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Mapping Mondays – Agile, Lean and Six Sigma

Happy Mapping Monday! Today’s #mappingmondays video covers one of Simon Wardley’s Doctrines – “Use Appropriate Methods”. It’s a quick dive into how and when to use different methods. As always, the links in the video are below, and a full transcript is included below the video. And 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! Welcome to another edition of Mapping Mondays. In today’s video I want to talk about what I consider to be a fascinating point in Simon Wardley’s Doctrine which is “Use appropriate methods”. On its surface, that doesn’t sound that controversial. In fact, it sounds quite desirable! Let’s use the methods that work best for us. But that’s not exactly the point he’s trying to get across.

There’s two concepts I want to give a quick overview of around Wardley Mapping to help. The first is that the key axis in a majority of Wardley Maps is the x-axis which indicates evolution of components. The idea being that all components will move from Genesis – basically uncharted territory – to Commodities or Utilities over time.

The second concept is what Simon calls Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners as shown here. The idea is that Pioneers can jump rapidly into a space and iterate towards something interesting. Settlers are capable of taking those ideas and turning them into functioning products we can realize value from – either by selling or building on. Town Planners take those products and commoditize them.

So what does all this have to do with methods and process? What it says is that each stage and group has different needs. Early stage pioneers are going to need fast cycles and rapid iteration with a high level of agility. Methods like Extreme Programming with focuses like on-site customers, whole team and collective ownership are critical. Scrum may also be a good fit if the focus is on short iterations with feedback influencing the next steps the team takes. The feedback cycles can lead to wholesale pivots in direction very rapidly.

As we get to something worthy of being more invested in, we start to look at it from a slightly different perspective. Here we have a sense of the play towards being a product, so the focus shifts into getting analysis and feedback into the work, and getting into customers towards building a functional product. We care about iteration, but we also care about cycle times and how many steps are between feedback and teams. We also start to need more planning for things like market rollouts. In short, everything becomes slightly bigger with more people (and teams!) involved. So Lean methods – especially Kanban – become a critical tool. Feedback cycles here become focused on modifying the direction of the product towards improvement and market needs.

As we’ve productized something – or as we roll out a productized or commoditized item – we tend to shift again towards more industrialized needs like project plans, scale, analytics and efficiency. So our methods shift more towards Six Sigma or Sequential processes, still incorporating feedback but more as a corrective force than a transformative one.

I find all of this interesting because organizations tend to struggle with a single method, let alone managing three different ones! So the tendency is more for them to adopt a single Agile (subway map) method (cough SAFe cough) and try to use it to cover all bases rather than focus on understanding their market, evolution and the appropriate methods to use for it.

If you’d like to learn more about Wardley’s Doctrine and the Pioneer – Settler – Town Planner approach, I’ve included the links here and will also post them in the blog post for this video.

And if you’re interested in learning more about how organizations can have high levels of business agility and use a variety of methods feel free to reach out on Twitter at Cory_foy or via email at hello at coryfoy dot com. And be sure to check out all of the Mapping Monday blogs posts on my site.

Until next time, have a great week of mapping!

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