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A title slide with the text "Saving your company" in big letters and "with Wardley Maps" in smaller text. The background image is a set of rescuers working with ropes.

On July 29th, 2020, I had the privilege of presenting at Map Camp Germany 2020. My talk was entitled “Saving Your Business With Wardley Maps” and goes through a fictional case study based on real-world events with my clients in navigating strategic threats and situational awareness to create winning gameplays. A PDF of my slides is now available and the organizers have uploaded the presentations to their YouTube channel. Here’s the talk!

Thanks to everyone who came out, and if you’d like more information about applying mapping and the strategic portfolio management techniques I talked about in your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out at hello at coryfoy dot com!

Structure Doctrine

Happy Mapping Monday! Today’s #mappingmondays video continues the series on Doctrine looking at the seven principles of Structure. If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter or email hello at coryfoy dot com!



Happy Monday! I’m Cory Foy, and welcome to this week’s Mapping Monday. Currently we’re in the middle of exploring Simon Wardley’s Doctrine. So far we’ve looked at three categories of Doctrine covering patterns of communication, development and operation. But how can we structure our teams and organization to take advantage of those?

So for our fourth video in this series, let’s dive into Simon’s 7 patterns of Doctrine around structure. These are

  • Provide Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy
  • Think Small, as in teams
  • Distribute power and decision making
  • Think aptitude and attitude
  • Design for constant evolution
  • There is no one culture, covering Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners
  • And Seek the Best

This will be a fun one, so let’s dive in!

Our first pattern is around providing purpose, mastery and autonomy. We talk a lot in the world of agile about “self-organizing teams”. In the world of complex-adaptive systems, the idea of self-organizing relies on three key pieces: a container with permeable boundaries, significant differences within the container, and transforming exchanges between the agents in the container. These pieces allow a group to create emergent structures to tackle problems. We tend to think of this as a “cross-functional team” with a clear vision. And Simon adds to this, saying that a team should understand what it is supposed to do, and own what it does, while also understanding how they fit into the whole. How? With maps, of course. The gameplays and actions a team is undertaking should be understood in the broader context, of which a map is a great way to show. But a team is also going to need both aptitude to tackle the solution, as well as the attitude to go after it. However, as a leader, we need to make sure our teams know that purpose, and enable them to build mastery in the area as well as have the freedom and autonomy to act. Otherwise they’re just line workers in a cog-producing production line, and we miss out on the ability to take advantage of the unique skills and capabilities they have.

Does this mean the teams need to be large? In fact, quite the opposite. We want to Think Small when it comes to team size, and what “small” means depends somewhat on the context we’re operating in. In an uncharted space, we likely want very small teams – 3-5 people. As we move into more custom-built / product based building, the “two pizza” team – a team small enough that you can feed them with two pizzas – is more appropriate, or around 10-12 people. As we move into more industrialized, we’re doing less rapid discovery and working more in sequential manners, so we can argue for something larger. But there’s a point where it’s no longer a team – for example, 40 people on a single team is likely too large, and should be divided into smaller teams based on user needs.

Of course, we can’t expect teams to be autonomous if we don’t provide, well, autonomy. This means we have to Distribute power and decision making, ideally pushing power to those closest to the users or customers. This is actually a tricky one – this doesn’t mean we just throw everything to teams and wish them luck. We should be able to set, as an organization, a guiding vision and direction that teams understand and associate with. They then use the understanding of the Commander’s Intent to execute on that idea. It also means that governance and oversight is OK – but we should be cautious of our own biases, and challenge decisions using maps. As an example from Simon’s Book – if a team wanted to outsource everything, but we weren’t in the right stage for that, we should be able to help them challenge their own thinking with maps.

Earlier we talked about providing purpose, mastery and autonomy and the need for aptitude and attitude. We we think about these, our goal is to understand that teams have different aptitudes – finance, engineering, marketing – but also different attitudes. Some people are used to executing in very specific contexts, and will struggle to operate in a different paradigm without close coaching and leadership. As an example, organizations which had massive data centers also had excellent engineers supporting those machines – as well as organizational constructs around building, shipping and maintaining products and solutions using that data center. If we sweep in one day and say “It’s all cloud and serverless now” – you’ll still have smart engineers, project managers and other employees, but both the aptitudes – working in a new environment – and likely the attitudes – a much more rapid-fire, agile way of working – will have to come in to play. This is a big change, and one not to take lightly.

But, hopefully that’s not how we introduce change. Our fifth doctrine principle is to Design for Constant Evolution. We could do this by thinking about how we keep things “fresh” on a team, keeping them on their toes, ready for anything. But that also can impact the notion of taking advantage of the strengths of people. Instead, maybe we design our organization such that we are ready for ideas to be discovered, cultured, and then implemented – by building teams that can go into the wilderness, bring back ideas, and then have other teams “steal” those ideas, beginning to implement them. Then as those ideas take hold, other teams steal them and productize and utilize them.

And this rolls very well into the sixth doctrine principle – there is no one culture. We like to think that everything is “agile” or maybe “agile” or “waterfall”. But the reality is that we have – and likely need – a mix of cultures and operating models. Simon gives us the terms Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners. Pioneers explore the uncharted and unknown landscape, requiring incredibly rapid iteration, testing, and high amounts of agility. I liken this to user need discovery – we’re trying to anticipate and understand where the market is going and what our users are going to need.

Settlers steal these ideas and begin implementing them. This still requires a high level of agility, but in a slightly different way. Here’s we’re doing Solution Discovery – we have an understanding of user needs, and we’re iterating to discover what solution will meet those needs. We can think of more Lean ways of working here, because we tend to have a slightly more defined process we’re using.

Finally, we have Town Planners. They take the discovered solutions and operationalize them – scaling, supporting – sending them out to wide audiences. This has notions of iteration, but tends to be more focused on Six Sigma – we want repeatable, measurable, cost-effective operations. We’re evolving components here to be utilities that other things are building on top of, so we want stability. We want change management.

But what we really want is the best. We want the best products. We want the best responsiveness. We want the best customers. And this starts with having the best people, and creating the right structures and roles for them. A product manager skilled in rapid need discovery will be unhappy being stuck in a town planner situation working on incremental scaling, and likewise a tester skilled at diving deeply into performance issues with applications may struggle with being thrown into a situation where the product rapidly oscillates from week to week. Also remember that leadership and management are themselves separate aptitudes and attitudes, so someone who is a great engineer discovering solutions may not make a great manager of engineers working to implement stable products. Although I would argue that senior members of teams should be moving towards being good leaders, fostering ideas and growth of other team members.

So to recap:

Provide Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy for small teams. Distribute power and decision making so people are empowered to make decisions closest to the problem. Be aware that evolution is a thing, and we need to design our organizations for that evolution, as well at the attitudes necessary at each evolution step – knowing that there isn’t a single culture which will cover all of the cases. And finally, Seek the Best from your people – by investing in them, coaching them, and growing them to be leaders capable of inspiring and growing others. I’d challenge you to look at your own organizations and teams this week. What skills do you expect them to have? What attitudes are they operating with? What gaps in understanding the landscape does that leave? And if you still have questions, I’d be delighted to hope on a 30 minute video call to help you get started. And if you have any other questions or just want to let me know how it’s going reach out on Twitter at @cory_foy or via email at hello at coryfoy dot com. Until next week, let’s build structures for success!


As promised, I’m rereading the “Build” essay by Marc Andreessen with fresh eyes. Somewhat fresh eyes since I woke up at 0430 thinking about it, but I have some tea and I’m ready to go. Let’s start from the beginning.

Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, but it’s not too early to ask why, and what we need to do about it.

This is unequivocaly false. We don’t even need to go to government. HEB was ready. This amazing article by Texas Monthly goes into the details including this:

Justen Noakes, director of emergency preparedness, H-E-B: Just a little bit of history: we have been working on our pandemic and influenza plan for quite a while now, since 2005, when we had the threat of H5N1 overseas in China.


In 2009, we actually used that plan in response to H1N1, when the swine flu came to fruition in Cibolo, and refined it, made it more of an influenza plan. We’ve continued to revise it, and it’s been a part of our preparedness plan at H-E-B ever since.

