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How to do a needs assessment? Part 3: Pain vs Frequency

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To successfully implement solutions, it is critical to understand what the most important problems are and what should be tackled first. To do this we will need to create a shared understanding of what the priorities should be via a Pain / Frequency Matrix.

A Pain / Frequency Matrix helps us develop this shared understanding by providing a framework for assessing what the most painful problems are and how often they occur. We want to focus on the most painful processes that occur frequently.


The objective of the exercise is to create a pain / frequency matrix for each solution identified in an empathy map by:

  1. Ranking how painful a problem is.
  2. Ranking how frequently a problem occurs.
  3. Plotting the pain and frequency for a given problem onto a pain and frequency matrix to determine which problems. 


  • 3 different colored sticky notes 
  • Permanent marker 
  • Process stakeholders
  • Empathy Mapping Canvas template (optional)
  • Miro Software (optional)


  1. Place the green sticky note that has name of the stakeholder in the middle of the matrix.
  1. From the empathy maps take each of the red colored sticky notes (i.e. the pains / issues) and place it in one of four quadrants depending on how painful and how frequent an issue happens:
    1. High Pain / High Frequency: Place the issues that you think are very painful (i.e. they create lots of inefficiency / work or lots of mistakes) and occur often in the High Pain / High Frequency quadrant.
  1. High Pain / Low Frequency: Place the issues that you think are very painful (create lots of inefficiency / work or lots of mistakes) but don’t occur often in the High Pain / Low Frequency quadrant.
  1. Low Pain / High Frequency: Place the issues that you think are not painful but occur often in the Low Pain / High Frequency quadrant.
  1. Low Pain / Low Frequency: Place the issues that you think are not painful but occur often in the Low Pain / High Frequency quadrant.

You should now have a pain and frequency matrix that looks something like the image below:

GovCrate Blog

How to do a needs assessment? Part 2: Empathy Map

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To figure out how to improve a process, we must first understand what issues/problems/pain points each stakeholder in the process faces. To do this we will need to create a shared understanding of what the issues are for each stakeholder involved in the process. An Empathy Mapping helps us build this shared understanding.


The objective of the exercise is to create an empathy map for each stakeholder in a Process Mapping Canvas by:

  1. Mapping out what task each stakeholder does? Use the Tasks from the Process Mapping Canvas.
  2. Mapping out what pain points a stakeholder faces when trying to do those tasks? Pain points are issues that prevent stakeholders from improving the process KPIs outlined in the Process Mapping Canvas.
  3. Mapping out what the gains would be if we were able to solve the pain points? Gains are the improvements in the process KPIs if the pain points were to be eliminated.


  • 3 different coloured sticky notes 
  • Permanent marker 
  • Process stakeholders
  • Empathy Mapping Canvas template (optional)
  • RealtimeBoard Software (optional)


  1. Each stakeholder takes their role (green sticky notes) and places the role at the top of the Empathy Mapping Canvas. They take the tasks (yellow sticky notes) and place those in the tasks area of the Empathy Mapping Canvas. 
  1. For each task, stakeholders identify issues they have with performing the tasks and add these issues to the pains area of the canvas. Issues raised should have some sort of negative impact on a processes KPIs. Ensure that there is one issue per sticky note.
  1. For each pain, stakeholders identify what the gains would be if we were to solve their pains. Gains identified should have some sort of positive impact on a processes KPIs. Ensure that there is one gain per sticky note.
  1. When completed you should have something like the above. This is the empathy mapping canvas. 
GovCrate Blog

How to do a needs assessment? Part 1: Process Mapping

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To continually get better at what we do, we need to be able to map out what it is we are doing, who is doing it and how we are measuring its performance. A Process Mapping Canvas helps us understand who is doing what in a specific process and what the performance metrics are in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. 


