Notes on Jim Kalbach’s Building Consensus by Mapping Experiences

(From a virtual seminar on’s All You Can Learn library)

Here’s a user journey map Jim made for a client:

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 1.10.18 PM

This story being told here is about the individual, the organization and the interactions between them:

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 1.12.50 PM

This is a form of story telling: capturing the positives and negatives of a user’s experience and figuring out how the org can align with this experience so that both parties receive value from the interactions

  • Once shared, this document helps to create a common, org-wide understanding of the customer experience

Jess McMullin: “Value-centered design starts a story about an ideal interaction between an individual and an org and the benefits each realizes from that interaction”

Ways to diagram customer-org alignment include:

  • Customer journey maps
  • User story mapping
  • Mental model diagrams
  • Service blueprints
  • Ecosystem models

Jim seems a common process in all these methods:

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 1.38.03 PM

Jim points out the “investigate” will ideally include talking to real customers to get away from organizational assumptions and opinions

  • Even better to get stakeholders from across the org involved in listening to the customers—something common for UXers but extremely rare for the rest of the org

He points out these visualizations are catalysts for conversations—they aren’t meant to provide “answers”

  • Simply sharing the docs with colleagues without discussion greatly reduces what (if any!) impact they can have on the org

These conversations should go on across the entire org—sales and marketing, customer service, everyone!

  • Our job is to provide a visualization that everyone can understand and use as a common touchpoint, even if we’re not included in that specific conversation

So think carefully about the language in your visualization:

  • Don’t be overspecialized in terminology. How could a sales person paraphrase key points in their work?
  • Again our job is to facilitate understanding and help other stakeholders extend it further throughout the org
  • Create the most simple and human visualization you can!

The overarching goal is to help align the org with a well-defined story about whose lives we’re trying to transform, how, and why (to paraphrase Andy Raskin)

Collective sense making

Convene your stakeholders to begin mapping and ask for their help—and start building a collective understanding and buy-in

  • It may be helpful to bring some visual artifacts like story maps or personas to get the conversation rolling
  • Also bring summaries of existing related data
  • Showing the “as is” state of your product can help spur envisioning of where to go next

This kind of co-creation surfaces knowledge from a variety of vantage points about the problem the org needs to solve

This activity builds empathy for the customer across the org

But ideas are overrated

  • Orgs don’t lack for ideas!
  • Gathering lots of ideas doesn’t mean the best ones automatically rise to the top

An idea on sticky note has no intrinsic value

  • It isn’t actionable
  • At the outset, a good idea is indistinguishable from a bad one

The 5×5 framework is an example of a method to help winnow ideas (from Michael Schrage’s The Innovator’s Hypothesis):

  • 5 people
  • 5 days
  • 5 experiments
  • $5k
  • In 5 weeks
  • The idea is to make small bets and prove them out as quickly and cheaply as possible

This connects to mapping since maps don’t contain the entire, definitive customer experience—they provide views into possible slices of customer experiences that we need to prove out through experiments

  • Use maps to help build stakeholder buy-in to experiment with the lowest-cost prototypes possible

Mapping is an integral part of overall product development:

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 2.21.42 PM.png

About Jim (from his site): I am currently the Head of Customer Success at MURAL. Previously, I worked in various design-related consulting roles for large companies, such as eBay, Audi, SONY, Elsevier Science, LexisNexis, and Citrix.

Before moving back to the US in 2013 after living for fifteen years in Germany, I was the co-founder of the European Information Architecture conferences. I also founded the IA Konferenz, a leading UX design event in Germany.

For many years, I was an editor with Boxes and Arrows, a leading online journal for user experience information. I also served on the advisory board of the Information Architecture Institute in 2007 and 2005.

Music is a main creative outlet outside of work. I played bass in a local jazz combo in Hamburg Germany, where I used to live with my wife, Nathalie, and our cat, Niles. See the website for The Lampshades. Now I am involved in the local jazz scene in NJ and NY, primarily with the jam session at the Brightside Tavern in Jersey City.

In 2007, I published his first full-length book, Designing Web Navigation (O’Reilly, 2007). My second book, Mapping Experiences (O’Reilly, 2016) was a #1 bestseller on Amazon in the Business Development section.


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