But Cory, that’s a grocery store! What about government? Well, glad you asked. In 2012 a trilateral group of countries – Canada, Mexico and the US – developed the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza.

But what about Ebola? Take a look at this page from 2014 about how the government was responding to Ebola:

On top of expanding the network of hospitals that can assess, respond, and treat patients, the U.S. government is enhancing our domestic preparedness in these key ways:

  • Increasing the number of Ebola testing labs throughout the U.S. that can quickly and safely screen a potential Ebola specimen
  • Educating more than 150,000 health care workers on how to identify, isolate, diagnose, and care for patients under investigation for Ebola
  • Developing countermeasures — including the first Ebola vaccine to progress to Phase 2 testing — to prevent and treat Ebola
  • Converting at least 10 of the Ebola Treatment Centers into long-term Regional Ebola and Pandemic Treatment Centers for long-term readiness for years to come
  • Helping state and local public health systems accelerate and improve their operational readiness and preparedness for Ebola or other infectious diseases

Let’s move on because he reiterates the point:

Many of us would like to pin the cause on one political party or another, on one government or another. But the harsh reality is that it all failed — no Western country, or state, or city was prepared — and despite hard work and often extraordinary sacrifice by many people within these institutions. So the problem runs deeper than your favorite political opponent or your home nation.

Again, this is false. FEMA and the CDC produced guidance for Pandemics over 10 years ago. Here is the discussion guide as an example. Our own department had workflows and stock for pandemics. Here’s a hospital prepardness expert:

“When we have done exercises in the past for pandemic preparedness, supply chain issues were a well-documented challenge,” Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist focused on hospital preparedness, told me. “This is something we’ve known about — maybe not to this extent, but this isn’t a shocker. It’s more surprising that we let it get this bad.”

But could we have seen it coming? In that same article, Vox says:

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, China made half the world’s face masks. When the outbreak took off there, China started to use its supply and hoard what remained. This problem has only spread since, as more and more countries hoard whatever medical supplies they can get — with some, like Germany, even banning most PPE exports. So as demand increased due to Covid-19 — not just from health care workers but from a general public increasingly scared of infection — there was less supply to go around.

Intelligence and Logistics at the nation-state scale is solely the domain of the national government. And we had programs an intelligence embedded in China that could have alerted us to what was going on, but was removed months before COVID-19:

Quick left amid a bitter U.S. trade dispute with China when she learned her federally funded post, officially known as resident adviser to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in China, would be discontinued as of September, the sources said. The U.S. CDC said it first learned of a “cluster of 27 cases of pneumonia” of unexplained origin in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31.

So the next paragraph from Marc’s article:

Part of the problem is clearly foresight, a failure of imagination. But the other part of the problem is what we didn’t do in advance, and what we’re failing to do now. And that is a failure of action, and specifically our widespread inability to build.

continues to be wrong. This wasn’t a problem of foresight, of imagination. I’ve been in Fire Rescue since 1996. I’ve been an Assistant Fire Chief. I’ve participated in Emergency Management exercises focused on everything from Pandemics, to Chemical attacks on the World Series, to giant airplanes landing in the middle of a major highway in our town. And I cut my teeth in Florida, where hurricanes and prepardness was a way of life.

But, he is right about something there. We do have a failure of action, although it’s not an inability to build.

We see this today with the things we urgently need but don’t have. We don’t have enough coronavirus tests, or test materials — including, amazingly, cotton swabs and common reagents. We don’t have enough ventilators, negative pressure rooms, and ICU beds. And we don’t have enough surgical masks, eye shields, and medical gowns — as I write this, New York City has put out a desperate call for rain ponchos to be used as medical gowns. Rain ponchos! In 2020! In America!

Well, I mean the rain ponchos are being used primarily to keep soiled materials off of the front-line health workers, and they’re pretty good at that. But how about this:

Some public health officials and experts tried to tamp down on public demand by suggesting face masks wouldn’t help laypeople avoid infection. But experts told me this messaging backfired: There is evidence that masks help people avoid infection, and once the public saw doctors and nurses were using and wanted more of the masks, that likely fueled distrust toward what public officials and experts were saying — and people bought up masks anyway.

The result, now, is a shortage that not only threatens doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, but also puts us all at serious risk, since we’re relying on these same health care workers to literally save us if we get sick.

I’m much more outraged at the fact that, lack of supplies aside, we let this spread because we didn’t want to tell people to wrap a towel around their mouth when they went out. Again, a problem of lack of action not an inability to act.

Vaccines? Let’s talk about vaccines:

We also don’t have therapies or a vaccine — despite, again, years of advance warning about bat-borne coronaviruses. Our scientists will hopefully invent therapies and a vaccine, but then we may not have the manufacturing factories required to scale their production. And even then, we’ll see if we can deploy therapies or a vaccine fast enough to matter — it took scientists 5 years to get regulatory testing approval for the new Ebola vaccine after that scourge’s 2014 outbreak, at the cost of many lives.

What the hell, Marc. Do you think scientists are just sitting around ignoring this stuff? Like, “we could have had a vaccine but we just didn’t think it was that important?”. That’s not how these things work. In fact, the scientific community’s response is considered record breaking:

On 13 January, 3 days after Chinese researchers first made public the full RNA sequence of SARS-CoV-2, NIAID immunologist Barney Graham sent Moderna an optimized version of a gene that would become the backbone of its vaccine. Sixty-three days later, the first dose of the vaccine went into Haller and other volunteers participating in the small trial at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. In 2016, Graham had made a Zika virus vaccine that went from lab bench to the first volunteer in what he then thought was a lightning-fast 190 days. “We beat that record by nearly 130 days,” he says.

Also, this stuff takes time because it takes fricking time. We don’t know how the body will respond. We don’t know if we trigger an immune response that builds antibodies that those will protect against infection. We don’t know what side effects it will have. For example a Scientific American article says:

As more data comes in from China and Italy, as well as Washington state and New York, more cardiac experts are coming to believe the COVID-19 virus can infect the heart muscle. An initial study found cardiac damage in as many as 1 in 5 patients, leading to heart failure and death even among those who show no signs of respiratory distress.

But Bonow said the damage observed in COVID-19 patients could be from the virus directly infecting the heart muscle. Initial research suggests the coronavirus attaches to certain receptors in the lungs, and those same receptors are found in heart muscle as well.

So let’s not be hasty about triggering immune responses in patients that end up attaching to heart muscle receptors and killing patients, OK?

Now, on to money:

In the U.S., we don’t even have the ability to get federal bailout money to the people and businesses that need it. Tens of millions of laid off workers and their families, and many millions of small businesses, are in serious trouble right now, and we have no direct method to transfer them money without potentially disastrous delays. A government that collects money from all its citizens and businesses each year has never built a system to distribute money to us when it’s needed most.

We delayed the payments to add a signature in the memo line of the paper checks. And even if it didn’t delay them it was because of “hard work and long hours by dedicated IRS employees, these payments are going out on schedule, as planned, without delay, to the nation”

But here’s the thing. The wealthy among us all have plenty of ways of getting that money. They have bank accounts, permenant addresses, internet access. We’ve chosen not to build a system because we’re a racist, classist country. From this article:

Esperanza is an undocumented immigrant whose Austin-based employer deducts taxes from her checks every pay period. Those taxes add up to thousands of dollars annually, but because of her immigration status, she won’t receive one of the payments of up to $1,200 that the federal government began sending out earlier this week. A Social Security number is required to receive the benefit, so only citizens, legal permanent residents and some immigrants with work authorization can expect payments.

“They take a part of your check,” said Esperanza, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym because of her status. “It’s our obligation [to pay the taxes], but then we don’t receive any benefits afterward.”

Is it an ability problem?

Proposals like the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act would expand health care and financial relief options for undocumented immigrants. And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the creation of a $125 million disaster relief fund to benefit undocumented immigrants. Something similar would be a tough sell in Texas, where the Republican-controlled state government has pushed measures to crack down on undocumented immigrants and sent state troopers to help reinforce the border in recent years.

No, sounds like it’s not. It’s doable, but hard. Is it because things are hard? Is that why we’re not doing them?

