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It began with the forging of the Great Maps and Simon Wardley


We’ve been talking this week about Simon Wardley and Wardley mapping. And it features in our book ‘The Value Flywheel Effect‘. I hear the people here are freaked out by Wardley mapping. So I thought it might be interesting to chat about mapping, how we started and share some experiences.

It started with Simon Wardley

Where did you first hear about Simon Wardley and Wardley Mapping?

Mark McCann
It’s been a big part of our lives for so long. And it’s quite a few years ago, like 2012?

Dave Anderson
I think about 2012 or 2013. At that time Simon Wardley was talking at cloud conferences about early cloud. He was doing what he called ‘crossing the river by feeling the stones’. About how he started mapping when he was CEO at a company. And the art of war stuff.

Michael O’Reilly
When we were working together you were early pioneers or adopters of mapping in our space. It was 2017 or 2018, at the earliest. I remember an open source conference and a 20 minute video. Simon was really funny, which actually helped. When he presented it came across as common sense. Like, why would you do anything else?

The bigger question is why were we looking for Simon Wardley and Wardley mapping?

Mark McCann
The bigger question is why were we looking for this type of stuff? Or why did it resonate with us? I think we were at a certain point in our careers. We had been engineers for a while delivering. And then we thought there’s a bigger picture here that we’re not quite grasping. There’s more to it. Why is this the way it is? And why are these decisions being made? We couldn’t grasp or fathom it.

We were looking for something to help us with that next stage in our careers. To be better leaders and understand more to set better direction. And be more impactful with what we were doing.

Dave Anderson
Simon Wardley was calling stuff out. And we were seeing the same thing.

He started writing his book in 2016. I went to Lean Agile Scotland in October 2016. And he did the talk in person and I remember talking to him afterwards. I had seen his talk a couple of times, but it didn’t really click until I sat and watched it in real life. He hung around that conference for a few days and I talked with him.

I came home and thought right I’m starting to get it now. For a year or two previously I had been confused by it before I was at the Lean Scotland event.

The need for technical leaders to enact change and deal with different disciplines

Michael O’Reilly
It landed for me in the same sort of way. When you’re a technical leader, you’re often trying to enact change in a particular space. And you’re dealing with people in different disciplines. You’re talking about a reasonably complex topic. So how do you think about that? And how do you talk about the landscape, what you want to move, and communicate to various disciplines? It’s very difficult and time consuming. I started to try mapping. And sometimes I was wrong especially when I now look at some of my early maps. But I tried it. And that’s when it clicked.

Dave Anderson
I’ve always liked the idea of a group of people drawing a diagram to understand something. I think that is really powerful. I remember people couldn’t understand how to draw a stride threat model. What do you mean? This isn’t an architecture diagram? So what is it then? It’s a different type of diagram,. What do you mean? It is really interesting to use visual collaboration as a technique. But you said something important Mike. You need to make that transition to try to draw a map yourself.

We need to stop using PowerPoint

Michael O’Reilly
Remember, there was a time when we said we need to stop using PowerPoint! We need to get people into rooms to have conversations and working sessions. I refined and improved my ability to do Wardley Maps through teaching. There were people who hadn’t experienced mapping. Or if we had visitors or customers in the building, you’d get them into the end room with the big white wall and just start talking. You would try to teach them what a map was. And what each position meant. Or even just have a conversation.

Dave Anderson
It didn’t always work. But sometimes they were really good.

Michael O’Reilly
There were some sessions that were good. And there was other sessions where you just went wow! I remember one particular session with an exec. And it was a bit of a gamble. But we did the map on the wall, and drew the dots. And I remember stuff that I hadn’t even thought about the time. And all of a sudden, the strategy was born.

Photo by Barney Yau on Unsplash

Going from mapping on your own to a group environment

Dave Anderson
That was awesome. There’s another important step. You move from doing it yourself to doing it in a group environment. When you are looking at a map you are figuring it out. When you do it in a group environment, the group will ask about this and that. And that’s when it really starts to click.

Michael O’Reilly
When you go to conferences you evolve. Simon Wardley and others are always trying to enrich the maps. There are new ways to attempt something or represent something. You become more efficient.

Even the basics are worthwhile. Who are your users? What are their needs? And what’s the value chain of components to meet those needs? Without even drawing a map you can have amazing conversations with teams.

Using the Wardley Mapping Canvas

To be absolutely honest, when I first looked at Wardley maps on canvas. I felt like it was way too much prep. There’s too much up front and I want to get right into the map. But when I sat down and went through the canvas, I realised it was better. It helps to get more context out into the open. It’s more effective. I’ve only started using this in the last 18 months.

Dave Anderson
Look up Ben Mosior @HiredThought on Twitter and learnwardleymapping.com. His wardley mapping canvas is brilliant. For me, the two big things are:

1. Start with a customer need. I remember a team were stuck for six months because they didn’t know who the customer was.

2. The four phases of evolution or access (Genesis, Custom Built, Product, Commodity). Get your head around that concept.

Mark McCann
Be comfortable with not being perfect! There’s a body of work out there. We have documented it in our book ‘The Value Flywheel Effect’. You can get intimidated when you feel that your map doesn’t look right. We have all felt like that. We did overthink it. But once we started dealing with teams and people we got comfortable being uncomfortable. And talking, challenging and bringing people on the journey.

