Wardley mapping is a visual method for exploring, understanding, and communicating strategy under circumstances of constant change.
- What is your competitive environment?
- Where should you focus? (Why here over there?)
- What should you own and build in-house? What should you buy off-the-shelf or outsource?
- Which methodologies should you use?
- Where are your competitors relative to you?
- What market changes can you anticipate?
- How can you organize to accommodate continuous change?
- Which context-specific strategic plays are currently possible?
- What is a Wardley Map
- The analysis cycle
- Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat Sheet
- Your First Patterns
- Doctrine (Self-Assessment)
- Phase 1: Stop Self Harm
- Phase 2: Becoming More Context Aware
- Phase 3: Better for Less
- Phase 4: Continuously Evolving
- Additional Instructions
- Leadership (Gameplay)
What is a Wardley Map
A Wardley Map decomposes a product along the Value Chain (some prefer the term supply chain) to get deeper insights into the structure and the forces shaping the evolution of the market and the necessary decisions.
The vertical axis concerns with dependencies, the horizontal axis positions the elements along their evolutionary state, aka maturity.
The analysis cycle
While the map is a useful and actionable visualization of the situation, Wardley Mapping gets really useful by applying it the analysis cycle. The cycle uses the vocabulary of Sun Tsu (Wardley points out that it is about the same as John Boyd’s OODA loop.
A typical analysis goes along the cycle above.
Your moral imperative. The scope of what you are doing and why you are doing it. The reason others follow you.
Strategy is all about observing the landscape, understanding how it is changing and using what resources you have to maximise your chances of success. Obviously, you need to define what success is and that’s where your purpose comes in. It’s the yardstick by which you currently measure yourself. However, as this is a cycle, your very actions may also change your purpose and so don’t get to stuck on it.Simon Wardley inOn Playing Chess
The climate may affect your purpose, the environment may affect your strategy and your actions may affect all… Your purpose isn’t fixed, it changes as your landscape changes and as you act. There is no “core”, it’s all transitional.Simon Wardley in
A description of your competitive environment, including its features, your position, and any obstacles in the way.
To map your landscape:
- Know your users (who you serve)
- Know their needs
- Know the prerequisite activities to meet those needs
- Add position (connect users, needs, and prerequisites from top to bottom according to dependence)
- Add movement (place needs and prerequisites left to right according to evolutionary stage)
The movement of a component along the X axis is determined by its stage of evolution.
|Stage of Evolution||I||II||III||IV|
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 inFinding a Path
Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat Sheet
An interactive list of characteristics to help you determine how evolved something is (select cells to highlight).
|Stage of Evolution|
|Ubiquity||Rare||Slowly increasing consumption||Rapidly increasing consumption||Widespread and stabilising|
|Publication Types||Normally describe the wonder of the thing||Build / construct / awareness and learning||Maintenance / operations / installation / features||Focused on use|
|Market||Undefined market||Forming market||Growing market||Mature market|
|Knowledge management||Uncertain||Learning on use||Learning on operation||Known / accepted|
|Market perception||Chaotic (non-linear)||Domain of experts||Increasing expectations of use||Ordered (appearance of being linear) / trivial|
|User perception||Different / confusing / exciting / surprising||Leading edge / emerging||Common / disappointed if not used or available||Standard / expected|
|Perception in industry||Competitive advantage / unpredictable / unknown||Competitive advantage / ROI / case examples||Advantage through implementation / features||Cost of doing business / accepted|
|Focus of value||High future worth||Seeking profit / ROI?||High profitability||High volume / reducing margin|
|Understanding||Poorly understood / unpredictable||Increasing understanding / development of measures||Increasing education / constant refinement of needs / measures||Believed to be well defined / stable / measurable|
|Comparison||Constantly changing / a differential / unstable||Learning from others / testing the water / some evidential support||Feature difference||Essential / operational advantage|
|Failure||High / tolerated / assumed||Moderate / unsurprising but disappointed||Not tolerated, focus on constant improvement||Operational efficiency and surprised by failure|
|Market action||Gambling / driven by gut||Exploring a “found” value||Market analysis / listening to customers||Metric driven / build what is needed|
|Efficiency||Reducing the cost of change (experimentation)||Reducing cost of waste (Learning)||Reducing cost of waste (Learning)||Reducing cost of deviation (Volume)|
|Decision drivers||Heritage / culture||Analysis & synthesis||Analysis & synthesis||Previous experience|
Based on Simon Wardley‘s Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat Sheet, CC BY-SA 4.0.
The forces acting upon the environment. The rules of the game, patterns of the seasons, and competitor actions.
|Competitors||Competitors actions will change the game||Most competitors have poor situational awareness|
|Components||Everything evolves through supply and demand competition||Evolution consists of multiple waves of diffusion with many chasms||No choice over evolution||Commoditisation does not equal Centralisation|
|Characteristics change as components evolve||No single method fits all||Components can co-evolve|
|Financial||Higher order systems create new sources of value||Future value is inversely proportional to the certainty we have over it.||Efficiency does not mean a reduced spend||Evolution to higher order systems results in increasing energy consumption|
|Capital flows to new areas of value||Creative Destruction|
|Inertia||Success breeds inertia||Inertia increases the more successful the past model is||Inertia can kill an organisation|
|Prediction||You cannot measure evolution over time or adoption||The less evolved something is then the more uncertain it is||Not everything is random||Economy has cycles|
|Two different forms of disruption||A “war” (point of industrialisation) causes organisations to evolve|
|Speed||Efficiency enables innovation||Evolution of communication can increase the speed of evolution overall||Change is not always linear||Shifts from product to utility tend to demonstrate a punctuated equilibrium|
Based on Simon Wardley‘s, Climatic Patterns, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Your First Patterns
Pattern 1: Everything evolves from left to right under the influence of supply and demand competition.
|Genesis||Custom||Product (and rental)||Commodity (and utility)|
rare, uncertain, constantly changing, newly-discovered.
frequently-changing, requires artisanal skill,
no two are the same.
|Increasingly common, |
Change is slower.