The objective of the exercise is to:

  1. Map out who the stakeholders are in a process (Green Sticky Notes)
  2. What tasks do they do (Yellow Sticky Notes)
  3. Determine what the metrics are for efficiency and effectiveness (Blue Sticky Notes)


  • 3 different coloured sticky notes 
  • Permanent marker 
  • Process stakeholders
  • Process Mapping Canvas template (optional)
  • RealtimeBoard Software (optional)


  1. Fill in the details of your process. In the example below we are mapping out a travel requisition process. We’ve set the date of when the process was mapped out, when it will next be reviewed, the divisions that this process applies to and who was involved in the mapping.
  1. Take the green sticky notes and write down the roles of every stakeholder that is involved in a process. The rule is to have one sticky note per role. 
  1. Take the yellow sticky notes and write down what tasks each stakeholder does. Place these tasks directly below each stakeholder.
  1. Take the blue sticky notes and write down what the efficiency and effectiveness metrics should be for the process. 
    1. The formula for efficiency is total output / total input (usually time or effort). E.g. If your process is outputting Permits then your efficiency metric could be total # of processed permits / total time taken to process permits. For more information on the theoretical framework for this you can look into efficiency formula
    2. The formula for effectiveness is total desirable (or undesirable) output / total output. E.g. If your process is outputting Permits then your effectiveness metric would be total # of approved permits without violations / total # of approved permits. For more information on the theoretical framework for this you can look into confusion matrix 
  1. When completed you should have something like the image below. This is the process mapping canvas for a travel requisition process (i.e. staff requesting to travel).


The following are additional activities you can do to extend the process mapping exercise further.

  1. Number each task in order of execution
  2. Indicate with blue sticky dots which tasks are done electronically (i.e. with a computerised system)
GovCrate Blog

How to Design Government Architectures for Change

Government information systems in the Pacific are too often ‘built to last’ rather then ‘built for change’, which is the real requirement for them to be.

The traditional approach has been to build very tight vertically integrated systems. This has created unintended ripple effects that cascade across the system whenever a change is made. So what typically should have been a simple update of a business policy, process change or business rules requiring a few hours’ work often times turns into a complex, bureaucratic and code-intensive process that instead takes months of tedious effort to implement. 

GovCrate Blog IT Strategy

Strategy Development for e-Government using Wardley Mapping

We help you conduct a situational analysis of the current operating environment based on the needs of the system you’re trying to implement. This involves assessing the current technological landscape and climate and then mapping out the value chains that will be required to create the system. To do this we use a technique called wardley mapping.

Wardley mapping was created by researcher Simon Wardley who is an evolutionary biologist by training. Here he explains the technique at OSCON 2014.

Simon Wardley presenting at OSCON 2014

Here’s a simple visual diagram that we use with clients to develop their strategies.

Situational Analysis
A mapping framework for building an understanding of the technology landscape

When helping you develop a strategy, it is absolutely critical that we build up a shared understanding among stakeholders of the following components of a strategy:


This is how we facilitate the creation of your strategy. We create design thinking workshops to

  1. Process Mapping: Map out your current processes, whos involved and what is it that they do
  2. Performance Mapping: Then we define what the processes performance metrics are for effectiveness and efficiency.
  3. Empathy Mapping: We then create an empathy map for each stakeholder involved in the process to get an understanding of what issues they are facing.
  4. Value Chain Mapping: From here we can identify the components needed to create a solution to address the issues identified for each stakeholder.

To effectively build a shared understanding of your strategy we follow a few key design principles:

  1. Group Workshops rather than individual desktop work
  2. Face to Face interactions rather than emails
  3. Filling out Visual Frameworks rather than Report Writing

We’ve listed below a few concepts that we will need to establish in order with you to ensure we are all on the same page.


When working in government, you are typically in the business of shaping the behaviour of the entities (citizens, companies etc.) your department is responsible for.

Your goal typically is to create rules that ensure that amplify good behaviour and dampen bad behaviour within the jurisdiction you are responsible for. Before developing strategy you need understand and be aware of how rules affect behaviour. This is difficult to do as the consequences of rule changes may have unintended negative consequences. We’ll show you how to do this using by running multiple safe to fail experiments in sandboxed environment.

OODA Loop overlaid on Tsun Tzu’s 5 factor of competition in the Art of War – Image courtesy of Simon WardleyCC BY-SA 4.0.


