The REVERSE Impact Map and mindset-shift-voodoo
Let's be honest. We're stuck in output focused conversations way too often.
The management team knows exactly which features to build next. Stakeholders have todo list of solutions they want your team to deliver. Nearly all OKR discussions end in a way that somehow there's always a feature idea attached to a KR already before the quarter even started - if the KR is an outcome at all.
⚡️ The management doesn't believe in discovery but believes they're the only ones who know how to achieve the company's business goals.
⚡️ Nobody knows what "outcomes" actually are.
Even you and your team have a hard time coming up with good and the right outcomes although you know their value.
⚡️ And the only personas that the company knows are "buyers" and "users".... and maybe "partners". But what are personas good for anyways, no need for knowing more segments, personas, or target groups. In the end, each department will follow their own strategy to address their own version of a target group without being aligned with any other function in the organization.
Sounds too familiar, right?
If you love the product and the people and really want to stay there, you might want to find a way to change their minds.
Or maybe it's even your job to change their minds.
It's difficult. But not impossible.
There are different techniques that can help you in these situations. In this post, I'd like to introduce you to a technique that is already well known, and how it can help you in this situation when you give it a little twist:
The REVERSE Impact Map.
What is the Reverse Impact Map?
Well, it is the Impact Map that we all know and love but reversed. And not necessarily visually but rather using the way of thinking behind the Impact Map to your advantage and combine it with a couple of other techniques.
Before we get into the details, I want you to be aware that the first rule of changing mindsets is that it takes time. Regardless of the techniques you choose, or whether you try to do it alone or with internal or external support, it takes time. You need to take baby steps. You'll even be pushed back again and again, and have to start a new attempt, maybe with a different method or from a different perspective.
Now, let's dive in.
How do those baby steps look like when making mindset voodoo with the Reverse Impact Map.
The normal Impact Map
The Impact Map is a visual, tree-shaped tool that helps you to align management, stakeholders and teams on the direction of the product development and implementation.
In more detail it helps you to
connect business outcomes to user outcomes and eventually solutions.
reveal hidden assumptions.
plan where to set your focus, what to build, and what to potentially test.
find dependencies and potential correlations for roadmap decisions.
discuss, decide, and plan in fast, collaborative, interactive, and goal-oriented way.
You can find more information about the Impact Map on the official website.
I love the Impact Map! You can use it for so many different purposes.
You can set any focus, the Impact Map will help you.
👉 You have a business goal and want to find a more diverse group of actors aka target groups, other than “buyers” and “users”? Great! Start your Impact Map!
👉 You know the group of actors and want to find the right outcomes that you can also use for your next round of OKRs? Great! Create your Impact Map!
👉 You have your outcomes and need the right ideas to move these outcomes? Great! Create your Impact Map! And from there, take it to the next level and understand which solution ideas need to be tested and which can be planned to be built.
And there are so many more topics you can enhance by supporting your thought process and discussions with an Impact Map.
AND you can use it in combination with other methods and frameworks.
With OKRs, the North Star Metric, as discovery guidance, in strategy definition sessions, with an Opportunity Solution Tree, and many more. But these are potentially separate posts.
The Reverse Impact Map
The magic of the Impact Map lies not only in the visual way of collaboration. Beyond this, it helps you to structure your own thoughts and to guide your counterpart through your thoughts in your conversation.
Now let's think again about the situation that I've described above.
Wouldn't you like to change people's mind to move from output thinking to outcome thinking?
Wouldn't you like to make think more often how to leverage a specific target group's impact before jumping into ideation?
Wouldn't you like to make sure your team only works on ideas that create value for a target group AND the business?
The REVERSE Impact Map enters the room.
The Reverse Impact Map is nothing else than thinking the Impact Map backwards, starting from the last level (Deliverables aka Output) and getting to the first level (Goal aka Business Outcome).
Assuming that you need to go through the whole path to make [enter your stakeholder's name you're trying to do mindset-shift-voodoo on] connect the dots from output thinking and randomly throwing ideas at you over outcomes and target groups to how to actually achieve the business outcome...
Step 1: From output to outcome
You know what you need to do when a customer wants a feature: You try to find out what the real problem is that they're trying to solve. A better way to understand the opportunity space is to try to understand the outcome they're trying to achieve.
And that's exactly what you do as well when your stakeholder throws a feature at you and wants you to build it. Keep in mind that your stakeholder might be your manager. Or your manager's manager. Or your manager's manager's manager. Or the management.
Step 1 is simply to always keep digging deeper into the reason which impact this feature is going to have on your customer's or user's behavior. Why should you build this in regard to the customer/user outcome you're trying to achieve.
