What you can do is only as good as what you can know.

Wardley Mapping is a tool for strategic intent that supports you in your role as a knower, communicator, and leader.

Three Pillars of Wardley Mapping

Visualize systems and how they change

Know the basic patterns of capitalism

Exploit those patterns with strategic intent

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Quick Reference

If this is your first time mapping, try this approach to make a Minimum Viable Wardley Map (MVWM):

  1. Choose a context (project, organization, situation, etc.)
  2. Make a list of its component “parts” (start with “what” people are doing and “how” they are doing it)
  3. Categorize those parts according to evolution (stage 1, 2, 3 or 4)
  4. Sketch it out as shown below.

If you’d like to make a conventional Wardley Map, take your MVWM and start to define relationships (dependencies or “needs” between components), as shown here.

Don’t forget about Simon Wardley’s free book!

Fitness is all about readiness and training — recognizing that transformation is not an overnight event… but instead the progressive accumulation of small changes to habits[1].

Most organizations, including your own, are very likely operating without the degree of situational awareness that the strategic aspects of Wardley Mapping assumes. And that’s okay! But before we run a marathon, we have to learn how to stretch and exercise.

Here are a few to start with:

  1. Develop a common language (make maps, decide what parts are in the system, what to name them, etc.).
  2. Know your users (who are served by the system) and focus on their needs (meet your needs by meeting theirs).
  3. Remove bias (don’t build what can be bought) and remove duplication (many implementations of the same thing).

There are many more principles to learn. Start with a few, get good at them, and then add more.

Defense focuses on adopting a posture that enables your organization to flow with change instead of resisting it stubbornly. To do so, we must learn to anticipate what change is possible and where it might happen. Simon Wardley has identified many different patterns of capitalism to help in this respect.

Here are a few patterns to start with:

  1. Everything evolves through supply and demand competition, and characteristics change as a result (see: evolution).
  2. Efficiency enables innovation (highly evolved components form building blocks for new sources of value to emerge).
  3. Success breeds inertia (resistance to change), which can eventually threaten an organization’s continued existence.

There are many more patterns here. Again, start with a few, learn how they work, and then add more.

Offense is about conditions and consequences[2] — actively shaping the environment over time to enable favorable futures. It’s important to integrate these strategic patterns with your understanding of fitness (doctrinal principles) and defensive capabilities (climate patterns).

A few useful patterns to know first:

  1. Open approaches (open source, data, practice) accelerates the evolution of a component.
  2. Assertion of Intellectual Property Rights, however, does the opposite (slows evolution down).
  3. Innovate-Leverage-Commoditize is a pattern of industrializing a component, allowing others to build on top of it, and then monitoring usage data to identify future candidates for industrailiziation.

Again, there are many more patterns to explore. Wardley Mapping is an iterative journey of learning through action that can take decades to understand fully. Thankfully, it doesn’t much time at all to learn enough to be dangerous.

Self-Paced Course

Haven’t made your first map yet? Not sure how to “do” strategy with Wardley Mapping?

This short, easy to follow online course helps you build mapping skills and practice the strategic thinking process by actually doing it.

Recent Articles and Case Studies

Principles First

Principles First

I've been asking event list members for questions, and Jason Luchtefeld, DMD responded with a suggestion to do a deep dive into Simon Wardley's Doctrine graphic. Since I've been teaching quite a bit about the topic lately, it seems like the perfect time to share what...

Requisite Perspective

Requisite Perspective

Valerie Freitas asks: In using Wardley mapping, are there guidelines in thinking about who you have at the table to begin these discussions?   Designing/cultivating the kind of input you receive by selecting who is part of your discussion group or...

Meet Ben

Ben Mosior is a self-described methodology whisperer who turns innovative ideas into everyday tools. Building on Simon Wardley’s work, Ben created this website and facilitates supportive online learning experiences to share Wardley Mapping with the world.

Tweet at him with questions about mapping anytime.

LearnWardleyMapping (LWM) is a product of Hired Thought. All content herein is licensed CC BY-SA 4.0.


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Wardley Mapping is provided courtesy of Simon Wardley

Wardley Mapping is licensed CC BY-SA 4.0, as are all materials found on this site.

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