Why do we not have these things? Medical equipment and financial conduits involve no rocket science whatsoever.

No rocket science? N95 masks – which filter 95% of the particulates – and N100 masks – which filter 100% are pretty rocket sciency:

However, some N95 respirators are intended for use in a health care setting. Specifically, single-use, disposable respiratory protective devices used and worn by health care personnel during procedures to protect both the patient and health care personnel from the transfer of microorganisms, body fluids, and particulate material. These surgical N95 respirators are class II devices regulated by the FDA, under 21 CFR 878.4040, and CDC NIOSH under 42 CFR Part 84.

And financial conduits aren’t rocket science? I agree they shouldn’t be, but there’s a lot of systemic problems baked into it. How do we make sure everyone gets something? Why do we say that a single parent with a child deserves less than two working adults ($1,700 vs $2,400)?

And – going back to ability versus inaction – why did we force banks to only approve Paycheck Protection Loans for clients with existing relationships, leaving minority-owned businesses potentially at risk? Should we have done something about that? (Hint: uh, yeah).

At least therapies and vaccines are hard! Making masks and transferring money are not hard. We could have these things but we chose not to — specifically we chose not to have the mechanisms, the factories, the systems to make these things. We chose not to build.

I might argue that we chose not to have those things because people get advice like:

If everything goes well, then the downside of more structure is limited: The company grows into a successful behemoth and everyone, from the founder to startup employees to investors, wins…The key is to run an organized fundraising process that’s aimed at creating competition.

We’ve created a business culture where profits come first, and it’s more important to build valuation than communities. I know – I saw the outsourcing of jobs to lower-priced markets since the 90s. I saw – and still see – people laid off and not considered for positions because the company wants to look good for investors, for the market. We encourage people to take shortcuts, to reduce R&D spend prior to going public.

Prior IPO studies show that companies invest more aggressively prior to IPO (Pagano et al. 1998) and primarily use IPO proceeds to repay debt due to the aggressive investments (Leone et al. 2007). Since most R&D expenditures are not allowed to be capitalized under the current GAAP, investing in R&D activities is conceptually costly to IPO companies as it leads to lower reported earnings before going public.

As such, “good companies” are likely to invest in R&D activities more aggressively in pre-IPO years, so that the cost is prohibitively too high to be mimicked by “bad companies”. With such costly signal, rational investors will realize only “good companies” can bear this cost and thus price the signal accordingly.

And now it gets good:

You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally. You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life.

You see it in housing and the physical footprint of our cities. We can’t build nearly enough housing in our cities with surging economic potential — which results in crazily skyrocketing housing prices in places like San Francisco, making it nearly impossible for regular people to move in and take the jobs of the future. We also can’t build the cities themselves anymore. When the producers of HBO’s “Westworld” wanted to portray the American city of the future, they didn’t film in Seattle or Los Angeles or Austin — they went to Singapore. We should have gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities at levels way beyond what we have now; where are they?

But yet his firm is still opening offices in the heart of San Francisco. I can’t answer obviously how he’s been involved in things like city councils blocking larger developments but answer me this…why do all the “jobs of the future” have to be in San Francisco? Where’s the forethought? The innovation?

Oh, now education? And Montessori?

You see it in education. We have top-end universities, yes, but with the capacity to teach only a microscopic percentage of the 4 million new 18 year olds in the U.S. each year, or the 120 million new 18 year olds in the world each year. Why not educate every 18 year old? Isn’t that the most important thing we can possibly do? Why not build a far larger number of universities, or scale the ones we have way up? The last major innovation in K-12 education was Montessori, which traces back to the 1960s; we’ve been doing education research that’s never reached practical deployment for 50 years since; why not build a lot more great K-12 schools using everything we now know? We know one-to-one tutoring can reliably increase education outcomes by two standard deviations (the Bloom two-sigma effect); we have the internet; why haven’t we built systems to match every young learner with an older tutor to dramatically improve student success?

Because, Marc, kids don’t have computers. They don’t have internet access. New York has 114,000 homeless students. Philadelphia finds only 1/3rd of students able to use a computer at home to access the internet:

The survey of 130,000 people found that fewer than a third of the students at public and charter schools in pockets of North and Southwest Philadelphia used a computer at home to access the internet.

The district is strongly encouraging students to learn during the pandemic but is not penalizing those who can’t, as many don’t have the necessary technology. Last week, the school board authorized spending $11 million to buy as many as 50,000 computers to make remote learning possible for all students. Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts donated $5 million to help pay for the equipment.

We don’t have internet access because telecoms lobby to block governments from building that access to increase their monopolies and profits:

The telecom industry’s lobbying efforts have had tangible ramifications on state laws governing municipal broadband. In fact, over $92 million was spent on lobbying in 2018 alone to protect business interests at the national and state level.


You see it in manufacturing. Contrary to conventional wisdom, American manufacturing output is higher than ever, but why has so much manufacturing been offshored to places with cheaper manual labor? We know how to build highly automated factories. We know the enormous number of higher paying jobs we would create to design and build and operate those factories. We know — and we’re experiencing right now! — the strategic problem of relying on offshore manufacturing of key goods. Why aren’t we building Elon Musk’s “alien dreadnoughts” — giant, gleaming, state of the art factories producing every conceivable kind of product, at the highest possible quality and lowest possible cost — all throughout our country?

Elon Musk? That’s who you’re going to hold up? The guy who is sending CPAP machines claiming they are ventilators? The one who says that his “personal opinion is some ICUs are jumping the gun on intubation“?

Ok, let’s put that aside for a moment. “Alien Dreadnought factories”? The kind where the boss can do stuff like this:

At about 10 o’clock on Saturday evening, an angry Musk was examining one of the production line’s mechanized modules, trying to figure out what was wrong, when the young, excited engineer was brought over to assist him.

“Hey, buddy, this doesn’t work!” Musk shouted at the engineer, according to someone who heard the conversation. “Did you do this?”

The engineer was taken aback. He had never met Musk before. Musk didn’t even know the engineer’s name. The young man wasn’t certain what, exactly, Musk was asking him, or why he sounded so angry.

“You mean, program the robot?” the engineer said. “Or design that tool?”

“Did you fucking do this?” Musk asked him.

“I’m not sure what you’re referring to?” the engineer replied apologetically.

“You’re a fucking idiot!” Musk shouted back. “Get the fuck out and don’t come back!”

The young engineer climbed over a low safety barrier and walked away. He was bewildered by what had just happened. The entire conversation had lasted less than a minute. A few moments later, his manager came over to say that he had been fired on Musk’s orders, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. The engineer was shocked. He’d been working so hard. He was set to get a review from his manager the next week, and had been hearing only positive things. Instead, two days later, he signed his separation papers.

Or, maybe, maybe it’s the part where we found out that it’s succeeding through good old fashion fear:

Tesla had to have high standards to succeed. It was not a 9 to 5 company. People were already working hard; now Musk was implying they needed to do more. He was at turns complimentary, awkward, and intense. The Model 3 was a bet-the-company decision, he said. Everybody needed to work hard and smarter.

But, ok, let’s put Elon aside for a second because there’s something worse in his paragraph. Let’s bring it back up:

but why has so much manufacturing been offshored…

Because we live in a global economy where countries are supposed to work together to understand supply chains, logistics, and urgent needs. The answer isn’t for us to “bring manufacturing home”.

to places with cheaper manual labor?

Oh, well, you answered your own question, then. It’s because we have economies of scale, of globalization. Some of that is horrifying and relies on slave labor, unsafe conditions, environmental damage and worse. But hey, the Dow is up, so it’s all good, right?

You see it in transportation. Where are the supersonic aircraft? Where are the millions of delivery drones? Where are the high speed trains, the soaring monorails, the hyperloops, and yes, the flying cars?

This is my favorite one. We don’t have supersonic aircraft because they break the sound barrier. That means they can only do that over the ocean, which limits their usefulness. And do we really have a need for that if we have the internet? Why are we traveling so much? Why aren’t we building for people to work wherever makes the most sense for them? Why aren’t we focused on flooding low-income areas with high-quality internet access coupled with high-quality education and food programs? Why the hell are we talking about hyperloops and flying cars when we could be talking about vibrant communities that meet people where they are?

