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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!