How to build belief in Wardley Mapping in your organization

Someone recently asked me how they could demonstrate the value of Wardley Mapping quickly to their organization.

In truth, there isn’t a single way to do it. Since Wardley Mapping is in stage 2 of evolution, it’s divergent. There is no one way to describe the value. (We’re still exploring and learning!)

Different audiences see the value of Wardley Mapping differently, so I describe it differently depending on who I’m talking to. For example, I can say to developers, “Wardley Mapping is a visual way to design your systems, and it comes with some useful tools for strategic concerns, like architectural decisions.” But I’d explain it differently to someone in product, who might care more about using it to make market-level decisions about things like differentiation.

It’s a good idea to meet your audience where they are, in terms of the things they value and appreciate. But that can be rather challenging to do, so here are some easier approaches that you can take to demonstrate the value of Wardley Mapping while maintaining speed to value:

Design against a bad experience.

Take all the ways people get stuck or “don’t get it”, and then simply don’t do any of those things. For example…

  • Don’t bore them by talking ad nauseum about theory.
  • Don’t confuse them by saying, “That’s not a map!” (Why would they care?)
  • Don’t annoy them by saying, “You’re just using gut feeling! You’re not doing strategy right!”
  • Don’t make them work for hours and hours on a map without getting anything for the effort. Have a plan to get to value quickly!
  • Don’t confuse them with jargon and Wardley’s terms of art (e.g., doctrine, climate, etc.)
  • Don’t invoke Sun Tzu and The Art of War. Unless you’re well-studied, it will come across as inauthentic or unnecessarily violent.
  • Don’t put them in any situation where they end up feeling stupid.
  • Don’t make them read all the tables. Or read hours and hours of a book. What do they get for it?
  • Don’t dismiss them by saying, “Well, it’s not for everyone.”

Since Wardley Mapping is in stage 2, assume that a lack of interest is an education issue, and that means you must learn how to be a better educator. At least try to make a different mistake than the ones above!

Share just one part of WM.

Hide the whole method. Pick just one part of it, share it as a standalone idea, and help people play with it and get excited.

Evolution is a good example. “Hey, look what I found! This evolution thing seems to explain a lot, yeah?”
As people get value from it and ask where it came from, etc… then you can expand to more of the method.

The Climate, Doctrine, and Leadership tables are great places to look for ideas.

Just ask good questions.

Hide the method. Make maps in secret.
Share what you know with others only in the form of good questions, such as…

  • “Who is the user here?”
  • “And what do they need?”
  • “What else does this depend on?”
  • “Does this thing fail all the time, or is it pretty reliable?” (hinting at evolution)
  • “How do other companies experience this thing? Does it fail all the time for them, or is it reliable for them as well?” (hinting at bias)
  • etc.

Talk about Wardley Mapping and share your Wardley Maps only when people are convinced your questions are really useful. “How did you figure out that was important?” That’s a natural moment to invite them in!

Remember, nobody cares about your precious framework. 😉



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