Constructing an Impact Map for Organizational Behaviors

Creating an Impact Map engages key stakeholders and firmly links training programs you design to organizational objectives.


Impact Maps: Who, Why and When

Training programs that successfully deliver real benefits to the organization are programs that are embedded within a current change initiative or improvement project. Success starts at the needs analysis stage with a clear statement of the organization's objectives for the program. Once these are agreed by the program sponsor and key stakeholders, these are then converted into the desired employee behaviors on the job. It is only by people doing things differently on the job that the organization can achieve its objectives.

As you work through this process of converting objectives into behaviors, it may not proceed as easily as you had expected. You may be faced with one or more of the following challenges as you work with your client managers. The prospective training participants' managers may be:

  • intent on a particular program, but are not clear on the organizational objectives underpinning it
  • clear on what they want the program to achieve, but have rushed to a predetermined solution
  • unclear about both the objectives and the solution

In these circumstances, conducting a facilitated meeting with the management team and other key stakeholders to explore openly and map out the issues will save time in the long run and result in a plan that, at the very least, all major stakeholders will be able to live with. We recommend using an experienced facilitator to work with the stakeholders with the aim of constructing an Impact Map. An Impact Map draws the relationships between the organizational objectives, intermediate objectives and the skills and behaviors to be taught in the program.

Who needs to be involved in the drawing of the Impact Map? We recommend getting all of the key stakeholders together in one room at the same time. Key stakeholders typically include the project sponsor, training participant managers, the project leader, the principle program designer and some representative training participants. The objective of the facilitated meeting is to develop a high-level view only. Further meetings will be required with instructional designers and subject matter experts to develop the details.

Impact Map Process

Figure 1 below is an example of an Impact Map resulting from such a high-level meeting. The green boxes on the right display organizational objectives while the yellow boxes on the left depict the employee behaviors thought to lead to the achievement of the objectives. The blue boxes in the center represent intermediate objectives. These intermediate objectives may not need defining for all programs.

Figure 1 – Example of an Impact Map for charting objectives and behaviors

Diagram of Impact Map for charting objectives and behaviors

What follows is an illustration of how the process of constructing an Impact Map works. In this example, there are five key steps the organization followed in constructing the Impact Map:

  1. Identify Stakeholders
  2. Decide Organizational Objectives
  3. Decide Intermediate Objectives
  4. Decide Employee Behaviors
  5. Handover to Program Designers
  1. Identify Stakeholders

    The executive team in a financial services organization wanted to conduct a team building training program for Information Systems project team members. The project leader for the team building training program first performed a stakeholder analysis to see who the key stakeholders for this project were.

    She then sent out invitations to the key stakeholders and their representatives, explaining the purpose of the meeting. On her list of invitees were each of the eight Business Unit managers (the project clients), the six Information Systems project managers, the lead instructional designer and five project team members (prospective training program participants). Our high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance, can help you identify your training project stakeholders.

  2. Decide Organizational Objectives

    To conduct the Impact Map building exercise, the project leader conscripted the services of a professional facilitator. The facilitator arrived at the meeting prepared with flip chart paper, Post-It Notes and markers. Prior to the meeting start, she pinned up the flip chart paper and labeled the left hand side "Employee Behaviors". She then labeled the right hand side "Organizational Objectives". The idea here is for the meeting attendees to work from right (objectives) to left (behaviors) as the meeting progresses.

    She began the meeting by putting up a couple of business objectives proposed in previous informal discussions. These were reduced project cost/schedule blowouts and better use of labor resources. She wrote each objective on a green Post-It Note and stuck the notes on the right hand side of the flip chart. The two objectives were abbreviated to "Less project overruns" and "Higher efficiency".

    She then asked all of the meeting attendees to suggest other objectives. Many other objectives were added to the flip chart. The facilitator worked with the attendees to contain the number of objectives to no more than five. Experience has demonstrated that with more than five objectives, focus is lost and efforts are diluted, leading to a less efficacious result. During the robust discussion amongst the attendees, some objectives were removed and others were modified. The final group of objectives is displayed in Figure 1 above.

  3. Decide Intermediate Objectives

    Once the end objectives were settled, the facilitator asked the meeting attendees to think about what circumstances are needed to enable the achievement of those desired organizational objectives. What is it that the organization needs to have in place for the end objectives to be realized? These are termed the "intermediate objectives".

    After some discussion and a consensus was reached, the facilitator added two intermediate objectives to the chart. These were placed near the middle of the chart using blue Post-It Notes, as shown in Figure 1. The facilitator then asked a volunteer to group the end objectives that are linked to each intermediate objective together on the chart.

    After some discussion and rearranging of the yellow and blue Post-It Notes, the meeting agreed on which intermediate objectives were necessary for the achievement of which end objectives. It was decided, for example, that less project overruns, higher efficiency and higher stakeholder satisfaction will be achieved from project teams becoming more focused on the organizational benefits wanted from each project.

    As you can see from the example in Figure 1, the achievement of an intermediate objective can contribute to the winning of more than one end objective. In this case, improving organizational focus and increasing employee engagement both contribute to the end goal of higher efficiency.

    Once the connections were agreed, a volunteer was asked to use a marker to draw pointed arrows showing the relationships between the intermediate and the end objectives. The result is shown in Figure 1.

  4. Decide Employee Behaviors

    The final stage in constructing an Impact Map is agreeing the behaviors required of training program participants to support the program objectives. Here, the facilitator asked meeting attendees to consider how training program participants will need to behave differently compared with their pre-program behavior. Attendees were asked to consider which existing behaviors needed to stop, which new behaviors needed to start and which existing behaviors needed to change in degree.

    For this task, the facilitator focused meeting attendees on one intermediate objective at a time. As suggestions arose, the facilitator wrote each behavior on a yellow Post-It Note and stuck it on the left hand side of the flip chart. After all of the suggestions were placed, the facilitator worked with the attendees to consolidate the list of behaviors, eliminating duplicates and behaviors not relevant to the objectives at hand.

    As before, the facilitator then asked a volunteer to group the behaviors by placing each behavior next to the intermediate objective it supported. With more discussion, the behaviors were consolidated further. Once agreement was reached, another volunteer was asked to draw pointed arrows linking each behavior with its related objective. Figure 1 shows how the final Impact Map looked on completion.

  5. Handover to Program Designers

    After the meeting, the Impact Map was handed to the team of instructional designers. They set to work to flesh out the learning outcomes using the listed program participant behaviors as a guide. For each behavior, there was a clear linkage to at least one expected organizational outcome. And for each organizational objective, there was at least one employee behavior identified for inclusion in the training program. To capitalize on these linkages as best as possible, the instructional designers used the Behavior, Performance, Conditions (BPC) method for creating solid performance objectives for the training program.

By working with your stakeholders to construct an Impact Map, you are not only getting them on board with the program objectives, you are laying the groundwork for a program that is positively geared to getting real organizational results. Next time you find your stakeholders unclear on what outcomes they want or you are faced with a knee-jerk selection of a training program, get them working together to forge an Impact Map.

Expert View Author: AIMM MAITD

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