Maps start from one component and build up over time

Dave Anderson
That’s a big part of it. Every time you see a map, you think that looks brilliant. You think it’s so complicated. And it looks great so I could never do that. But what you don’t realise is all maps start from one component and builds up over time. And then you tidy the map up. It can take a couple of hours of work. it’s similar to seeing a painting and thinking I could never draw that. But you have to start at the start.

Mark McCann
There was a phase where you could read other people’s maps quickly. And understand them and get the context and situational awareness rapidly. But you couldn’t create your own ones quickly. Even though there was something important that you were trying to achieve or attain. Or if you were trying to evolve or understand some strategy. It was really hard to map that for yourself. But if somebody showed you a map afterwards, you could read the problem and know whatwas going on.

Dave Anderson
Do you remember the phase when we were still trying to draw maps. And we would say that I’m trying to map out a certain thing, and I can’t get it right. You just needed someone else to ask: ‘have you thought about this user?’. Sometimes you couldn’t see it by yourself.

Don’t fall into the trap of mapping too much detail

Mark McCann
One of the other pitfalls we fell into was mapping too much detail. We went too low level. And then someone came along and zoomed us out, by saying ‘you don’t need those five components. Here’s just one!’.

Dave Anderson
That’s the big thing about visual collaboration. We experienced the same doing threat modelling for security. People think it’s a system diagram. And they draw every single possible thing. You don’t have to draw 35 classes!

Mark McCann
Practice, practice, practice is the big lesson here. We knew we were starting to get good when we were able to roll it out across multiple teams to map out the tech stack. They were getting value and getting excited about doing it. And we were getting lots of feedback on what did or didn’t work. We we’re in offices and I would draw maps on the board. It was all very collaborative. But now we have the emergence of good online collaboration tools like Miro etc.

Michael O’Reilly
When you first start mapping and it works, things begin to emerge. And you’re able to action certain things. You want to show your map to everybody and you tell everybody about how brilliant mapping is. But then you realise it’s maybe not the map! I actually need to communicate in certain circles. And it’s the outcomes or actions that matter.

Senior people don’t always need your mapping detail but you do

Mark McCann
There’s an intersection between mapping and Gregor Hohpe’s book ‘The Software Architect Elevator’. And we started to realise the there are certain floors on the elevator that aren’t open to being shown a map. You need to summarise or represent the map in another way.

Dave Anderson
I think that’s a really important lesson. As you go up the elevator, senior people in the organisation just want to hear what you are going to do. And what happens when you do that. They don’t want to know how you figured it out? If they say why are you doing that? You can go through the map in your head and say that you’ve thought about it. If you say this is what we are going to do and here’s the outcome, you don’t need to show them all your work. You need to have it. That was an important lesson to learn. You don’t always need to show your work, but have it to hand.

Michael O’Reilly
Your excitement takes you into new areas with new information, like the Wardley Strategy Cycle. But spending time getting used to mapping is in itself is very fruitful. You can emerge and realise a lot of value from the map itself. The more you do it, the more you can move on to more complex things. The patterns, doctrines and game plays will emerge.

Situational awareness exposes things that you can’t unsee

You start to see patterns in the map like ‘pioneer, settler, town planner’ or emerging capability. You start to see things that you didn’t think were going to appear on the map.

Mark McCann
You identify the inertia barriers. What’s stopping you moving from there to there? Or more importantly who is stopping you?

Dave Anderson
I always remember mapping a whole bunch of teams. And everyone was up in high value. But one team were down in custom and invisible. And I remember thinking what are they doing down there?

Mark McCann
Getting situational awareness sometimes sometimes exposes things that you can’t unsee!

It is difficult to start mapping today?

Dave Anderson
I have a question. Do you think it is difficult to start today? When we started mopping there wasn’t much about apart from the odd presentation. But do you think it’s difficult to get started today?

Mark McCann
No. We have crossed the chasm. There’s lots of material out there. The community is growing. You can google and look up YouTube. And there’s online conferences as well like Map Camp. Those videos are available soon as well. A lot of Simon Wardley’s maps are readily available on GitHub.

Dave Anderson
He’s got all the research maps on GitHub.

Michael O’Reilly
I was at Map Camp in Shoreditch in London. The Coast Guard was looking at streamlining their processes. And there was a video where they rescued a guy right on time, before he went under the water. It was as a result of optimising the value chain. There are way more people mapping than you actually realise.

Dave Anderson
Mapping is way bigger than tech. There’s all sorts of mapping going on.

Mark McCann
A lot of the work in UK.Gov carried out by Liam Maxwell and others still stands the test of time. If you look at the UK government’s digital footprint, it’s still in there on freely available materials. Their work is permeated with thinking about user needs, understanding value chains and situational awareness and mapping.

Simon Wardley and Wardley Mapping Resources

Dave Anderson
For resources look at Simon Wardley on Twitter @swardley and his pinned tweet. Simon has a book: ‘Wardley mapping‘. He is on Medium at ‘wardleymaps‘. There’s a whole bunch of stuff including free articles. They’re fairly meaty but they’re good.

John Grant keeps a list of maps on GitHub, which is list.wardleymaps.com.

Ben from @hiredthought is also at learnwardleymapping.com.

And of course, our book, ‘The Value Flywheel Effect’ is coming to a store near you soon.

So that’s the craic. There’s more about mapping on our blog TheServerelssEdge.com. Follow us on Twitter @ServerlessEdge. Thanks very much.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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