Is the problem money?

I mean, yeah, it is.

That seems hard to believe when we have the money to wage endless wars in the Middle East and repeatedly bail out incumbent banks, airlines, and carmakers. The federal government just passed a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package in two weeks!

Does it? Does it really? Here’s the clue. Those wars fund huge military industries that make money hand-over-fist. Those industries – and the others listed – have enough money to pay for lobbyists to talk about the utter destruction if they are allowed to fail.

Is the problem capitalism?

I mean, yeah, it is. At least how we model it.

I’m with Nicholas Stern when he says that capitalism is how we take care of people we don’t know — all of these fields are highly lucrative already and should be prime stomping grounds for capitalist investment, good both for the investor and the customers who are served.

Lucrative? Is that why the adminstration said that we had plenty of testing capacity, but wasn’t activated because it wasn’t profitable at $50 a test so they had to pay $100 a test (at the 1:07:30 ish mark if that doesn’t link directly to the video)

Is the problem technical competence? Clearly not, or we wouldn’t have the homes and skyscrapers, schools and hospitals, cars and trains, computers and smartphones, that we already have.

Yeah, I agree this isn’t an ability problem.

The problem is desire. We need to want these things. The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things. The problem is regulatory capture. We need to want new companies to build these things, even if incumbents don’t like it, even if only to force the incumbents to build these things. And the problem is will. We need to build these things.

I mean, forcing new companies to build things to force incumbents to also build them seems wasteful, and it seems like our competitive model instead of a cooperative model might be more at what’s to blame here, but let’s run with it for a second.

And we need to separate the imperative to build these things from ideology and politics. Both sides need to contribute to building.

Ok, let’s run with that for a second, too, although I’d argue it’s incredibly privileged to separate this out from ideology since it’s ideology that has gotten us to where we are, building systemic power dynamics that make it incredibly difficult for others to succeed who are incredibly innovative but don’t happen to live in San Francisco. Or are white and male.

The right starts out in a more natural, albeit compromised, place. The right is generally pro production, but is too often corrupted by forces that hold back market-based competition and the building of things. The right must fight hard against crony capitalism, regulatory capture, ossified oligopolies, risk-inducing offshoring, and investor-friendly buybacks in lieu of customer-friendly (and, over a longer period of time, even more investor-friendly) innovation.

Except…that innovation is sometimes better served by government, not private industry. We have areas that will never be profitable. For example, the Postal Service is being fought against hard by the right, because they’d rather see it privatized. It’s not investor-friendly to subsidize mail service to rural areas and let them pay the same as someone in a large city, but it’s equitable.

It’s time for full-throated, unapologetic, uncompromised political support from the right for aggressive investment in new products, in new industries, in new factories, in new science, in big leaps forward.

Funny how all of this gets mentioned without addressing the incredible systems built – often by the right – to fight against leveling the playing fields to enable those large leaps forward. Let’s not do vote-by-mail because it enables more Democrats to vote. Let’s be OK with Income Inequality:

Rather than work to make higher education more affordable, they have ignored the student debt crisis and proposed nearly $80 billion cuts to the Pell Grant program, which millions of Americans rely on to afford higher education. Rather than boost social safety nets to help low income families afford education, job training, or health care, they have proposed massive cuts to programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that help huge swaths of the population.

Rather than work to shape a federal tax code that limits the tax burden on poor and working class families, and requires the rich to pay what they owe, they passed a nearly $2 trillion tax cut just last year that was deliberately designed to provide massive cuts to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations while leaving crumbs for the rest of the nation.

Oh, and rather than fight the issue of health care, let’s actively set to weaken it

But the story of the high premiums themselves is not complete unless we take a look back over the last several years and look at all the ways Republican lawmakers, governors, and pundits – and now the Trump administration — took steps to deliberately weaken the Affordable Care Act.

Ok, so that’s the right. Surely in not making this a partisan issue he’s going to talk about the left?

The left starts out with a stronger bias toward the public sector in many of these areas. To which I say, prove the superior model! Demonstrate that the public sector can build better hospitals, better schools, better transportation, better cities, better housing. Stop trying to protect the old, the entrenched, the irrelevant; commit the public sector fully to the future. Milton Friedman once said the great public sector mistake is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. Instead of taking that as an insult, take it as a challenge — build new things and show the results!

Funny how the “left” has to prove that it’s not OK to have hospitals lay off thousands of workers because it’s not “profitable”. That it’s not OK that “funding gaps existed solely based on the racial composition of the school“. That it’s not OK that “A big part of this problem, says Ryan Avent, is San Francisco’s restrictive zoning requirements. The city’s longtime residents are very good at keeping new construction out of their backyard.

And cities would love to show the superior model for things like internet access. But they can’t and that’s not because the left isn’t willing to show it.

Show that new models of public sector healthcare can be inexpensive and effective — how about starting with the VA? When the next coronavirus comes along, blow us away!

Yes, yes, let’s blame the left for the VA’s problems:

Despite the common belief to the contrary, veteran-specific benefits and services fall short of meeting the needs of veterans and their families, many of whom struggle to meet basic needs even with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) supports. More than 3.9 million veterans live paycheck to paycheck—meaning their family incomes are less than twice the federal poverty level, or less than $50,000 for a family of four. Yet new CAP analysis reveals that if Trump’s proposed cuts to key job training programs were applied directly to program participation, more than 340,000 veterans could lose access to critical employment services that help boost wages.

Additionally, CAP estimates that over the next decade, 400,000 veterans on average could lose access to critical nutrition assistance each year if the cut proposed in President Trump’s budget were applied directly to participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If instead the cuts proposed in the House of Representatives Republican budget were applied, more than 554,000 veterans could lose SNAP each year between 2023 and 2027. Previous congressional Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would have cost close to half a million veterans their Medicaid benefits by 2026. And the most recent repeal effort, which makes devastating changes to Medicaid, would be even worse, costing an estimated 579,000 veterans their Medicaid coverage within a decade.


Even private universities like Harvard are lavished with public funding; why can’t 100,000 or 1 million students a year attend Harvard? Why shouldn’t regulators and taxpayers demand that Harvard build?

I can’t find information on universities being “lavished with public funding” though they get a huge benefit from their tax-exempt status. I do like the idea of providing broader education access to all, though that seems to be a stength of the left, not the right:

The progressive Democratic presidential candidates mean well when they say they want to make a college education an entitlement. They believe that nothing but good can result from giving children from low-income families the opportunity to attend college.

But they are mistaken. When students realize that they will get into college no matter what they learn in grade school or high school, they will have no incentive to forgo activities that are more fun than attending school, listening to teachers, and doing homework.


Solve the climate crisis by building — energy experts say that all carbon-based electrical power generation on the planet could be replaced by a few thousand new zero-emission nuclear reactors, so let’s build those. Maybe we can start with 10 new reactors? Then 100? Then the rest?

Who are those experts? Where are they running those reactors at? And why nuclear and not wind energy? Because it seems like nuclear isn’t as rosy as Marc makes it out to be:

There is no such thing as a zero-or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plantsalso emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vaporand heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh.

On top of that, because all nuclear reactors take 10-19 years or more between planning and operation vs.2-5 year for utility solar or wind, nuclear causes another64-102 g-CO2/kWh over 100 years to be emittedfrom the background grid while consumers waitfor it to come online or be refurbished, relative to wind or solar.

Build, build, build

In fact, I think building is how we reboot the American dream. The things we build in huge quantities, like computers and TVs, drop rapidly in price. The things we don’t, like housing, schools, and hospitals, skyrocket in price.

I…I, uh think he’s saying we should create hospital factories? “A hospital in every home, that’s what I say!”

What’s the American dream? The opportunity to have a home of your own, and a family you can provide for. We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education, and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.

Or, you know, break the systemic racist, classist policies that form the backbone of repression throughout this country. And yes, I of course mean that we treat minority founders like garbage but we also don’t fund rural America either so this is a problem for us all.

