We all have those tools and insights in our careers that change everything. There is a time before your discovery, and the time after.
For me, one example is journey mapping.
I first explored journey mapping while working at a technology firm (T4G Limited, now MNP) in the early 2000s. It was full of thinkers and doers, problem solvers and entrepreneurs, most of them technologists and coders who didn’t think like communicators or marketers. Thanks to them, I learned a lot and discovered the power of journey mapping as a research tool that I continue to use today to better understand people and teams.
Journey mapping is a visualization of the steps in a scenario, and that can help trace what people are thinking, feeling, and doing at each stage of their journey—whatever the journey might be. For traditional technology clients, journey mapping means understanding the right online experience to complete a task. What we discovered is that the solution involves many people beyond the IT team. Journey mapping allows organizations to find the opportunities for innovation and alignment from cross- functional teamwork. Done well, it is a tool that unlocks how best to create that ideal work environment for collaboration.
I’ve been grateful to apply the art and science of journey mapping since my tech-focused days. At NATIONAL we apply the methodology to clients in post-secondary, consumer products, finance, and a host of other sectors, exploring what each audience is trying to do and accomplish. Each time we engage in this work, I’m amazed at what we learn and the applicability to organizational planning and supporting change.
Post-Secondary Journey Mapping: The Path to Enrollment
This June, at the ARUCC (Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada) Conference, Alyson Murray from Dalhousie University and I presented a case study on journey mapping the path to enrollment for students and its impact on operational effectiveness. The research mapped what high-school students were thinking, feeling, and doing from the point they knew they wanted to explore post-secondary and applying, to accepting their offers and arriving on their campus of choice. We learned where students were excited and happy with the process, and where they felt lost, overwhelmed, or nervous.
The research pointed to overlaps in communication and showcased where the collective team at Dalhousie could work together to improve the experience either by changing the process, improving IT, simplifying their communications, or simply recognizing the differences of student expectations based on their backgrounds.
Tips for Getting Started
Here our tips for getting started with any journey mapping research:
Invite humans in: The power of this research came from inviting students into the process to hear directly from them what they were thinking, feeling, and doing at each stage. Throughout the recruitment process, we identified and recruited segments of students to learn consistencies in their feedback as well as points of divergence unique to specific groups of students. From how students walked into the room to how they shared their stories, we learned a lot about their distinctive needs and experiences.
Involve a cross-functional team: In preparing for the project, we involved a cross-functional group at Dalhousie that spanned their recruitment, communications, and student affairs teams. They were active participants in hosting the discussions and capturing the student stories. After each session, the team gathered and shared their insights. This not only allowed the team to capture points of view, it allowed for shared language and stories to emerge from the group. It also allowed the team to begin identifying roles and responsibilities and how the teams connect in delivering the right experience for students.
Visualize the experience: At the end of each student session, we provided them with a feeling barometer — a piece of paper where they could draw a line that represented the highs and lows of the various stages of their journey. This visual, and the aggregate of the lines, helped us align what we heard in the room with what students shared through the session. It became a powerful visual for the core team to explain the student experience to others. Specifically, their teams and departments who were not able to participate in the session.
Share the stories: As noted in Kevin Oakes’ book, Culture Renovation, 73% of successful culture change efforts rely on stories. The feeling barometer became a great artifact to visualize student experiences, and gave the Dalhousie team the ability to bring to life what students were thinking, feeling, doing through their journey by telling their stories. Ultimately, it brought to life the collective student experience in a way that encouraged a move from identifying a problem to solving it.
When we help an organization go through the process of journey mapping, what excites us most is the potential to help them work better together, break down barriers, and find real collaboration. Dalhousie is a great example of this in action; a collective team working together to improve the overall student experience. Journey mapping leads to shared discovery, with a potentially profound effect on culture, on leaders, on the front line, and for the people served by an organization, be they customers, students, partners, clients, or stakeholders.
If you want to dive into journey mapping, I learned a lot from Neilsen Norman in my UX days, and I’m a big fan of James Kalbach’s books on the subject as well as his work at MURAL. We use MURAL daily; it is a fantastic tool to bring collaboration and journey mapping thinking to life.
At NATIONAL, we add value to your business targets by identifying and pinpointing important audiences and key decision makers. We develop compelling content, and implement campaigns and initiatives that engage, inform and build. We would love to hear from you.
——— Kathryn Tector is a former Senior Vice-President and Chief Client Officer, Atlantic at NATIONAL Public Relations