System MAP

What is it

This tool captures the key roles, relationships, and dynamics of a system to enhance understanding of the big picture and potential disruptions to the system.

Why use it

  • Understand the problem space, players, possible disruptions, and opportunities.
  • Address the needs and priorities of the larger system.

When to use it

When identifying opportunities for improvement in a system that may not be fully understood or defined.





Group Size

4+ people

Suggested Time

45+ minutes

System Map Worksheet


How to do it


Fill out the top boxes by answering the questions, individually or as a group. If done individually, be sure to come together to generate a map that captures the group’s inputs, which will likely be richer and more accurate.


Other questions and considerations to keep in mind while filling out the top boxes include:

  • Who maintains/sustains the current system? How?
  • Does policy play a role?
  • How do the organizations relate to one another? If it helps, draw lines to show connections and relationships.
  • What are the most critical relationships?
  • Is there any competition?


Pay attention to who is at a disadvantage in the current system, as this may yield some opportunities to further explore.


Move to filling out the bottom row. Again, if working individually first, be sure to reconvene and share inputs for the group map.


Other questions and considerations to keep in mind while filling out the bottom boxes include:

  • Who are the disrupters? What are the disrupters? Cultural/Political/Social? Technology/Hardware/Software? Process?
  • Are there any trends outside the system that could have an effect? What type of effect would it have? How could we avoid it?
  • Benefits

    Helps identify opportunities for disruptions


    Teams sometimes struggle to identify the “system” when it is an abstract system rather than a physical system

    Combine With

    Need help using this tool with your team?


    ITK Newsletter