Building isn’t easy, or we’d already be doing all this. We need to demand more of our political leaders, of our CEOs, our entrepreneurs, our investors. We need to demand more of our culture, of our society. And we need to demand more from one another. We’re all necessary, and we can all contribute, to building.

Oh Marc, you think people aren’t doing this? How about Backstage Capital? How about these 16 women fighting for change? What about Little Miss Flint or Greta Thunberg.

It’s not easy because some of the most radical, fundamental changes are at the heart of what makes people the most money.

Every step of the way, to everyone around us, we should be asking the question, what are you building? What are you building directly, or helping other people to build, or teaching other people to build, or taking care of people who are building? If the work you’re doing isn’t either leading to something being built or taking care of people directly, we’ve failed you, and we need to get you into a position, an occupation, a career where you can contribute to building. There are always outstanding people in even the most broken systems — we need to get all the talent we can on the biggest problems we have, and on building the answers to those problems.

Not everyone is capable of building, or taking care of others. Now we’re being ablist on top of everything else. A society is a mix of people, some which build, some which support, and some which need supporting. And the second and third order effects are huge.

But what are you doing to build this? In what ways are you building capacity in your community? Maybe you’ve opened your 9,000 square foot home (“He and Arrillaga live in a 9,000-square-foot home filled with modern art in Atherton, just five minutes from Andreessen Horowitz’s offices.”) to others? And while I appreciate your spouse’s work with the Social Fund, have you personally lobbied for higher taxes (which it seems like you believe in)?

I expect this essay to be the target of criticism. Here’s a modest proposal to my critics. Instead of attacking my ideas of what to build, conceive your own! What do you think we should build? There’s an excellent chance I’ll agree with you.

Oh, how about you go first? Since I already serve my community through government work, fire rescue, search and rescue, serving on school boards. It seems like you are in a better position to advocate for these changes, so would love to hear more about the direct impact you all are having. How you’re funding more diverse founders. How you’re expanding your offices. How you are enabling housing capabilities to increase. How you’re helping source PPEs.

We need people like you Marc. Can you help us change the world?

Our nation and our civilization were built on production, on building. Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.

And it was build on inequality, and slavery, and slave labor, and many other awful things we also take for granted. Let’s not forget about them in this brave new world.


Wardley Mapping Mondays – Operations Doctrine

Happy Mapping Monday! Today’s #mappingmondays video continues the series on Doctrine looking at the seven principles of Operations. If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter or email hello at coryfoy dot com!



Happy Monday! I’m Cory Foy, and welcome to this week’s Mapping Monday where we’re in the middle of exploring Simon Wardley’s Doctrine. So far we’ve looked at two categories of Doctrine covering principles and patterns of Communication and Development including things like Focusing on High Situational Awareness, Using Appropriate Methods and Challenging Assumptions, and I’ve linked to those videos in the blog post with this video, so be sure to check them out!

For our third category we want to look at how we operate as an organization. That means looking at 7 doctrine principles: Managing Inertia, Optimizing Flow, Thinking Small to know the details, Focusing on Effectiveness over Efficiency, Doing Better with Less, Setting Exceptional Standards, and Managing Failure. Let’s dive in!

Our first doctrine principle is Managing Inertia. Imagine you’re a business owner. You’ve developed a successful business – one that has grown and employs hundreds or thousands of people in a specific space. You’ve been in business for a while and seen all kinds of people try to get into the same space, all thinking they have a unique approach. But you know that they’re all underestimating what it takes to really be successful in this line of business, and so when yet another startup enters the space you don’t think anything of it. Suddenly, 2 years later, it seems like you can’t go 2 hours without hearing about more business loss to this startup. What happened?

We got comfortable. Wardley lists three climatic patterns which explain: Success Breeds Inertia, Inertia increases the more successful the past model is, and Inertia can kill an organization. In short, success makes us comfortable, and we lose the methods of evaluation that got us where we are. We don’t want to panic about every new entry, but we should have a method for evaluating what they bring, and understanding what threat they represent – maybe allowing us to acquire or block them if they really are a threat.

Inertia is a fascinating topic, and Wardley identifies 16 types of inertia as shown here, and linked to in the article with this video.

Interestingly, when a business finds themselves like our friends above, there’s typically people in the organization it’s not a surprise for. In fact, they may have been trying to raise the alarm about what they saw, but found themselves tied up in organizational politics, red tape, or bottlenecks, so the information couldn’t get where it needed to go. These flows of information are critical, and we want to optimize them. Our second principle – optimize flow – tends to bring up ideas of Kanban and the flow of software development, but there are many flows of capital in an organization – including information, risk, development, financial and many others. We want to ruthlessly find the bottlenecks which prevent us from driving towards the key value for our users – and clear them out. I recently did a video on Value Stream Mapping which shows a reduction of 10 months in a development process we got by visualizing the key processes and then clearing them out, which I’ll link to below.

Optimizing Flow goes hand in hand with our next principle about Thinking in the Small to know the details of what is going on. As we grow and become successful, we tend to trust our downstream processes without fully understanding them. This can lead to waste and delays. This doesn’t mean that as a leader you have to micromanage! Instead think about a line of sight – when you have a question, there should be a clear line of sight from the lowest levels to the high level strategy that is inspectable. And you should inspect it every now and then. Not only do you learn things, but you can inspire confidence and pride from your teams as they show you what great things they’re doing.

However if you’re going to inspect, your focus should be on effectiveness over efficiency. In other words, don’t optimize ineffective processes! As an example from fire rescue, when we have a large fire, we need some sort of an external water source. Hopefully this means there is a fire hydrant nearby. In training, we may see that firefighters have an inefficient way of pulling the supply hose off of the truck to drag it to the hydrant, and you work with them that lets them pull it off 40% faster. But then your chief comes along and has them simply stop at a hydrant on the way in, hook the hose to it without turning it on, and then drive to the fire, cutting a 7 minute process to 45 seconds with a higher level of effectiveness.

Back to business, one of the counterintuitive things I show my clients is that if you want to go faster, work on less things at once, and reduce the delays between the steps. We don’t have to actually improve the steps themselves to see significant improvement. We want to do better with less – and that means a culture of Kaizen – not just continuous improvement, but a ruthless focus on it. We need measurement, transparency, openness – as well as trust and safety. And the continuous is critical here – we can’t just do a single “blame session” and think we’ll get the same benefits as a cadenced reflection. We should be open to experimentation – and failure.

Which brings us to the last two principles – Setting Exceptional Standards and Managing Failure. You are what you prioritize, and you set the tone for your employees. This means setting the bar at the very best that can be achieved – not burnout, not overachieving, but sustainable, innovative, amazing people. And along the way we’re going to be trying new things, entering uncharted waters. We’re going to be making bets on unproven gameplays. Our maps will be wrong. So be prepared to have a culture where failure is planned and designed for. Distribute risks to reduce impact. Try things like “Pre-spectives” where we talk about what could go wrong before we do something.

So those are Wardley’s doctrine principles of Operations: Managing Inertia, Optimizing Flow, Thinking Small to know the details, Focusing on Effectiveness over Efficiency, Doing Better with Less, Setting Exceptional Standards, and Managing Failure. Take a look at your organization this week. What things do you not know the details of? What things are inefficient? What things are at risk? And – what can we do about it? Maybe – start with a map! I’d be delighted to hope on a 30 minute video call to help you get started. And if you have any other questions or just want to let me know how it’s going reach out on Twitter at @cory_foy or via email at hello at coryfoy dot com. Until next week, let’s get moving!


Happy Mapping Monday! Today’s #mappingmondays video continues the series on Doctrine looking at the nine principles of Development. If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter or email hello at coryfoy dot com!



Happy Monday! I’m Cory Foy, and welcome to this week’s Mapping Monday. Last week we introduced 6 categories of Simon Wardley’s doctrine – Communication, Development, Operation, Structure, Learning and Leading, as well as covered the four doctrine principles in Communication – Be Transparent, Focus on High Situational Awareness, Use a Common Language and Challenge Assumptions. Communicating is critical for every organization, especially as we figure out what we should be doing – our gameplays and strategies, and hopefully you found some great ways to integrate these into your organization.

