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Henry Fuller

Dynamic. Henry Fuller.

Henry Fuller

26 July 2021

What is action mapping and how can it help?

Action mapping is a phrase often heard in learning circles. But what is action mapping and how can it help your goals? Planning a digital learning solution at a high level is an essential part of the instructional design process. For most projects, here at Dynamic, we now invite clients to get involved in an online action mapping exercise as a prerequisite to storyboarding or scripting.

People have their own analysis and planning method preferences but I find action mapping to be a great technique to ensure that a learning intervention has the desired impact.

Action mapping questions

Action mapping is largely based around the following key questions:


What is the goal and how will it be solved?


What do people need to do in order to reach the goal?


Why aren’t people doing what they need to?


What changes will help?

Historically, I have looked to project SMEs to provide answers to these questions but have recently been wondering – is that right?

Action mapping diagram

Instructional design problem

Let’s start with the first question, ‘What is the goal?’

In our experience, the goal is usually set by someone in a senior leadership position who then passes it on to a project sponsor to action.

Talk to these guys when action mapping. Colleagues. Line managers. Heads of Department.

Now for the second, third and fourth questions

I think that the best people to answer these questions are those who are at the centre of the problem, such the colleagues, line managers or heads of department – not SMEs or project sponsors.

In my experience, SMEs are typically appointed to projects because they are considered to hold all the knowledge around a given subject, not because they understand the specifics of why a problem exists or because they know the best way to solve it.

For example, a project to create a new Cyber Security learning solution will often have a Cyber Security expert as the main contact, but usually the people whose behaviour needs to change are the colleagues and data handlers, not the experts.

Despite this, people at the centre of the problem are very rarely part of the project team and therefore are not party to any action mapping activities. So, we are then relying on members of the project team to relate the requirements second-hand, ahead of project kick-off, so that we can attempt to acquire the information by proxy.

For me, this doesn’t always pan out as planned so I have introduced a new step into the project process.

Action mapping solution

First, I aim to seek buy-in from the client that they are happy for a number of end users to be contacted. I then prepare a simple online survey asking them to self-assess their competence in each of the job behaviours that have been defined by the action mapping process. 

For example, let’s imagine, that we’re creating some training on Operational Expenditure. By working through the action mapping process, we have established that the goal of the training is:

Action mapping job behaviour

To increase financial acumen for Operational Leaders across the company to drive a 10% reduction in operational expenditure by the end of the year.

We have then decided that one job behaviour that serves to reach that goal is:

To create of a profit and loss statement.

Now, there are a number of constituent skills involved in this whole task and to assume that learners are equally competent in each of them may be a mistake. And that’s how a simple end user survey can help.

Survey example

Constituent skill 1: Calculating revenue

I am fully competent in using a profit and loss statement to calculate revenue.

Constituent skill 2: Calculating cost of goods sold

I am fully competent in using a profit and loss statement to subtract the cost of goods sold.

Constituent skill 3: Adding additional income

I am fully competent in adding additional income to a profit and loss statement.

Action mapping analysis

Once completed by a cohort of end users, the results of the survey can be analysed and the performance gaps identified. It’s kind of a training needs analysis, I suppose.

At Dynamic, we’ve seen some fantastic results from this approach with a wide range of different clients.

One client who I’ve worked with recently decided to ask the questions in a focus group ahead of the project start date and the information that came out of it is instructional design gold. Without it, the project would simply have missed the mark.

The specific method of gathering this information varies from company to company depending on the audience, but the Dynamic team are able to support this information gathering process, however it is conducted.

Applying the solution to your business

If you have a learning intervention planned, or a learning need you’re still trying to get to grips with, think about the four questions of action mapping and who would be the best people to speak to for each of them.

Get in touch with the Dynamic team today for a demo of the tools we can use to help better capture the learning requirements and start to explore an initial storyboard for you.