Wardley Mapping

Wardley mapping is a visual method for exploring, understanding, and communicating strategy under circumstances of constant change.


  • What is your competitive environment?
  • Where should you focus? (Why here over there?)
  • What should you own and build in-house? What should you buy off-the-shelf or outsource?
  • Which methodologies should you use?
  • Where are your competitors relative to you?
  • What market changes can you anticipate?
  • How can you organize to accommodate continuous change?
  • Which context-specific strategic plays are currently possible?
Example Wardley Map
source: Simon Wardley
What is a Wardley Map

A Wardley Map decomposes a product along the Value Chain (some prefer the term supply chain) to get deeper insights into the structure and the forces shaping the evolution of the market and the necessary decisions.

The vertical axis concerns with dependencies, the horizontal axis positions the elements along their evolutionary state, aka maturity.

source: Simon Wardley

The analysis cycle

While the map is a useful and actionable visualization of the situation, Wardley Mapping gets really useful by applying it the analysis cycle. The cycle uses the vocabulary of Sun Tsu (Wardley points out that it is about the same as John Boyd’s OODA loop.

A typical analysis goes along this cycle.


Your moral imperative. The scope of what you are doing and why you are doing it. The reason others follow you.

Strategy is all about observing the landscape, understanding how it is changing and using what resources you have to maximise your chances of success. Obviously, you need to define what success is and that’s where your purpose comes in. It’s the yardstick by which you currently measure yourself. However, as this is a cycle, your very actions may also change your purpose and so don’t get to stuck on it.Simon Wardley in 

On Playing Chess


The climate may affect your purpose, the environment may affect your strategy and your actions may affect all… Your purpose isn’t fixed, it changes as your landscape changes and as you act. There is no “core”, it’s all transitional.Simon Wardley in 

On Being Lost


A description of your competitive environment, including its features, your position, and any obstacles in the way.

To map your landscape:

  1. Know your users (who you serve)
  2. Know their needs
  3. Know the prerequisite activities to meet those needs
  4. Add position (connect users, needs, and prerequisites from top to bottom according to dependence)
  5. Add movement (place needs and prerequisites left to right according to evolutionary stage)

Determining Movement

The movement of a component along the X axis is determined by its stage of evolution.

Stage of Evolution I II III IV
Activities Genesis Custom Product
Practices Novel Emerging Good Best
Data Unmodelled Divergent Convergent Modelled
Knowledge Concept Hypothesis Theory Accepted

Don’t worry if some of the terms are confusing… just use what you can. Like Chess, mapping is a craft and you will get better with practice.Simon Wardley in 

Finding a Path

Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat Sheet

An interactive list of characteristics to help you determine how evolved something is (select cells to highlight).

Stage of Evolution
Ubiquity Rare Slowly increasing consumption Rapidly increasing consumption Widespread and stabilising
Certainty Poorly understood Rapid increases in learning Rapid increases in use / fit for purpose Commonly understood (in terms of use)
Publication Types Normally describe the wonder of the thing Build / construct / awareness and learning Maintenance / operations / installation / features Focused on use
General Properties  
Market Undefined market Forming market Growing market Mature market
Knowledge management Uncertain Learning on use Learning on operation Known / accepted
Market perception Chaotic (non-linear) Domain of experts Increasing expectations of use Ordered (appearance of being linear) / trivial
User perception Different / confusing / exciting / surprising Leading edge / emerging Common / disappointed if not used or available Standard / expected
Perception in industry Competitive advantage / unpredictable / unknown Competitive advantage / ROI / case examples Advantage through implementation / features Cost of doing business / accepted
Focus of value High future worth Seeking profit / ROI? High profitability High volume / reducing margin
Understanding Poorly understood / unpredictable Increasing understanding / development of measures Increasing education / constant refinement of needs / measures Believed to be well defined / stable / measurable
Comparison Constantly changing / a differential / unstable Learning from others / testing the water / some evidential support Feature difference Essential / operational advantage
Failure High / tolerated / assumed Moderate / unsurprising but disappointed Not tolerated, focus on constant improvement Operational efficiency and surprised by failure
Market action Gambling / driven by gut Exploring a “found” value Market analysis / listening to customers Metric driven / build what is needed
Efficiency Reducing the cost of change (experimentation) Reducing cost of waste (Learning) Reducing cost of waste (Learning) Reducing cost of deviation (Volume)
Decision drivers Heritage / culture Analysis & synthesis Analysis & synthesis Previous experience

Based on Simon Wardley‘s Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat SheetCC BY-SA 4.0.


The forces acting upon the environment. The rules of the game, patterns of the seasons, and competitor actions.

Competitors Competitors actions will change the game Most competitors have poor situational awareness    
Components Everything evolves through supply and demand competition Evolution consists of multiple waves of diffusion with many chasms No choice over evolution Commoditisation does not equal Centralisation
Characteristics change as components evolve No single method fits all Components can co-evolve  
Financial Higher order systems create new sources of value Future value is inversely proportional to the certainty we have over it. Efficiency does not mean a reduced spend Evolution to higher order systems results in increasing energy consumption
Capital flows to new areas of value Creative Destruction    
Inertia Success breeds inertia Inertia increases the more successful the past model is Inertia can kill an organisation  
Prediction You cannot measure evolution over time or adoption The less evolved something is then the more uncertain it is Not everything is random Economy has cycles
Two different forms of disruption A “war” (point of industrialisation) causes organisations to evolve    
Speed Efficiency enables innovation Evolution of communication can increase the speed of evolution overall Change is not always linear Shifts from product to utility tend to demonstrate a punctuated equilibrium

Based on Simon Wardley‘s, Climatic PatternsCC BY-SA 4.0.

Your First Patterns

Pattern 1: Everything evolves from left to right under the influence of supply and demand competition.