The act of figure out how to get to what we should be doing is the focus of this next category of doctrine – Development. It’s a big one, both in impact and number of principles. What are Simon’s doctrine principles for Development? Know Your Users, Focus on User Needs, Think Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained and Elegant, Remove Bias and Duplication, Use Appropriate Methods, Focus on the Outcome – Not a Contract, Be Pragmatic, Use Standards Where Appropriate, and Use Appropriate Tools. Whew! Let’s not waste any time.

Knowing our users is something driven into every business. But do we really know them, or are we making assumptions about who they are and how they use the things we create? For example, building a car rental that people can reserve without needing to talk to anyone sounds great. Until you don’t think about what happens when they drive that car into an area with no cell signal and it shuts down. I’ll also mention that in knowing our users we should also understand the bad with the good. We might think of software which can track and lock down our devices as helpful – until they’re used in abusive situations. So spend time with them, in their actual environments. And build diversity of opinions and people in your teams to challenge assumptions you make about those users.

Once we have an understanding of our users, we want to focus on their needs. In a Wardley Map, User Needs are the anchors we use for all down level mapping. However, we have to be prepared for two challenges. The first is that different users may have different, conflicting needs. We need to be prepared to balance out those approaches. The second is that, when we talk about components in Genesis and Custom Built, user needs are uncertain. We’re still in a discovery process. So we’ll see more rapid evolution of them as we learn more from them.

As we focus on those needs and start to think about how to meet them, we want to be in a mindset of Thinking Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained and Elegant. This term – known as FIRE from Dan Ward’s book – is about having a bias towards action, in a lightweight way that stays focused on the need we’re solving but is high quality enough to be built on top of. This is a good place to learn more about Extreme Programming – the idea of working small, fast and with high quality, in a way that can be evolved. Or invoking the acronym I heard most from Ron Jeffries – YAGNI – You Ain’t Gonna Need It.

And when we don’t need it, we want to remove it. The doctrine principle of Remove Bias and Duplication is a strategic look at YAGNI. We want to share maps, collating them and looking for both duplication and bias – specifically around gameplays that don’t match the evolutionary lifecycle. For example, if something is a commodity, we likely shouldn’t be building it – though as Cat Swetel says, sometimes that can be an advantage and we should be very clear that we’re diverging from the norm and be prepared to defend why.

Using Appropriate Methods is perhaps one of the most powerful statements in its simplicity. While we’ve seen a big shift over the past 15 years towards agile methods being the norm, that doesn’t always mean we should approach it that way. In a Genesis phase, rapid discovery doesn’t fit well into Scrum like models, though it can be a good container for discovery if the cycles are short enough. On the other hand, when we have an implementation of a utility component, it’s likely that a sequential process will work very well, and what we’re looking for are more Six Sigma ideas of waste and delay reduction. There is no magic solution, and you should understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

And when we talk about what we’re trying to accomplish, we run into our next doctrine principle – Focus on the Outcome – Not a Contract. This fits in to the Agile Manifesto notion of Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation. We should look for ways to work towards delivery valuable things that mean the needs of the user value we’re discovering. We should be open – on both sides – to finding better ways of working together, knowing that contracts aren’t necessarily evil – if we find the ones that fit what we’re trying to deliver.

When we are trying to deliver, we want to Be Pragmatic. If we can leverage off-the-shelf components, we should do that. Know what your core competencies and wins are – and focus on them. As Simon says, “Always challenge when you depart from using something that already exists”.

Along with being pragmatic, we should Use Standards Where Appropriate. If we have components we can build on top of, we should build on top of them. If there’s a standard, we should try to use and improve it, or we’ll run into the notion of just adding to the standards and getting bogged down in supporting things which don’t further our goals.

Finally, we want to Use Appropriate Tools. This means looking at our situation and ensuring we have the right level of awareness. If we’re making a financial bet, we should have financial models. If we think we’re outplaying our competitors, we should be able to show the map of the landscape validating that decision. There’s no reason to just start driving and hope you get there – even in a brand new startup you have customer discovery and validation you’re driving towards, and you should focus on getting those hypotheses answered.

So as you go to develop this week, start asking yourself how your doing. Do you know what your users need? Are you thinking in small increments that can move quickly? Are you using the right method for the agility you need? And are you making the most of your investment in time by removing bias, duplication and adopting standards? There’s always more we can do, and it doesn’t have to be big! I’m excited to hear how you all make it happen. And if you have questions, need help, or want to let me know how it’s going reach out on Twitter at @cory_foy or via email at hello at coryfoy dot com. Until next week, let’s build something great!


Wardley Mapping Mondays – Communication

A person standing in front of bookshelves with the communication principles listed on the left

Happy Mapping Monday! Today’s #mappingmondays video starts a new series on Doctrine beginning with the four principles of Communication. If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter or email hello at coryfoy dot com!



Happy Monday! I’m Cory Foy, and welcome to this week’s Mapping Monday. Often when we think about Wardley Mapping we dive into the “mapping” part of it. But mapping is a tool we use to look at our landscape and figure out what gameplays we can make. And we can’t get there without a common operating model – our doctrine.

The word doctrine certain conjures up a military context, filled with rigid structures and a single way of thinking. But the US Army defines doctrine as the fundamental principles by which the military forces – or elements thereof – guide their actions in support of national objectives. In other words, it’s a body of thought on how they operate together, focusing on how to think, not what to think.

Similar to how the military took past experience and turned them into fundamental principles, Wardley lists a set of doctrine, defining them as universally useful patters that can be applied regardless of context. While there are several ways he presents them, I find a division into six key categories – Communication, Development, Operation, Structure, Learning and Leading – to be a great way of breaking them down. So over the next several weeks we’ll take each of these categories and dive deeper into the doctrine within them.

But let’s not wait! Our first category – Communication – is perhaps one of the most vital set of principles we can tackle. Our organizations have lots of people with amazing information that can help us – but only if we let them. Simon’s doctrines within Communication are Be Transparent, Focus on High Situational Awareness, Use a Common Language, and Challenge Assumptions.

Transparency is something we all say we strive for, but can be hard in practice. Many of us like to be a story teller – a hero – bringing the ideas together that will save our organization or create the next big thing. Or, we don’t like people to see things messy – afraid they’ll think we don’t know what we’re doing.

So this first doctrine principle of “Be Transparent” is about turning that around. We should bias everything towards being open. We should share our maps, our strategies, our approaches and gameplays as wide as we can to get the most input and insights. This also means we’ll get their concerns, their challenges, their messiness to our perfect story. We should be prepared for that – rather than ignore it and let the market or our competitors show us our flaws.

Transparency doesn’t mean we just make all of our private conversations public. We should have more awareness than that. Which happens to be Wardley’s second doctrine principle – Focus on High Situational Awareness. The guidance I give organizations I work with is that you need systematic methods for analyzing and evaluating what is happening around you. Wardley Maps are, of course, a great way of doing that.

As an example, let’s say Amazon has just announced they’re moving into your market. The first thing you need isn’t a response. It’s a map of what exactly it appears they are doing and how that fits into – or disrupts – the current landscape you operate in.

The other aspect I tie closely with situational awareness is Commander’s Intent. This is the notion that as a leader your teams understand the intent of their actions and how they fit in to the overall strategy. As another example, let’s say you are trying to compete in a disruptive market that requires a lot of exploration. You may direct your operations teams to reduce costs, but they should understand that in a high-discovery phase we don’t want to lock down all capacity to the minimums – we’re going to have some waste as we move along the path and stabilize. Otherwise they may march towards making things as lean as possible – at the detriment to your disrupting teams.

The third doctrine principle is Use a Common Language. In the Lean world we refer to this as “Standard Work”. Standardized work is the playbook. It’s what the team has decided is the best way — at this point in time — to get the job done and succeed on a daily basis. (https://www.ame.org/target/articles/2013/beginners-guide-lean-standardized-work-%E2%80%94-linchpin-lean). So we should make sure that people understand roles, approaches and terms – as well as things like movement in a map, what mapping is, and the approaches and gameplays we want to take. And we should create checkpoints for verifying we’re all talking about the same things – and have a common repository for reference we can update when we’re not.

