What happens during a Map Day?

Map Day Swim LaneSo, what happens during map day? Yesterday I gave a quick overview of the process but now it is time to provide more details.

The objectives of a map day can vary depending on where a project is. At the beginning, it is a way for all team members to get to know each other and to get agreement on what the deliverable is. Once this is accomplished, then a “map” of the deliverables is developed at the same meeting (many times going for multiple days) or at a follow-on meeting. This map development is where the term “map day” comes from.

The PM or facilitator, if one is available, posts large sheets of paper around the room, with swim lanes for each sub-team and vertical columns for dates. Depending on the length of the project, the date columns can be weeks, months, or quarters. The most common timeframe is months.

Each team uses a 3M Post-It like “sticky” to enter information about their deliverables. At the top, the deliverable number and name is entered. There are three columns below. The first one is for the “owner” of the deliverable and the date the team is committing to delivering it. The second one, in one or more rows, lists the “customer(s)” of the deliverable. The third column lists a “needed by” date(s). The figure illustrates this concept.Sticky

The customer team starts by presenting what they need from the other teams. If a customer team is unavailable, someone needs to represent what the customer expects. It is critical that in this later case these expectations have been validated with the customer before the map day. The customer speaks about each deliverable, who they think needs to provide it, and when they (the customer) needs it. Questions are answered and then the customer posts the sticky in the correct time bucket.

Next each time breaks to review their deliverables, adjust the ones they had created before hand and create new ones as needed. Each team then presents in a similar way as the customer. At the same time, if possible, they provide a commit date for those deliverables that have been requested of them.

Once every team has presented, the group as a whole walks through the map, identifying issues such as missing deliverables, conflicting dates, etc. These issues get captured in a pink sticky (you can use any color that’s different from other colors used) and discussed.

At the end of the day, a map similar to the one illustrated in the picture is available and should be entered into an electronic form to share. Visio can be used to capture the map. This is a first cut of the map or plan and further meetings will be necessary to refine the map.

Regular meetings to review progress as well as changes need to take place, although not everyone needs to be involved. Team leads are sufficient. At all times, sub-teams should talk and negotiate dates and details of the deliverables.

How do we track progress? This is material for a future blog. And remember, Timm Esque’s book, “No Surprises Project Management” describes the process in detail.

Jose Solera, PMP


5 thoughts on “What happens during a Map Day?”

  1. User Avatar

    A business partner and I did a virtual two-day Map Day session in January with 60+ online. While we had planned on using Miro as the platform, as we trained the engineers on the process before hand and generated a spreadsheet for homework (deliverables, owners, users, dates), we ended using the spreadsheet and break out rooms to conduct the process. It was very effective.

  2. Has anyone tried to pull this off with geographically dispersed individuals? Looking for insights into what worked and what didn’t in a COVID world, and maybe a good replacement for the sticky note. Yes, I know about/use Jira, Trello, and the like. I’m looking for something that can maintain the horizontal spacing between our virtual sticky notes.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

    1. User Avatar


      I haven’t tried, but I think Mural or Jamboard would be good alternatives. They won’t control the horizontal spacing but can be used to collaborate during the map day.

      In my experience, once the map days are done, the spreadsheet is what is used.

      Now, if we could use an API call from Mural or Jamboard to populate the spreadsheet and back from the spreadsheet, that would be great.

      I have not tried either of these but have been thinking they would be good options. The FTF requirement, now not viable at all, has always been an issue. Maybe a small silver lining now that we all get to work remotely.

      LMK if I can help in any way. Maybe we can collaborate.


      Jose Solera

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