What is Wardley mapping?

What is Wardley mapping? Why Should you care?

Wardley mapping is an open source tool to help you make sense of the world in which you operate and make informed and intelligent strategic decisions about what you can do to thrive in the future. It was developed by Simon Wardley.

A Wardley map is… a map.

If that’s all you need, you’re done here! For the 4 minute read overview, you might want a little more info about what Wardley mapping is and why you should care…

Why should you care?

A Wardley map helps you to understand where your business is, identify opportunities and threats to its existence, make plans for the future and, gameplay the routes to getting to where you want to be. It is a powerful tool to inform your strategy and monitor your progress.

The Strategy Cycle

A Wardley map helps you navigate your way through the strategy cycle learning about your environment and the constantly changing forces that affect it – including your own actions.

There are lots of well understood ways of mapping the strategy cycle, from the ancient – Sun Tzu, to the more recent – the OODA Loop for example. Wardley maps map onto the same cycle.

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The Wardley map

Wardley maps consists of five core elements.

  • Purpose
  • Landscape
  • Climate
  • Doctrine
  • Leadership

Purpose

The Wardley map is anchored by human need. The purpose you exist is to meet that need.

Landscape

Components of the map are placed in a value chain and movement is described on an evolution axis. More advanced concepts – flow (lines representing flow of capital) and types (different stocks of capital) are overlaid. (More)

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Climate

When you have a map, you will start to notice changes over time as the actions of all the components of the map are affected by the actions of everyone and everything in the map, irrespective of what you do. These changes are called, climatic patterns. Record them, and reapply them to other maps to anticipate change. Here’s a list to get you started.

Doctrine

Maps help you organize doctrine and context specific influences. Wardley maps will start to highlight the things that influence the landscape and change the patterns in two ways. Universally useful ones that apply to everyone – doctrine – and context specific ones that apply to you specifically.

Image for postThere’s a list of doctrines here. If you consider your competitors and their use of doctrines, you will often find that the less they use, the less adaptive they are, a good thing for you.

Leadership

Once you think you know which way the wind’s blowing, you need to decide where to invest. This involves thought and discussion, often endlessly. You need to be able to explain why you go in one direction and not another, you need to consider how you want to act in the market (context specific) as well as the more universal doctrines.

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Your map shows you where you’re going to go and identify the most likely beneficial path to get there. It also allows you to consider game play. and scenario planning for competitive counter plays.

Now Start Again…

And so the cycle repeats, and everything may change, even your purpose depending on your actions and changes in the world.

Resources

There are tons of freely available open source resources about Wardley maps, from tools, templates, videos, lists and more. This is a good place to start.

Better yet, come and join Simon Wardley at BoS Conf Online.Spring 26-27th April 2021 where Simon will explain far better than us how Wardley maps will help you keep your strategy on track and how to get started.

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2 responses to “What is Wardley mapping?”

  1. Mark Modesti says:

    Amazing. I’d have to be locked in a room and subjected to torture in order to attempt to understand this map. The diagrams alone are an assault on my ADHD-riddled brain.

    Ok, I’m alright now… breathing in… breathing out…

    • Hey Mark, that may be down to my own ADHD brained writing. I must admit when I hear about WM first, it made a lot of sense but when I started to look more closely, I struggled to focus on the detail there and what the axes mean at first. Grey scale doesn’t help. It took a couple of goes for me to get into it but I felt I had to understand it better if I was going to invite Simon to talk. 🙂 I found colouring in the diagrams helpful.

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