To develop strategy you must first understand the landscape you are operating in. To do this you must:

  1. Know your users (who are you serving) – covered by process mapping
  2. Know their needs – covered by empathy mapping
  3. Know the prerequisite activities to meet those needs – covered by value chain mapping
  4. Add position (connect users, needs, and prerequisites from top to bottom according to dependence) – covered by value chain mapping
  5. Add movement (place needs and prerequisites left to right according to evolutionary stage) – covered by value chain mapping


In government the environment in which you operate typically consists of:

  • Governance Stack; the mechanisms used to shape behaviour e.g. legislation
  • Governance Functions; the activities the government carries out in order to shape behaviour e.g. Registration, Authorisation, Monitoring, Inspection, Prosecution etc.
  • Governed Entities; the actors whose behaviours we are trying to shape e.g. Citizens, Companies etc.
  • Governing Entities; the guys who decide what the rules should be e.g. Political parties / Politicians / Policy Makers, Regulators, Government Departments etc.

The Governance Stack can be broken down into:

  • International and Regional Agreements
  • Legislation and Regulations
  • Policies
  • Processes and Procedures
  • Technology

The Governance Function can be broken down into:

  • Registration
  • Authorisation
  • Verification
  • Whitelisting
  • Monitoring
  • Inspection
  • Investigation
  • Prosecution
  • Blacklisting

The Governed Entities (and Assets) can be broken down into:

  • Natural Persons i.e. Citizens
  • Legal Persons e.g. Corporations, Companies, Organisations etc.
  • Assets e.g. Land, Property, Vehicles, Vessels etc.


Image courtesy of Simon Wardley, color annotations by Hired Thought, CC BY-SA 4.0.

All things evolve and this is true in technology. Technology evolves in a predictable fashion.

  1. Technology typically starts with scientific investigation or research into a phenomenon. As scientists build up an understanding of the phenomenon further novel uses are discovered and developed for application of the phenomenon to problems. These novel uses are the birth of the technology (research phase).
  2. Based on this research an understanding begins to grow on how to apply the technology to various other problems. A few scientists, engineers and hobbyists begin to use this understanding to create custom built applications for the use of the technology (development phase).
  3. As development accelerates a market begins to form around the technology, a few companies emerge to provide the technology to the masses as a commodity product. Over several decades the market around the technology drives it the point where it is so commodised (cheap, reliable, repeatable) that it is used as a building block for other technologies. (market phase)
  4. Some technologies evolve to such a highly commoditized stage where they can be delivered as a utility service (utility phase).

The table below contains a list of characteristics to help you determine how evolved something is.

Stage of EvolutionIIIIIIIV
UbiquityRareSlowly increasing consumptionRapidly increasing consumptionWidespread and stabilising
CertaintyPoorly understoodRapid increases in learningRapid increases in use / fit for purposeCommonly understood (in terms of use)
Publication TypesNormally describe the wonder of the thingBuild / construct / awareness and learningMaintenance / operations / installation / featuresFocused on use
General Properties
MarketUndefined marketForming marketGrowing marketMature market
Knowledge managementUncertainLearning on useLearning on operationKnown / accepted
Market perceptionChaotic (non-linear)Domain of expertsIncreasing expectations of useOrdered (appearance of being linear) / trivial
User perceptionDifferent / confusing / exciting / surprisingLeading edge / emergingCommon / disappointed if not used or availableStandard / expected
Perception in industryCompetitive advantage / unpredictable / unknownCompetitive advantage / ROI / case examplesAdvantage through implementation / featuresCost of doing business / accepted
Focus of valueHigh future worthSeeking profit / ROI?High profitabilityHigh volume / reducing margin
UnderstandingPoorly understood / unpredictableIncreasing understanding / development of measuresIncreasing education / constant refinement of needs / measuresBelieved to be well defined / stable / measurable
ComparisonConstantly changing / a differential / unstableLearning from others / testing the water / some evidential supportFeature differenceEssential / operational advantage
FailureHigh / tolerated / assumedModerate / unsurprising but disappointedNot tolerated, focus on constant improvementOperational efficiency and surprised by failure
Market actionGambling / driven by gutExploring a “found” valueMarket analysis / listening to customersMetric driven / build what is needed
EfficiencyReducing the cost of change (experimentation)Reducing cost of waste (Learning)Reducing cost of waste (Learning)Reducing cost of deviation (Volume)
Decision driversHeritage / cultureAnalysis & synthesisAnalysis & synthesisPrevious experience

Determining Movement

The movement of a component along the X axis is determined by its stage of evolution.

Stage of EvolutionIIIIIIIV

Based on Simon Wardley‘s Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat SheetCC BY-SA 4.0.

