What is Impact Mapping?

Mark Dalgarno
4 min readOct 17, 2022


I’m a big fan of Impact Mapping — a technique I use to help teams reach agreed goals and identify options for achieving those goals. I’ve given away about 1500 copies of the Impact Mapping book to people who come to my conferences and others and it’s rarely long before I bring it up in conversations about helping leaders focus…

I’ve used this mapping technique in government right since the beginning of my government work in early 2013, helping many programmes to identify better goals and generate better options for achieving those goals. Impact Mapping always delivers something of value.

The very first time I used it a team cut their 17 goals down to 5 and also got clarity (and agreement) on when each goal would be considered to have been achieved.

How can it help?

I’ve been working with programme and product leadership teams for almost 30 years and regularly encounter the same issues:

  • Strategies that aren’t actionable
  • Projects that try to achieve too many goals
  • Lack of agreement on the goals for a project
  • Teams that only plan for everything going well
  • Teams doing work that doesn’t support project goals but satisfies sponsors
  • Teams doing work that doesn’t support project goals but that they want to do

Impact Mapping can help with all of these problems.

I’ve run Impact Mapping workshops with about 40 teams since I learned about the technique. It’s helped them:

  • Clarify their goals
  • Reduce the number of goals they have to an achievable amount
  • Build alignment — e.g. getting agreement on how much is enough and in what order goals should be tackled to help them focus
  • Identify new options for achieving goals — expanding their thinking
  • Identify people or groups that could undermine the team’s goals and identify options for dealing with these groups
  • Eliminate ‘pet projects’ and ‘gold-plating‘ — work that wouldn’t contribute to goals

How does Impact Mapping work?

Impact mapping is a visual technique, similar to mind-mapping, popularized by Gojko Adzic in his Impact Mapping book in 2012.

At the heart of the map is a goal — the Why of the work being done.

The next level out are the Actors — people or groups who can influence the goal — these are the Who of the work.

Next out are Impacts — options for achieving (or frustrating) the goal. These are the How of the work.

Finally, we have Deliverables the things that need to be done to deliver on the impacts. These are the What of the work.

Outline Impact Map showing Goal, Actors, Impacts and Deliverables as a graph rooted at the Goal.

Impact Maps are created on a one-off basis in project inception or (ideally) created and updated at a regular frequency e.g. quarterly.

Get everyone (programme and delivery team leadership) together to map — impact mapping doesn’t require specialist subject matter or technology/digital knowledge, this is one of its advantages.

I start with mapping the team’s Goals, then Impacts, then Actors, then Deliverables. I find this sequence works well because people often have good ideas about possible Impacts.

You don’t have to fully flesh out the map — you can do just enough to guide your work for the next increment — only a few deliverables are typically mapped. This agile approach to fleshing out the map works well with the cadence of an agile delivery team.

You can create an initial map over a few sessions — build it on a physical team wall or in a mind-mapping tool.

Example impact map

Here’s a small fictitious example map to help get a better idea of what you might end up with — which is usually a bigger map than shown.

Example impact map for a fictitious service for schools.

This team’s goal is to increase the number of schools signed up to their optional service for schools by 20%. They think that school leaders and local authorities are important actors and they’ve fleshed out the map to show 3 impacts with school leaders — email marketing, event marketing and encouraging word of mouth. They predict email marketing could increase sign-ups by 20% — which is the increase they’re looking for — with a 5% increase predicted for event marketing and a 2% increase predicted if they can support and encourage word-of-mouth referrals.

They’ve elaborated the map for the event marketing impact (their best bet) to include a few deliverables to achieve that impact — building their mailing list and launching a summer marketing campaign. They’ve also included a deliverable for event marketing — attendance at the BETT trade show.

I’m writing a follow-up post giving a detailed explanation of my typical workshop plan for running an Impact Mapping workshop, so look out for that soon.

How are Impact Maps used?

As a comms tool — you can talk through the maps with people not present at the mapping session to outline options for achieving goals.

You can take a section of the map (one or more options and deliverables) and convert it into a conventional roadmap — do this periodically to keep your roadmap up to date.

It can be displayed in your team area to give context to your team’s work.

You can use it to decide whether you have done enough to meet a goal or exhausted an option.


Impact Mapping book — https://www.impactmapping.org/book.html

Impact Mapping community website — https://www.impactmapping.org/

In summary

Impact Mapping Crib Sheet: Goal = WHY you are doing something, Actor = WHO can help achieve the goal or who can undermine your efforts, Impact = Options for HOW you might achieve your goal & Deliverable = WHAT you need to build or do to deliver an option.

Previously published on the Create/Change blog.

Edit: See also my later blog post, How to run your first Impact Mapping workshop.