The final doctrine principle under Communication is “Challenge Assumptions”. One of the most powerful statements I got was from Jabe Bloom who told me “The people telling the story determine what’s possible in the story”. That means not only should we be comfortable challenging assumptions – as Wardley says “there is no place for ego if you want to learn” (http://blog.gardeviance.org/2017/01/a-smorgasbord-of-usefulness.html) – we should also create methods for allowing those assumptions to be exposed.

To highlight this, imagine we got this paragraph from our Chief Product Officer. It sounds reasonable, but it also feels like there’s something not right. But how do you challenge it? How do you pick apart the pieces that don’t feel right without the storyteller feeling like you’re picking them apart?

But now let’s attach a map to the statement. Now we can ask questions about why we’re choosing this attack versus another, what the danger of competitors evolving a key component before we can, and even questioning some key elements the tactics were based on. Cat Swetel says that Wardley Mapping is the democratization of strategy (https://twitter.com/13895242/status/1192846872194383877) and that’s what makes it so important.

Transparency, Situational Awareness, Common Language, Challenging Assumptions. It’s a lot for one week, but I have confidence that you’ll find ways to start the journey in your organization. And if you have questions, need help, or want to let me know how it’s going reach out on Twitter at @cory_foy or via email at hello at coryfoy dot com. Until next week, here’s to challenging ourselves!


FASTER Fridays – Value Stream Mapping

A value stream map going from idea to ship with a processing time of 97 hours and a total time of 688 hours

Happy (early) Friday! This week’s #fasterfridays covers a powerful tool for understanding processes and delays in your organization – Value Stream Mapping. It walks you through a small example, and then a real world example from one of my clients. If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter or email hello at coryfoy dot com. Have a great weekend!


Hello! I’m Cory Foy, and in this Faster Fridays video I wanted to walk through a technique known as Value Stream Mapping. This is a powerful technique from Lean Manufacturing which allows you to understand not just your process, but the delays, queues and time spent in them to find out what’s really slowing you down.

In the upper left hand you can see a Value Stream Map I did for a client many years ago. This was obviously a rough sketch, but we were able to do it quickly. But what is a Value Stream Map? At its core, it is a way of visualizing the flow of work in a system. But the power comes from mapping your actual process – not how you want it to – or wish it did – work.

Our map begins at an entry point into the system. Ideally this is the very beginning, perhaps where an idea first gets introduced. We then walk through all of the steps until it leaves our system or we get the value we need, in this case, Shipping software. It’s possible for this to go even further. For example, a hospital’s value stream may not end when a patient is discharged – they may want to track post-discharge steps, follow up appointments, or even readmissions.

Once we have our process, we then look at the processing time in each step. In this case we’re dealing with people, not machines, so design may take 2 days of work, but it takes the designer two weeks to devote 2 full days towards the design. Likewise the development team may spend two full weeks developing, but it takes them 12 weeks to get those two weeks – either because of meetings, context switching, escalations and other work. Finally we ship it, which is a full-day deployment but our piece is only an hour of.

Now that we have our processing time, we need to look at our queues – or the places work sits while it’s waiting to move downstream. It is very rare to have perfect efficiency, so in this case we see that once an idea comes in it takes on average a week for Design to start, two weeks for development to start once design is done, and an average of three weeks for it to be deployed due to the organizations six-week deployment cycles.

So to close this out – our processing time calculated by adding up just the time spent working – was 97 hours – or about 2.5 weeks of work to go from idea to ship, it takes 688 hours to actually get it out the door – about 17 weeks – resulting in an 14% efficiency.

But is that real? That seems wasteful, doesn’t it? Now let’s go back take a look at that client diagram and actually sketch it out to see how it was.

In this case we start with a request coming in. ending in Project Kickoff! Yes, we haven’t even started developing yet! We then map out the processing times and queues between them. These came from the actual teams and executives and represented average waiting times. But even this doesn’t tell the entire story, because in at least three places we can get rework. For example, at the first review stage an average of 20% of requests get kicked back to Opportunity Analysis once. In the second review work gets kicked back to Product Analysis 50% of the time!

When we mapped all of this out, we found it was 286 hours of work over 1592 hours, or 7 Weeks of Work, but 10 months to get those 7 weeks. So when we talk about wanting to go faster, we didn’t need to look at engineering – we could drastically improve the responsiveness of the organization simply by reducing the queuing time between these steps, without even having to remove any of them!

So if you want to try it yourself, start with your own process. Map out the times inside steps, then the times in-between steps. Calculate your times, recover from your heart attack, and then work on clearing those bottlenecks! Your entire organization will thank you.

And if you get stuck or need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out at hello at coryfoy dot com. I regularly perform assessments and VSMs for clients in a wide variety of industries and governments, and would be more than happy to help yours.

Until next time, here’s to tracking down your delays!

A wardley map showing remote work and rapid delivery evolving to be critical elements

Happy Mapping Monday! Today’s #mappingmondays video shows the next part of the series of how we can use Wardley Mapping for identifying value and target markets as part of April Dunford’s Product Positioning Framework from the book Obviously Awesome. If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter or email hello at coryfoy dot com!



Happy Monday! I’m Cory Foy, and in this week’s Mapping Monday I want to finish off a series on using Wardley Mapping and the Product Positioning Framework to find the best ways to position your product to your customers.

So far we’ve covered four of the five plus one components of product positioning. So now it’s time to look at our last grouping – Market Category and Relevant Trends. These are incredibly powerful and important because they help our customers map their internal models to what our product does and understand why it’s important to them. But what does that mean?

Well, in previous videos we’ve talked about looking at Competitive Alternatives to your product – shown here as comparing our Bug Tracking Tool to a Spreadsheet,

as well as diving into the Unique Attributes of our product, and comparing those to our competitors. But that’s not what we want our customers to have to do. We want them to be able to rapidly identify with our product – to “get it” from the start.

The fifth component in Dunford’s framework is Market Categories. I briefly explained earlier how they help customers use what they know – their internal mental models – to figure out what they don’t – what our product is. But that also means that if they’re not doing mapping like we did earlier, then they are making assumptions. And if we’re not careful, those assumptions can lead to negative experiences, since customers will have expectations about what our product is in relation to the market.

As an example, throughout this series we’ve declared ourselves as a bug tracking tool. If we run with that as our market category, customers are immediately going to put us in a very specific box. They likely have experience with Jira, or Trello, or Service Desk, or many other products. They’re going to expect certain features like reporting and integration. They’re going to expect certain pricing models. And they’re going to be frustrated if your product doesn’t follow the market leader.

But, one of the other exercises we did was determining our target market and the value we give to them. And in this case, it wasn’t about bug tracking, but about coordination and collaboration. Yes, tracking work was important, but it wasn’t the critical element.

So maybe instead of a Bug Tracking Tool, we market ourselves as Team Coordination Software. It allows us to rapidly have people understand our focus area – teams that need to coordinate work – while also sidestepping us from the crowded Bug Tracking market. However, we may want to find other competitors labeling themselves in this market and map out their streams to understand how we’ll fit in to assumptions customers may have.

Market Categories give us the power of assumptions. But next we need the power of action. And in this case we can create a deadly combination with Wardley Maps and the Product Positioning concept of Relevant Trends. Here we’re helping customers understand why they need to make this shift now – so they aren’t left behind.

For example, software development used to be a somewhat stable process. We owned and built the software, and we often owned and possibly built the compute power the software ran on. So we controlled the pace of delivery and the structure of teams.

But compute power has shifted towards being a utility, and software increasingly relies on building parts from off the shelf or open source components. This has an underlying effect on the components that rely on it.

Because now the notion of rapid delivery is more critical, and being able to effectively coordinate and collaborate work across many sites around the globe is becoming the norm. Therefore the principles of remote work apply to how we get things done every day.

We can now show customers these trends, and be able to talk about how the market evolution means that they need better tools for coordination and collaboration that allows them to take advantage of the evolving market. Then you can get them excited for what you have to offer!