Don’t worry if some of the terms are confusing… just use what you can. Like Chess, mapping is a craft and you will get better with practice.Simon Wardley in Finding a Path


The forces acting upon the environment. The rules of the game, patterns of the seasons, and competitor actions.

CompetitorsCompetitors actions will change the gameMost competitors have poor situational awareness
ComponentsEverything evolves through supply and demand competitionEvolution consists of multiple waves of diffusion with many chasmsNo choice over evolutionCommoditisation does not equal Centralisation
Characteristics change as components evolveNo single method fits allComponents can co-evolve
FinancialHigher order systems create new sources of valueFuture value is inversely proportional to the certainty we have over it.Efficiency does not mean a reduced spendEvolution to higher order systems results in increasing energy consumption
Capital flows to new areas of valueCreative Destruction
InertiaSuccess breeds inertiaInertia increases the more successful the past model isInertia can kill an organisation
PredictionYou cannot measure evolution over time or adoptionThe less evolved something is then the more uncertain it isNot everything is randomEconomy has cycles
Two different forms of disruptionA “war” (point of industrialisation) causes organisations to evolve
SpeedEfficiency enables innovationEvolution of communication can increase the speed of evolution overallChange is not always linearShifts from product to utility tend to demonstrate a punctuated equilibrium

Based on Simon Wardley‘s, Climatic PatternsCC BY-SA 4.0.


The following are patterns that are very important to learn.

Pattern 1: All things evolve

Everything evolves from left to right under the influence of supply and demand competition.

Genesis Unique Custom Uncommon Product Commodity
Genesis Unique, rare, uncertain, constantly changing, newly-discovered.The focus is on exploring.Custom Uncommon, frequently-changing, requires artisanal skill, no two are the same.The focus is on learning and developing the craftProduct (and rental) Increasingly common, more defined, better understood. Repeatable processes. Change is slower. Initial differentiation but increasing stability and sameness. There are often many of the same kind of product.The focus is on refining and improving.Commodity (and utility)Scale and volume operations of production. Highly standardized. Defined. Fixed. Undifferentiated. Fit for a specific known purpose. Repetition, repetition, repetition… With time, it becomes commonplace and less visible.The focus is on ruthlessly removing deviationindustrialising, and increasing operational efficiency.

Pattern 2: Characteristics Change

As components evolve, their characteristics change.

Future WorthLow Margin
Poorly UnderstoodDefined
ExperimentationVolume Operations
DifferentialOperational Efficiency
Competitive AdvantageCost of Doing Business

Doctrine (Self-Assessment)

The training of your people, the standard ways of operating, and the techniques that you almost always apply. Select cells multiple times to progress through colors indicating a weak, warning, good, and neutral (undetermined) status.

Phase 1: Stop Self Harm

CommunicationUse a common language (necessary for collaboration) Challenge assumptions (speak up and question) Focus on high situational awareness (understand what is being considered) 
DevelopmentKnow your users (e.g. customers, shareholders, regulators, staff) Focus on user needs Remove bias and duplication Use appropriate methods (e.g. agile vs lean vs six sigma) 
LearningUse a systematic mechanism of learning (a bias towards data) 
OperationsThink small (as in know the details) 

Phase 2: Becoming More Context Aware

CommunicationBe transparent (a bias towards open) 
DevelopmentFocus on the outcome not a contract (e.g. worth based development) Be pragmatic (it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white so long as it catches mice) Use appropriate tools (e.g. mapping, financial models) Think fast, inexpensive, restrained, and elegant (FIRE, formerly FIST) 
Use standards where appropriate 
LeadingMove fast (an imperfect plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow) Strategy is iterative not linear (fast reactive cycles) 
LearningA bias towards action (learn by playing the game) 
OperationsManage failure Manage inertia (e.g. existing practices, political capital, previous investment) Effectiveness over efficiency 
StructureThink aptitude and attitude Think small (as in teams, “two pizza”) Distribute power and decision making 

Phase 3: Better for Less

LeadingBe the owner (take responsibility) Think big (inspire others, provide direction)Strategy is complex (there will be uncertainty) Commit to the direction, be adaptive along the path (crossing the river by feeling the stones) 
Be humble (listen, be selfless, have fortitude)
LearningA bias towards the new (be curious, take appropriate risks) 
OperationsOptimise flow (remove bottlenecks) Do better with less (continual improvement)Set exceptional standards (great is just not good enough) 
StructureSeek the best Provide purpose, mastery, & autonomy 

Phase 4: Continuously Evolving

LeadingExploit the landscape There is no core (everything is transient) 
LearningListen to your ecosystems (acts as future sensing engines) 
StructureDesign for constant evolution There is no one culture (e.g. pioneers, settlers and town planners) 

Adapted by Tasshin Fogleman from this tweetstorm and Better for Less, courtesy of Simon WardleyCC BY-SA 4.0.

