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Create an action map

"What is the purpose and process of action mapping?"

"How can designers apply action mapping to a learning project?"

"What are some common mistakes to avoid when action mapping?"


Action mapping is a method conducted during the analysis phase of a project that helps learning professionals drive real-world behavior change. By honing in on the specific actions learners need to take, action mapping helps instructional designers identify and eliminate unnecessary content and instead concentrate on providing practical, relevant, and meaningful learning opportunities. Through this approach, learners are empowered to apply their knowledge and skills in their day-to-day activities, ensuring a direct impact on performance outcomes. In this guide, we will delve into the key principles and practical applications of action mapping, equipping you with the tools to design effective and results-oriented learning experiences.


Through this lesson, you should be able to create a performance-driven action map.



What is the purpose and process of action mapping?


One of the industry’s thought leaders in this area is Cathy Moore, who emphasizes the importance of focusing on the real-world actions and decisions learners need to make to achieve desired performance outcomes, rather than just delivering information. Moore's approach involves identifying the specific performance goals, analyzing the root causes of performance gaps, and designing targeted activities that enable learners to practice and apply their skills in realistic scenarios. Action Mapping encourages designers to prioritize critical tasks, simplify content, and ensure that training aligns with learners' needs and motivations, ultimately resulting in more effective and practical learning experiences.


Cathy Moore's Action Mapping process involves collaborating with stakeholders and subject matter experts to identify:

  1. the performance problem that needs to be addressed (and what success looks like)

  2. what learners need to do (and what is getting in their way)

  3. opportunities for learners to practice desired behaviors (in realistic contexts)

  4. content required for learners to complete those practice activities


How can designers apply action mapping to a learning project?


To discover how designers might apply action mapping, consider the following scenario:



To learn more about Cathy Moore’s process, consider reading her book, “Map It: The action mapping book.”


What are some common mistakes to avoid when action mapping?


When action mapping, avoid the following common mistakes:

  • Conducting or relying on an inadequate needs analysis: Avoid rushing through or neglecting the needs analysis phase. Thoroughly analyze the performance problem, identify the root causes, and consider multiple data sources to gain a holistic understanding of the issue.

  • Neglecting stakeholders and subject matter experts: Avoid designing the action plan in isolation. Involve stakeholders and subject matter experts, such as managers, supervisors, and learners themselves, to gather perspectives, insights, and feedback throughout the process.

  • Neglecting performance context: Avoid designing training in isolation from the real-world context. Consider the factors that affect performance, such as work environment, available resources, and organizational constraints, to ensure the action plan accounts for these factors.


Summary and next steps


The action mapping process, developed by training designer Cathy Moore, is a powerful approach that focuses on designing learning experiences that drive behavior change. By identifying the desired performance outcomes and breaking down the specific actions learners need to perform, action mapping ensures targeted and relevant learning interventions. It emphasizes the practical application of knowledge and skills in real-world contexts, while addressing potential barriers and challenges that may hinder performance. Through authentic scenarios, practice opportunities, and feedback, action mapping enables learners to acquire the necessary competencies and confidently apply them in their day-to-day activities, ultimately leading to improved performance and results.


Now that you are familiar with how to create an action map, continue to the next lesson in LXD Factory’s Analyze series: Write performance goals.

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