Nobody Cares About Your Precious Framework

I like Wardley Mapping. It’s captured my attention for the last five or so years, and I know I’ve still hardly scratched the surface of what’s possible. As you can imagine, I am overjoyed when other people take interest, and I love it when I get to support them as they take their first steps. Behind my enthusiasm, however, is a blunt pragmatism, informed by years of frustration and mistakes.

It boils down to this: No matter how awesome something seems, always remember that nobody is obligated to care.

When you first learn Wardley Mapping (or any framework) and you find it helpful, your first instinct may be to spread the word. You might tell everyone you meet about how awesome it is and how they should totally learn it. Perhaps you begin to feel an automatic itch to suggest its use anytime there’s a remote chance it’s the right tool for the job.

You might continue in this way for months before finally noticing that nobody ever seems to care. They may acknowledge your enthusiasm and even feign interest, but they quickly move onto other things when the conversation ends.

You’ll be tempted to blame an unwillingness to try new things or learn. You might even complain to yourself about their “fixed mindset” (*shudder*) or, if you’d prefer, their “resistance to change.” Eventually, you’ll come to a fork in the road, concluding either that A) people are broken, or B) you miiiiight have more to learn yet about influence.

Assuming you can’t just force spend control…

When Simon Wardley talks about deploying Wardley Mapping in an organization, he’s often (I think) considering the problem from the standpoint of executives and people with authority. In particular, he recommends measures like spend control, which acts as a forcing function to get people to map. (The short version: “Before you can launch a project above $$, you must make a map.” It’s blunt, but it works.)

Tweet by Simon Wardley: swardley/status/1333420666251567104

Since I tend to write for people who have to work hard and cultivate influence rather than relying solely on authority, I usually point at a different, more transition-oriented approach.

I’m going to start by suggesting you give up.

Stop trying to make them care

Give up on the idea of instant change. Give up on forcing people into it. There are no quick fixes, nor are there silver bullets. There is only the hope for a chance at a long, slow, gradual shift.

In the case of Wardley Mapping, the hope is to enable greater intention in our designs, facilitated by a process of developing situational awareness. To get there, you create slightly better conditions for that process every day, and then let tiny shifts compound and play out over years. Patience is important.

How would you conduct yourself if you knew you wouldn’t see major consequences for five years? What about ten years? Or more! Anything shorter is just a setup for quick disappointment.

That doesn’t mean ten literal years must pass before anything happens… it just means you need to be playing the right game when the going gets tough, as if your work matters on a ten year timespan.

Take higher quality action

Thinking in terms of years-long efforts is not an excuse to kick back and hope for the best. Rather, it’s a focusing mechanism as you have conversations and encounter new opportunities.

First, stop any immediate meddling and substitute it with careful listening. When someone asks for help, focus on understanding what they need, as deeply as you can. Hold the space for them to develop their own understanding and solve things for themselves. Ask good questions. Use what you know, but don’t offer a framework unless asked.

Second, get your own work in shape. Recognize that it is not necessary for everyone to “get” Wardley Mapping to succeed in creating greater intention within the organization. Stop talking about mapping and instead use it to make sense of your own messes.

Third, share your mapping-derived findings with others through a medium they already use and understand. Short reports are great for this, especially if you can translate Wardley jargon into accessible language. Make your arguments self-sufficient, without relying on “Wardley says…” For example:

“In general, we have a number of custom-built capabilities for which there are existing off-the-shelf alternatives. While untangling ourselves may present a challenge, our customers get no value from us being industry leaders in these capabilities. How much more value could we produce if we were able to migrate away from these custom capabilities and redirect our efforts towards more differentiating ideas?” 

The above example makes use of several different kinds of Wardley concepts (focus on user needs, reduce bias, dispose of toxicity) without using inaccessible language. You can additionally put a map or two in the appendix to see if anyone expresses interest, but don’t bet on it. If someone asks, then by all means indulge them in the wonders of Wardley Mapping, but not a moment sooner.

Fourth, improve the quality of your action. Everyone loves their magic frameworks, but few actually use them to achieve anything worthwhile. Move beyond intellectual fascination and into high quality action. Let your work speak for itself. It might just attract questions about how you got there.

What do you think?

Join one of our upcoming classes

If you’re curious about mapping (even after this post haha!) consider joining one of our upcoming classes. In our New Student Orientation, we help you answer just one question… “Will Wardley Mapping be worth it for me?” We’d love to see you there!


    1. Amazing, Ben. Thank you. This arrives at the right moment. It is exactly how I fell it. As an apprentice, I have learned that when you are not looking for delivery a brilliant framework, the intervention is more incorporated by the user of the map and the new language to communicate each other, make it easy to be the owner of the vision that the map provides, and with that, the results become more feasible in relation to the need to operate small increments for evaluation strategy.

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