Additional Instructions

By examining the doctrine in an organization, you can get an idea of how adaptable it is and how well it will respond to external change or gameplay. You can do this with your own organization, or with other organizations.

In-person? Gather several people from different levels of the organization and perform the above self-assessment together. (There may be arguments, but that’s not a bad thing.) Distributed? See this form-based assessment by Justin Stach.

Once you’ve assessed the status quo of doctrine in your organization, you can go about addressing areas of weakness. Simon suggests you do this in phases. The above self-assessment’s phases presents his best guess at the order in which you should tackle them.

Leadership (Gameplay)

The context-specific strategy you choose after considering your purpose, the landscape, the climate, and your capabilities.

AcceleratorsOpen approachesCo-operationExploiting network effectsIndustrial policy
Market enablement
De-acceleratorsExploiting constraintIPRCreating constraints
Dealing with toxicityPig in a pokeSweat and DumpDisposal of liabilityRefactoring
EcosystemSensing Engines (ILC)Two factor marketsAlliancesChannel conflicts & disintermediation
Co-creationCo-opting and intercessionEmbrace and extendTower and moat
User PerceptionFear, uncertainty and doubtArtificial competitionBrand and marketingBundling
Confusion of choiceCreating artificial needsEducationLobbying / counterplay
AttackingCentre of gravityDirected investmentExperimentationFool’s mate
Playing both sidesPress release processUndermining barriers to entry
CompetitorAmbushCircling and probingFragmentation playMisdirection
Reinforcing competitor inertiaRestriction of movementSappingTalent raid
DefensiveDefensive regulationLimitation of competitionManaging inertiaProcrastination
Raising barriers to entryThreat acquisition
MarketsBuyer / supplier powerDifferentiationHarvestingLast man standing
Pricing policySignal distortionStandards gameTrading
PoisonDesigned to failInsertionLicensing play
PositionalFast followerFirst moverLand grabWeak signal / horizon

Based on Simon Wardley‘s, On 61 Different Forms of GameplayCC BY-SA 4.0.

A Scenario

As an example, where might you focus in the below scenario (view in MapScript) if you wanted to increase competition around content?

Image produced with MapScript, based on a scenario by Simon WardleyCC BY-SA 4.0.

To increase competition in content, the obvious option is to cause the industrialization (evolution) of the creative studios. More competition among studios would result in more, better content, so how could we make that happen?

A naive move might be to launch an independent creative studio or form a strategic partnership to advance one particular studio, but that game can all-too-easily be lost. There are more interesting options in the lower-level constraints (a Fool’s Mate).

If there were more competition among production systems, for example, the barrier to entry for new talent and therefore new creative studios would be lowered. An open approach would accelerate that process, indirectly causing increased competition among creative studios and ultimately content.

Chances are, the existing creative studios won’t have the situational awareness to recognize the play for what it is. In fact, they might support it in the name of short-term cost savings. Wild! Read more on this scenario in Simon’s post, Fool’s mate in Business.


ContextOur purpose and the landscape
EnvironmentThe context and how it is changing
Situational awarenessOur level of understanding of the environment
ActualThe map in use
DomainUncharted vs Transitional vs Industrialised
StageOf evolution e.g. Genesis, Custom, Product, Commodity
TypeActivity, Practice, Data or Knowledge
ComponentA single entity in a map
AnchorThe user need
PositionPosition of a component relative to the anchor in a chain of needs
NeedSomething a higher level system requires
CapabilityHigh level needs you provide to others
MovementHow evolved a component is
InterfaceConnection between components
FlowTransfer of money, risk & information between components
ClimateRules of the game, patterns that are applied across contexts
DoctrineApproaches which can be applied regardless of context
StrategyA context specific approach

Image courtesy of Simon WardleyCC BY-SA 4.0.