How to get there ? There's no magic trick here*. You know the 5-Whys already. You know how to turn the conversation's attention to the outcome you're trying to achieve. Improve on the game from conversation to conversation. If your response to an idea is "Great idea! Is this going to help us improve time to first value creation?" in the first conversation, you'll get to "Ok, which possible outcomes could this affect" at one point.
Once you're at the level that you've agreed on an outcome to improve, you can suggest other ideas that might help improve this outcome, too.
Slowly. Be patient. Wait for a good moment when you can try this. You should be prepared. Don't come with "We should do some discovery and then I can suggest some more ideas". Remember, your manager doesn't believe in discovery.
As a preparation for step 2, bring the target group into the conversation from time to time. "Who are we talking about?" "Wait is this for the parents with high income or with low income?"
*Ok maybe a trick is to be patient and polite. You're going to look for the outcome until your colleagues and stakeholders give you a nickname "outcome lady" or "outcome boy", or make jokes "come out outcome or I'll come out to find you!"
Step 2: Start with WHO
In your outcome-conversations start to be more specific and even pro-active about the target group. You can even start to change the direction of the conversation to focus on a different target group.
You: "Oh ok so this is for the homeowners. Don't you think regulators will hate this?"
SH: "Maybe, but blablablabla."
You: "Hmmm ok but I believe we should think this through. We might get in trouble with the regulators and they might hinder us from helping homeowners get credits for buying micro-houses to rent out. (I'm totally making this up here) Look, I suggest I look into this and get back to you with a suggestion regarding what to do to make sure regulators don't stand in our way, what do you think?"
You see, we've started with homeowners and turned the ship around to look at regulators. Might turn out that there's no risk at all but in an environment where you don't distinguish between different actors, you would probably not think about other relevant actors and only think and talk about "users", "customers", and maybe "partners".
Once you're able to turn conversations to other actors, you can pro-actively start with the actor. When someone tells you that you and your team need to work on feature x, you can start asking which group of people this will benefit in which way, and how we think of changing their behavior with this feature.
This way, you find more relevant actors that should you be focusing on, find their behavior you want to change, and ideate solutions accordingly.
Now we've already gotten from level 4 to level 2. There’s one important step left: How do we connect the idea with the actual business goal that we're pursuing, and how can we make sure it's the right idea to move this business outcome?
Step 3: What are we trying to achieve in the end
Many Product Managers tend to be too far away from the business goals, focussed on "creating great products that users love". Well, the job of a Product Manager is to do this in a way that creates value for the business. No money, no business. No business, no product. No product, no job.
So, how do we connect all of the above now with the business outcome?
We ask and suggest.
We simply ask and suggest. Again.
Reading the Impact Map path can help. Each path of the Impact Map reads like this:
In order to achieve [GOAL], we want to help/make [ACTOR] to/with [IMPACT] with/by [DELIVERABLE]. We'll test our assumption with these experiments: [EXPERIMENT 1], [EXPERIMENT 2], ... [EXPERIMENT n]
Using Gojko Adzics example Impact Map:
In order to Grow Mobile Advertising,
we want to make Super-fans with mobile devices
to Come back more frequently
with Push Updates about their favorite artists.
Having this path in mind, you could for example ask:
"Help me understand which of our this year's (or quarter's or whatever time horizon it is about) goals we're trying to move with helping [actor] to [achieve outcome] with [idea]."
"I guess we're trying to improve [business outcome]? If so, I have another suggestion actually. What if..." (note that this might be a little too pro-active, depending on your company culture and the the progress you've made with your voodoo)
"We've agreed we want to achieve [business outcome] in this quarter. I suggest we focus on making [actor] do [outcome] wit [idea] because [our data/research/insights - some sort of evidence]
Now you're at the level that you can suggest alternative actors, outcomes, and outputs based on the business outcomes you've clarified or revealed your stakeholders are trying to achieve.
Summary & reminder
The Reverse Impact Map is the Impact Map in reverse order. It's a way of thinking that can help you to slowly change conversations from being purely output driven to becoming open to alternatives, based on the business and user outcomes.
You can sketch conversations and make the alternative options visible. Or you can just structure your conversations according to the levels of an Impact Map depending on the level you're discussing.
The Reverse Impact Map can help you turn conversations around if you're patient and really want to change the way your organization thinks. Or you're getting paid for doing it (Agile or Product Coaches anyone?).
The key to changing mindsets is - regardless of which technique you use - patience and alliances. If you don't have this patience and nobody supports you, it's going to be more than difficult to change anyone's mindset.
Therefore, don't take this as a silver bullet. Take it as the extension of a tool that you already have in your toolbox: As the Impact Map in reverse order.