So when you have a product, or are thinking about creating one, I’d highly recommend picking up Obviously Awesome and then combining Wardley Mapping and her Product Positioning framework to create some Obviously Awesome insights!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this series! As a reminder I offer free consulting sessions if you want to get started in mapping, and work with organizations across the globe helping them understand and improve their processes and strategies. If you’d like to set up a call, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter at @cory_foy or via email at hello at coryfoy dot com. Until next week, stay awesome!

Transformation is a multi-dimensional journey. We start with our current way of working, discover ways to adopt the practices, and then executing in the new way

A lot of my work involves guiding large organizations through significant change. As part of that work, I’ve developed a list of 10 questions leaders should ask when they are considering asking their teams to adopt something new. After sharing this with a few people they wanted to see it posted publicly to be able to reference, so here it is!

Before I get to the list, there’s a couple of key principles that guides this. First, as I first learned from Alan Chedalawada and Al Shalloway, transformation is a multi-dimensional journey. In the book Managing Transitions, Bridges talks about how people don’t just go from the Old Way to the New Way – in between is a dangerous Neutral Zone that requires significant vision and leadership to get through:

Transformation is a multi-dimensional journey. We start with our current way of working, discover ways to adopt the practices, and then executing in the new way

On top of that, we bring in the concepts that people have to have time to grow into new ideas. It starts with the introduction of the idea, then initial implementation, then execution, then sustainability and flexibility. When it is first introduced they will need clear guidance and direction – including rules of use – to help them. As they move towards operation, they will rely less on the rules and more on intuition. As it matures to sustainability, they will be able to not only intuit the actions, but flexibly respond to changes.

Below is a starting list of questions you should ask for any change initiative. Remember that people are looking to you for guidance, leadership and clarity, so your job is to continually guide them on the path with the right messaging and direction.

Question Notes
What is the change? Self-explanatory, but you should be able to clearly articulate the change in a short sentence.
Who is responsible for leading the change? Self-explanatory as well, but important to articulate who is the actual responsible leader for this change.
What does success look like? This is perhaps the most critical line to define. If we can’t objectively define what success looks like, then the teams and managers will likely not be able to understand or measure success, leading to frustration
Who is impacted? (Primary, Secondary, Tertiary) Nearly every change will impact people beyond the initial group. At a minimum it will impact their managers, staff or peers. Think about these groups as you fill out the other questions as secondary and tertiary groups may require similar change management
What new behaviors do we expect? Similar to defining success, we should be able to articulate the behaviors we want to introduce or stop. These may not always be directly on the team or people themselves – for example, changing a way of reporting may mean other groups stop emailing the CTO directly.
What behaviors do we expect to stop?
What performance management impacts are there? (How do people know they’re successful? How do their managers know they’re successful?) This is especially applicable to role changes. Are we expecting people to take on new roles or responsibilities? How would that be reviewed and monitored?
Who needs to be trained? What do they need training on? Self-explanatory, but may be far reaching. For example, a new role may interact with groups in a new way, so those groups will need (even informal) training and communications of what to expect.
What is the timeline for implementation?

  • Comms plan
  • Trainings
  • Start of new process
  • Cadence for check ins (recommend 2-3 within first 6-12 weeks)
It’s worth taking a little bit of time to map out a timeline. People need enough time to process the change and be trained. In addition, for certain experimental changes you may want a cadence for getting feedback on how the process is going and whether to adjust the roll out.

Make sure this timeline and plan is available to the people impacted by the change whenever possible.

What does the Maturation framework look like?

  • Infrequent to Frequent
  • Ad-Hoc/Informal/Heavyweight to Structured / Formal / Lightweight
  • Inflexible / Incapable to Flexible / Capable
  • Inconsistent / Early Adoption to Consistent / Maturing
From an operating perspective, people are initially going to be just starting with this process, using inflexible methods of implementation (e.g. rules-based) and will likely have to explicitly think about it in order to implement the change.

As they mature in adoption it will become more intuitive and resilient to variances.

As a leader it’s worth thinking about how we can measure and guide people through this process to make sure they’re appropriately heading down the right path. We can’t assume we can tell someone something once (even if we write a doc) and they will get it. What checkpoints will we need? What types of behaviors do we expect 4 weeks in? 8 weeks in? 16 weeks in? Will we need additional training or examples?

If you have any questions or you or your organization are looking for ways to be more effective, don’t hesitate to reach out today for a 30 minute call that could change the impact of your entire organization.


Happy Mapping Monday! Today’s #mappingmondays video shows the next part of the series of how we can use Wardley Mapping for identifying value and target markets as part of April Dunford’s Product Positioning Framework from the book Obviously Awesome. If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter or email hello at coryfoy dot com!



Happy Monday! I’m Cory Foy, and welcome to Mapping Mondays! This week’s video continues a several week series on mapping strategic advantage by combining Wardley Maps and April Dunford’s Product Positioning framework from the book Obviously Awesome to show how we can map out Unique Attributes of our product.

Last week, I presented a value chain map for a company that provides a bug tracking tool. The first step in Dunford’s framework is listing competitive alternatives – what your customer would do if they didn’t have your product. We compared it to a shared online spreadsheet, showing how we could think about competitive alternatives by considering what happens when components were in different stages.

What didn’t change was the components between the two options. That’s partly because we approached it from a high level view – for example, “Data Store” meant an actual database for our application but the spreadsheet itself for the alternative.

But for this next step in the product positioning steps, we want to dive deeper and look at Unique Attributes. These are capabilities or features that our offering has that the competitive alternatives do not. And one of the best ways to do that is visualizing it on a graph!

Let’s look at that value chain map again, but focus on the core proposition of a bug tracking app – tracking bugs! What we want to add to this graph is what makes us unique. Of course, we don’t know what makes us unique until we’re compared to our alternative, so let’s start with adding in how we accomplish these things – what we think makes us unique.

For example, to collect Bug Information, we have a standard Bug Entry Form. We also have an API that people can use to create bugs in the system. Finally, we have integrations with several market leading tools to create bug tracking items in our system when those source systems detect errors.

For timing information, users can manually update the fields in the system, or we can automatically update them when certain actions happen, either in our system or through our integrations.

Bug Status can likewise be manually updated. Or we have integrations with source control providers that allow us to update the status based on the acceptance of a Pull Request, or even a Pull Request with successful passing tests.

Taken together this starts to paint a broader picture of how we stack up against a simple spreadsheet. But let’s actually look at our unique attributes by doing this exercise with our competitive alternative.

With a spreadsheet, we capture bug information by filling out columns. Most online spreadsheets have an API you can also use to write to cells, so that’s an option.

Timing information can also be updated manually or in an automated fashion using formula triggers.

Finally, Bug Status can of course be manually updated by changing a column, or via an API.

If we overlay these, we start to get a picture of our unique attributes.

Clearly our application integrations win out here – whether it’s creating bugs, updating timing information, or being able to update bugs based on code changes. But does this seem right? Certainly we have stronger unique attributes in the other areas, right?

And, in fact, we do. Dunford says that the unique attributes are often technical features, but can also be things like your delivery model, business model, or specific expertise. And I’d add one more – your evolution of components.

Let’s go back and turn the value chain map of our system into a Wardley Map. We can see that many attributes of it – even the API – are products. This means customers can build components on top of our API because it’s providing an interface into the key steps into our system.

Now, let’s look at the Spreadsheet. Here we can see that, while it does have an API, you’re going to be manipulating cells, not managing bugs. This means that the API is really more in the Genesis / Custom Build edge – in order to make it useful you’re going to have to build your own abstractions on top of it.

Combining these we can see that an additional unique attribute we have is one of maturity – we have a more evolved view of the market and needs for our customer’s needs. And they can build custom integrations more easily when they do need to do that.

So when you’re working to determine your unique attributes, being able to compare value chain graphs can produce some key insights, but mapping those components can expose additional unique attributes that go beyond your features to your approaches and advances.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this video! As a reminder I offer free consulting sessions if you want to get started in mapping, and work with organizations across the globe helping them understand and improve their processes and strategies. If you’d like to set up a call, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter at @Cory_foy or via email at hello at coryfoy dot com. Until next week, may you find and celebrate those attributes that make you unique!