Initial differentiation but increasing stability and sameness.
There are often many of the same kind of product.
|Scale and volume operations of production. |
Fit for a specific known purpose.
Repetition, repetition, repetition…
With time, it becomes commonplace and less visible.
|The focus is on exploring.||The focus is on learningand developing the craft||The focus is on refining and improving.||The focus is on ruthlessly removing deviation, industrialising, and increasing operational efficiency.|
Pattern 2: As components evolve, their characteristics change.
|Future Worth||Low Margin|
|Competitive Advantage||Cost of Doing Business|
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
|Communication||Use a common language (necessary for collaboration)||Challenge assumptions (speak up and question)||Focus on high situational awareness (understand what is being considered)|
|Development||Know 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)|
|Learning||Use a systematic mechanism of learning (a bias towards data)|
|Operations||Think small (as in know the details)|
Phase 2: Becoming More Context Aware
|Communication||Be transparent (a bias towards open)|
|Development||Focus 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|
|Leading||Move fast (an imperfect plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow)||Strategy is iterative not linear (fast reactive cycles)|
|Learning||A bias towards action (learn by playing the game)|
|Operations||Manage failure||Manage inertia (e.g. existing practices, political capital, previous investment)||Effectiveness over efficiency|
|Structure||Think aptitude and attitude||Think small (as in teams, “two pizza”)||Distribute power and decision making|
Phase 3: Better for Less
|Leading||Be 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)|
|Learning||A bias towards the new (be curious, take appropriate risks)|
|Operations||Optimise flow (remove bottlenecks)||Do better with less (continual improvement)||Set exceptional standards (great is just not good enough)|
|Structure||Seek the best||Provide purpose, mastery, & autonomy|
Phase 4: Continuously Evolving
|Leading||Exploit the landscape||There is no core (everything is transient)|
|Learning||Listen to your ecosystems (acts as future sensing engines)|
|Structure||Design 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 Wardley, CC BY-SA 4.0.
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.
The context-specific strategy you choose after considering your purpose, the landscape, the climate, and your capabilities.
|Options by evolution||I||II||III||IV|
|Accelerators||Open approaches||Co-operation||Exploiting network effects||Industrial policy|
|De-accelerators||Exploiting constraint||IPR||Creating constraints|
|Dealing with toxicity||Pig in a poke||Sweat and Dump||Disposal of liability||Refactoring|
|Ecosystem||Sensing Engines (ILC)||Two factor markets||Alliances||Channel conflicts & disintermediation|
|Co-creation||Co-opting and intercession||Embrace and extend||Tower and moat|
|User Perception||Fear, uncertainty and doubt||Artificial competition||Brand and marketing||Bundling|
|Confusion of choice||Creating artificial needs||Education||Lobbying / counterplay|
|Attacking||Centre of gravity||Directed investment||Experimentation||Fool’s mate|
|Playing both sides||Press release process||Undermining barriers to entry|
|Competitor||Ambush||Circling and probing||Fragmentation play||Misdirection|
|Reinforcing competitor inertia||Restriction of movement||Sapping||Talent raid|
|Defensive||Defensive regulation||Limitation of competition||Managing inertia||Procrastination|
|Raising barriers to entry||Threat acquisition|
|Markets||Buyer / supplier power||Differentiation||Harvesting||Last man standing|
|Pricing policy||Signal distortion||Standards game||Trading|
|Poison||Designed to fail||Insertion||Licensing play|
|Positional||Fast follower||First mover||Land grab||Weak signal / horizon|
Based on Simon Wardley‘s, On 61 Different Forms of Gameplay, CC BY-SA 4.0.
|Context||Our purpose and the landscape|
|Environment||The context and how it is changing|
|Situational awareness||Our level of understanding of the environment|
|Actual||The map in use|
|Domain||Uncharted vs Transitional vs Industrialised|
|Stage||Of evolution e.g. Genesis, Custom, Product, Commodity|
|Type||Activity, Practice, Data or Knowledge|
|Component||A single entity in a map|
|Anchor||The user need|
|Position||Position of a component relative to the anchor in a chain of needs|
|Need||Something a higher level system requires|
|Capability||High level needs you provide to others|
|Movement||How evolved a component is|
|Interface||Connection between components|
|Flow||Transfer of money, risk & information between components|
|Climate||Rules of the game, patterns that are applied across contexts|
|Doctrine||Approaches which can be applied regardless of context|
|Strategy||A context specific approach|
Get started by reading Simon Wardley’s free book. You can find additional learning resources and tools here.
Wardley Mapping is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0, courtesy of Simon Wardley.