Overview – Visual metaphor maps

Visual metaphor maps represent a key organisational concept, change initiative or new strategy as a visual metaphor to shift employee understanding and mindsets. The mapping process takes employees on a journey from point A (current state) to point B (desired state). Small groups of employees engage in discussions about questions posed by a facilitator as they progress along the map route. This exercise involves the use of graphic images (visual), peer discussion (auditory), and the placement of cards (kinaesthetic).

Use of a visual metaphor map helps simplify complex organisational issues and concepts. For example, use a visual metaphor map to build employee understanding about delivering superior customer service. Point A on the map might depict the current state as customers lost in a maze to show it is difficult for them to find the goods, services or help they want from the organisation. The journey to Point B might depict satisfied customers walking along a secure and sturdy boardwalk suspended above a boggy swamp to portray the ease of doing business with the organisation (desired state).

Grey TickThis tactic is useful for:


Building a shared understanding about complex business-critical issues in a simple way that reduces information overload.
Optimising performance on key indicators.
Creating a shared sense of purpose and belonging.
Forging connections through peer dialogue.

cloudyThings to consider:


Select this tactic when employee commitment to a specific issue is fundamental to improved performance.
Brainstorm with key people concepts for visual metaphors that portray the issue as it is, and as you desire it to be.
Tap into the organisation’s skills, resources and knowledge to Develop a range of facts and statistics about the issue as well as a series of questions and answers pertaining to those facts. Produce the map and associated collateral. Produce the facilitator’s guide.
Alternatively, use specialist external suppliers.
Train a core group of employees to facilitate the sessions.
Synchronise the running of map sessions across the entire organisation so that, within a short time-frame, all employees share a common understanding of what needs to be done, and their role in that effort.

Tone BulbHelpful tip:


Use visual metaphor maps as a springboard for ongoing communication about business-critical issues, such as:
Customer/client service.
Financial literacy (how the organisation makes and allocates money).
Strategic direction.
Values system.
Major change programs.
Category: Face to Face