Throughout my experience, I’ve found the process of journey mapping to be an invaluable exercise, particularly when trying to unite teams around a common and shared understanding of a service. Journey mapping, user journey mapping, and service blueprinting are all different flavours of this process, creating visual maps centered around a user’s journey.
In this post, I reflect on the diversity of the journey maps I have created, how I build them, and, most importantly, the different types of outcomes they have helped achieve.
Here are some principles I’ve developed when considering a mapping exercise with clients:
Are you clear why you are creating a journey map? Is it alignment, to communicate at a high level, find areas for innovation? Being really explicit with your intent can ensure you actually get the outcome your looking for.
While the thought of having a shiny PDF of a journey map or big wall may be enticing, i’ve found the magic happens in the collective creation of the map. Its the conversations that are sparked the ‘aha’ moments that can only happen when people witness the assembly of the map rather than the finished output.
A big fail I had early on was to assume that senior leaders would know alot about their customers. The richest insights comes from people who have day to day contact with end users. Call centre staff, social media, shop floor, logistics and returns teams. That said, having a few senior stakeholders to witness the assembly of the map can be very powerful.
Swimlanes; the rows that provacate at each stage. There are some common ones that work on most maps, but liberating yourself to make your own swim-lanes can superpower your map towards your intended outcome.
Some typical swim lanes i’ve used are :
Some usual ones :
Have a go at rough steps before session (people get hung up on this
I’ve tried many times to get a group to map the stages, and yet it always seems to take ages and people who’ve not done journey mapping generally find this a strange concept (as they are being asked to cut horizontally rather than in the silos of delivery they are used to. I would suggest having a rough go at the first middle and last step then getting them to tweak. Asking if this is ‘good enough’.
Kicking off with an empty journey map template is too cold. Start with an empathy map of the core user or groups. This drops people into the right mindset and makes the mapping much easier. Just 10-15min max will do.
Mapping can be tricky with a group larger than 6. The loud voices take over and the quiet ones withdraw. Best to separate them and do more journey maps in smaller groups and compare and converge them later.
Mapping is tiring and people get sleepy quickly. Take breaks but also check-in. You can ask “How do you feel this is going?, What are you learning?, What has changed for you? “
By writing the post its yourself you are immediately limiting the bandwidth of what can be captured. You’re also limiting the conversation to a certain format which for nero-diverse and people that need the quite space to reflect and think can be quite un-inclusive. It also lets some people ‘check-out’ and not fully enagage. So if you can insist that people write their own post-its (virtually or real world)
The temptation for people writing on post its can be to put one word or if writing by hand do it quick and sloppy. This stops other people from reading or understanding. If in person insist people keep it clear and legible. Each post-it should have enough on it to make sense on its own.
In my experience, it’s the conversations, disagreements, negotiations, and “aha!” moments during the map creation process that shift mindsets, create buy-in, and establish consensus for change. The end map usually becomes outdated within a few months, having already fulfilled its purpose—to align and co-create a shared understanding of users’ experiences.
In some cases, I’ve created maps on my own as a researcher to communicate with a broader audience. This approach works well for simple maps that highlight key moments.
Journey mapping has been invaluable to me, unlocking numerous stalled ideas and shifting the mindset from solutions-first thinking. It will continue to be a pivotal process in my work with clients.
Oh and one more thing..
With some audiences I map in excel, here is a template you can use/copy/steal In google sheets.