Impact mapping

The product backlog is boring. After all, it’s just a list, albeit an ordered one. Hence we do things like user story mapping, which makes it a more presentable way at looking at requirements. Nevertheless, more and more teams (and even stakeholders) get detached from the the actual business goal that is to be achieved. We get lost in the minutiae of the backlog. Try this – ask any team at the end of the sprint, what business objective did the sprint contribute to or achieve?

One of the  techniques for both discovery and visibility of goals, outcomes etc is Impact mapping. Impact mapping uses a very simple technique to find out the following…

Impact map


  • Why are we doing this? What is the goal you are trying to achieve? (Goal)
  • Who can affect that goal? (Actors)
  • How can they affect the goal? (Outcomes)
  • What can we do to realize that outcome? (Features/Actions)


  • So you start with the question why (do we want to do this)? Jot that down the goal on the white board or post-it note.
  • Then ask the questions, who can affect the goal (either positively or negatively). List down all the actors.
  • For each actor,
    • ask the question how can this actor affect the goal. This gives us the desired outcomes.
    • For each outcome,
      • enquire what can be done to realize that outcome. We now have actions/features

Once you have this mapped out, the stakeholders can decide which outcome will have the best chance of achieving the goal. Order the features/activity for that outcome.

Execute the highest priority activity/feature. Once done, introspect if the outcome has been achieved. If it has, introspect if the goal has been met. Of course, if the goal has been met, then we are done. If not, move to the next activity, next outcome, next actor.

As we learn after each execution, revisit the impact map to apply what we have learned. If you are using, story mapping you could add the outcome to the “rows” of stories that you map out. This way, everyone knows what outcome we are working on.

We have successfully used this technique for goal oriented activities – strategic planning, marketing campaign design and of course need finding.


Recovering programmer, Agile software developer & coach

Posted in Agile, Lean Tagged with: , , , ,

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