The Goal is clearly an Aspiration, so any relevant measures would neatly fit into the X-Matrix’s bottom section. At the other end, the Deliverables are also clearly Tactics, and would neatly fit in the X-Matrix-s top section. I would also argue that the Impacts provide Evidence that we are meeting the Aspirations, and could fit into the X-Matrix’s right-hand section. What is not so clear is Strategy. I think the Actors could provide a hint, however, and I would suggest that an Impact Map is actually a good diagnosis instrument (as per Rumelt) with which to identify Strategy.

Taking the 4 levels on an Impact Map, and transposing them onto an X-Matrix, creates a view which can be slightly less reductionist (although not as simple), and opens up the possibility of seeing how all the different elements might be related to each other collectively. In the X-Matrix below I have added the nodes from the Impact Map above into the respective places, with direct correlations for the Impact Map relationships. This can be seen in the very ordered pattern of dots. New Tactics (Deliverables) and Evidence (Impacts), and possible more Aspirations (Goals), would of course also need to be added for the other Strategies (Actors).

Even though this is a very basic mapping, I hope its not too difficult to see the potential to start exploring what other correlations might exist for the identified Tactics. And what the underlying Strategies really are. I leave that as exercise for you to try – please leave a comment with what ideas you have!

This post is one of a series comparing Strategy Deployment and other approaches.

A Review of Impact Mapping

I mentioned that I had a great conversation with Gojko Adzic at Lean Agile Scotland. During that discussion, Gojko also described a technique he call Impact Mapping. Since then has published a short book on Impact Mapping which I highly recommend.

An Impact Map can be thought of as a structured mind map, with the following levels being used to articulate the various aspects of an initiative:

  1. Why – The central node describes the goal of the initiative in a quantative manner such that it can be measured.
  2. Who – These are the people who can either be a help or a hindrance in achieving the goal.
  3. How – These are impacts that need to be had on the actors for them to either help achieve the goal, or minimise/avoid them being a hindrance.
  4. What – These are the deliverables which are hoped will create the impact on the actors to achieve the goal.

There are a number of reasons I like the approach and find it coherent with my experiences.

  • Impact Maps build on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, which I have written about in the past. The additional Who level helps bridge the gap and identify the different Hows .
  • Impact Maps also provides a framework against which to iterate and increment using story maps, feature injection and fidelity. In particular, having the SMART goal means that the development is more likely be stopped at the right time because the the deliverables have had the desired impact, or because they are not having the anticipated impact. Alternatively, development might even be avoided because alternative deliverables are identified which will generate enough impact to achieve the goal.
  • The language of Impact Maps is very close the language I use of Impacts, Outcomes and Outputs. For me, the Why is the Impact – it is the overall impact we want the initiative to have. The Who remains the people who can help or hindering achieving the Impacts. The How are the Outcomes which will help the actors achieve the Impact (or minimise/avoid hindrance), and the What are the Outputs required to create the Outcomes.

Regardless of the subtle differences of language, its still a great technique, and is one I’m looking forward to using in the future.