Updated: May 2
My journey with the Wardley mapping started around March 2018, and I still find it astonishing that none of my colleagues at work were aware of Wardley Mapping, until I asked them, “Have you heard of Wardley Mapping?”.
It was easy for me to implement the insights from mapping at a personal level. For example, when I took responsibility as a treasurer of my residential society, running the business was completely manual, and utterly cumbersome. I had to make a choice, whether to continue with the current ways of doing things or to find a better way. There were a couple of products that I had to choose from, after I mapped the needs of our resident welfare association.
I did some more digging into the products, and chose a start-up over the matured one, because of some differentiating factors that helped us manage security and ERP based on our current needs, given the price difference. My decision to do so, paid off eventually as I got involved in providing feedback to the start-up about our needs such as, waving off the payment charges to accelerate the adoption of online payments by our residents, security guard patrolling and some more. My choice of another start-up that helped us procure diesel for our on-premise backup electricity generator, paid off during the pandemic. We had no problems in seamlessly transitioning the responsibility of treasurer after my tenure ended during the pandemic in 2020.
I did some crazy things with mapping too, and some were left unbaked.
I have however, found it very difficult to influence people to adopt mapping in my professional life.
My first mistake was to keep it a secret in the initial phase of my mapping journey. I was acting like a competitive wuss. However, I started to share it with the people whom I trusted and cared about at work. I was surprised to see that none of them expressed a need to go deeper into the subject of strategy and mapping.
In one instance, I shared the concept of mapping to one of the managers while having lunch with the team, and he asked me, “Can you apply them to the team?”. The manager actually wanted to understand whether mapping can be applied at a team level to be able to manage the team and its output in a better way. I did not have any answers then, and this question pushed me more into a shell of pessimism towards the idea of sharing the concept of mapping at work.
In some of the organizations that I worked with, there was a concept of timesheets that the employees fill to report the time that they are spending on, so that the leadership can have a bird’s eye view to strategize the allocation based on value. Sometimes maximizing the utilization was one of the major drivers for using such timesheets.
My attempt to convince the leadership to use Wardley mapping for an effective team strategy instead of relying on the portfolio and work management software alone, was yet another failure. They said the existing software is capable of providing the insights they need to do team strategy.
Well, you CAN do a better team strategy with an understanding of your landscape!
Most of my conversations with peers and leaders such as VP, directors, managers etc., have boiled down to the following metaphor.
Me: “This is a diamond.”
Them: “No, this is a rock.”
Their answers unearthed the underlying mental models that stopped them from paying heed to the concept of mapping. I distinctly remember a conversation as follows.
Me: “Have you heard of Wardley Mapping?”
Me: “**Rant about Wardley Mapping (artifacts shared and discussed) **”
X: “Have you heard of the ‘BLAH’ model?”
Me **Thinking**: “Oh, its Gap-Analysis”
I noticed that the mental models that made them successful in the past, were stopping them from adopting the mental model of mapping. They have the inertia (resistance to change) for adoption of the new, because they were successful with the existing ones. Afterall, those who know the climatic patterns know that ‘Success breeds inertia’. Typically, it is a mark of lack of learning and risk-taking abilities.
I went further into the shell that reinforced my apprehensions of sharing the concept of mapping, until I heard from Chris Daniel and found the zeal to share the mapping again! It helped me overcome my mental block — ‘none of them would understand the significance of mapping’. I got inspired to share mapping at work again.
I used an example of a ‘Birthday Party’, when I shared the concept of Wardley Mapping at scale, in one of my organizations for the first time, with 289 people in the audience. I was really thrilled to have so many people listening about mapping.
To my dismay, none of them reached out to me after the session to know more about the concept or its application in their respective areas of work. Maybe my expectations were the cause of my sorrow. However, this was not the first time I was appalled.
When I first stumbled upon the concept of Wardley Mapping, I was so attracted to it! It expanded my mind!
At this stage of my mapping journey, I do not mind if anyone does not respond in the same way as I did.
I no longer ask myself, “Why didn’t they have the same reaction?”, because I realized that their mental models are stopping them from learning something new and taking the risk of replacing their existing model that was successful in the past and can be renamed as ‘panacea’. Apparently, the mental models too, have a need to prolong their own life.
I am not pessimistic anymore while sharing my understanding of mapping with anyone, and I no longer think that ‘no one will understand the significance of mapping’.
I have since shared my learnings on mapping at work openly.
On a few occasions, I have mapped the requirements and technical landscape to help the team make better choices on approaching a solution while building software applications.
A couple of months ago, me and my team played a tournament of the game called Ludo online. This game is a combination of luck (roll of a die) and choice (what you chose to play when you get a number on a die). In business, you are lucky if your competitors are unaware of Wardley mapping, but you need to make choices based on your landscape. After each game, I used to ask each player (including myself), to reflect upon the way they played the game. Rest of the team members who were observing and enjoying the game by suggesting the moves to any of the 4 players during the game, were also individually asked to share their observations on the way each of the 4 players played the game. At the end of the final game, the top three were announced and the prize money was awarded through Amazon Vouchers. After much jubilation from the winners and other team members, I started summarizing our journey as a team and the way we played the game based on the situations and “rules of the game”. The words “rules of the game” segued into the universally useful principles called Wardley’s doctrine only to extend my rant further. Wardley’s doctrine are simple but powerful brain teasers that force one to think differently about the ways of working and organizational behavior. The tournament has taught us many things as a team and as individuals.
After all, doctrine is the basis of a highly effective organization, and yet it is very difficult to implement it well enough, unless you have relatable experiences in your daily activities at work.
As Simon Wardley says, “Fix doctrine and awareness first. Just say “no” to organizational change, strategy, vision etc.”.
There is a lot more to learn in the field of business strategy and mapping, and it’s a very long journey that can give you an overconfidence at an early-stage or mid-stage. Be empathetic to others.
As Simon Wardley points out — People are not daft. They are trapped by the stories that are devoid of context and hinders their ability to see the environment that they are operating in.
If my experience helps you find courage to open your mind to the new mental models and inspires you to learn the art of strategy through Wardley mapping, then you can commence your journey with some of the resources below:
Please share your experiences on Wardley Mapping, and how it helped you achieve personal and/or professional goals.