New Instructions for Initiative Mapping

Introducing a simpler process for mapping how people work together

Charles Davies
Dec 9, 2016 · 3 min read

This week, I launched a new approach to mapping organisations and collaboration. The Initiative Mapping cards are the simplest tool I can think of to bring clarity to how people work together.

About The Process

What’s the point?

The aim of the process is to map out everything that is being done and everyone doing it, such that it is clear who is helping who with what. Doing this makes questions of who is responsible for what and who has authority to do what self-evident. This allows a natural flow in how people collaborate.

What’s an initiative?

An initiative is any undertaking to bring something into the world. Every initiative is started by someone — the person who took the initiative to start it.

What is mapping?

Not designing. Not making things up. Just dealing with the historical facts of things that actually happened. It’s more like accounting than ‘organisation design’.

The Questions

“Who are you?”

This literally means what is your name. Nothing more profound, not your job title, not your role, not your life story.

“What are you doing?”

Again, not your job title. But what are you working on? What are you trying to achieve? What do you do when you do what you do? “CEO”, for example, isn’t an answer, because it doesn’t mean anything. The answer should be an accurate expression of the thing that, so long as you carry on doing it, will mean that you meet the need you are trying to meet through the work you are doing. You can use the Very Clear Ideas process to ensure that your answer is accurate and true.

“When did you start?”

This means the specific moment when you remember taking the initiative and making the commitment to do what you are doing. So, if you are talking about a business you founded, it doesn’t mean what year did you incorporate as a business. It means that moment sitting in a cafe / in the shower / talking to a colleague (whatever) where you went, “Right. I’m actually going to do this.” Or that moment of no return when you made the call / paid the deposit / handed in your notice.

“Who are you helping?”

This isn’t in the loose sense of ‘I’m helping all mankind be happy.” or “I’m helping our customers work more effectively.” It’s in the specific sense of one person asking another person for help. If you’re not the person who started something, then you must be helping someone. And, if you are a helper, you need to know who you are helping. If you started something, then your answer to “Who are you helping?” will be “No one.”

The Process

An initiative map shows how everyone involved in a piece of work is connected to the person who started it. Think of it like an electricity circuit where everyone needs to be ‘plugged in’. if you’re not ‘plugged in’ to the person who started it, then you’re not helping. And if you’re not helping, then you are not relevant to the map.

First, answer the four questions. When you have clear answers to all four questions, then you can add your card to the map. You can also arrange the cards ‘family tree’ style — with starter at the top and helpers cascading down — but it’s not important. You can just as easily go left to right or bottom to top. The important thing is to be able to see how the lines flow from the starter to every helper.

If you would like help mapping how people work together in your organisation, get in touch. I’m looking for interesting organisations to work with in 2017.

I couldn’t have developed this approach to mapping initiatives without the insights I’ve learned from Peter Koenig. You can read more about his work here.


Get clear on who you are, what you’re doing and how it gets…

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store