Genesis Custom Product (and rental) Commodity (and utility)
rare, uncertain, constantly changing, newly-discovered.
frequently-changing, requires artisanal skill,
no two are the same.
Increasingly common,
more defined,
better understood.
Repeatable processes.
Change is slower.
Initial differentiation but increasing stability and sameness.
There are often many of the same kind of product.
Scale and volume operations of production.
Highly standardized.
Fit for a specific known purpose.
Repetition, repetition, repetition…
With time, it becomes commonplace and less visible.
The focus is on exploring. The focus is on learningand developing the craft The focus is on refining and improving. The focus is on ruthlessly removing deviation, industrialising, and increasing operational efficiency.

Pattern 2: As components evolve, their characteristics change.

Uncharted Industrialised
Chaotic Ordered
Uncertain Known
Unpredictable Measured
Changing Stable
Different Standard
Exciting Obvious
Future Worth Low Margin
Unusual Essential
Rare Ubiquitous
Poorly Understood Defined
Experimentation Volume Operations
Differential Operational Efficiency
Competitive Advantage Cost of Doing Business

Doctrine (Self-Assessment)

The training of your people, the standard ways of operating, and the techniques that you almost always apply. Select cells multiple times to progress through colors indicating a weak, warning, good, and neutral (undetermined) status.

Phase 1: Stop Self Harm

Communication Use a common language (necessary for collaboration)  Challenge assumptions (speak up and question) Focus on high situational awareness (understand what is being considered)   
Development Know your users (e.g. customers, shareholders, regulators, staff)  Focus on user needs  Remove bias and duplication  Use appropriate methods (e.g. agile vs lean vs six sigma) 
Learning Use a systematic mechanism of learning (a bias towards data)      
Operations Think small (as in know the details)       

Phase 2: Becoming More Context Aware

Communication Be transparent (a bias towards open)       
Development Focus on the outcome not a contract (e.g. worth based development)  Be pragmatic (it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white so long as it catches mice)  Use appropriate tools (e.g. mapping, financial models)  Think fast, inexpensive, restrained, and elegant (FIRE, formerly FIST) 
Use standards where appropriate       
Leading Move fast (an imperfect plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow) Strategy is iterative not linear (fast reactive cycles)     
Learning A bias towards action (learn by playing the game)       
Operations Manage failure  Manage inertia (e.g. existing practices, political capital, previous investment)  Effectiveness over efficiency   
Structure Think aptitude and attitude  Think small (as in teams, “two pizza”)  Distribute power and decision making   

Phase 3: Better for Less

Leading Be the owner (take responsibility)  Think big (inspire others, provide direction)  Strategy is complex (there will be uncertainty) Commit to the direction, be adaptive along the path (crossing the river by feeling the stones) 
Be humble (listen, be selfless, have fortitude)      
Learning A bias towards the new (be curious, take appropriate risks)       
Operations Optimise flow (remove bottlenecks)  Do better with less (continual improvement) Set exceptional standards (great is just not good enough)   
Structure Seek the best  Provide purpose, mastery, & autonomy     

Phase 4: Continuously Evolving

Leading Exploit the landscape  There is no core (everything is transient)    
Learning Listen to your ecosystems (acts as future sensing engines)      
Structure Design for constant evolution  There is no one culture (e.g. pioneers, settlers and town planners)     

Adapted by Tasshin Fogleman from this tweetstorm and Better for Less, courtesy of Simon WardleyCC BY-SA 4.0.

Additional Instructions

By examining the doctrine in an organization, you can get an idea of how adaptable it is and how well it will respond to external change or gameplay. You can do this with your own organization, or with other organizations.

In-person? Gather several people from different levels of the organization and perform the above self-assessment together. (There may be arguments, but that’s not a bad thing.) Distributed? See this form-based assessment by Justin Stach.

Once you’ve assessed the status quo of doctrine in your organization, you can go about addressing areas of weakness. Simon suggests you do this in phases. The above self-assessment’s phases presents his best guess at the order in which you should tackle them.

Leadership (Gameplay)

The context-specific strategy you choose after considering your purpose, the landscape, the climate, and your capabilities.

Options by evolution I II III IV
Accelerators Open approaches Co-operation Exploiting network effects Industrial policy
Market enablement      
De-accelerators Exploiting constraint IPR Creating constraints  
Dealing with toxicity Pig in a poke Sweat and Dump Disposal of liability Refactoring
Ecosystem Sensing Engines (ILC) Two factor markets Alliances Channel conflicts & disintermediation
Co-creation Co-opting and intercession Embrace and extend Tower and moat
User Perception Fear, uncertainty and doubt Artificial competition Brand and marketing Bundling
Confusion of choice Creating artificial needs Education Lobbying / counterplay
Attacking Centre of gravity Directed investment Experimentation Fool’s mate
Playing both sides Press release process Undermining barriers to entry  
Competitor Ambush Circling and probing Fragmentation play Misdirection
Reinforcing competitor inertia Restriction of movement Sapping Talent raid
Defensive Defensive regulation Limitation of competition Managing inertia Procrastination
Raising barriers to entry Threat acquisition    
Markets Buyer / supplier power Differentiation Harvesting Last man standing
Pricing policy Signal distortion Standards game Trading
Poison Designed to fail Insertion Licensing play  
Positional Fast follower First mover Land grab Weak signal / horizon

Based on Simon Wardley‘s, On 61 Different Forms of GameplayCC BY-SA 4.0.


Name Description
Context Our purpose and the landscape
Environment The context and how it is changing
Situational awareness Our level of understanding of the environment
Actual The map in use
Domain Uncharted vs Transitional vs Industrialised
Stage Of evolution e.g. Genesis, Custom, Product, Commodity
Type Activity, Practice, Data or Knowledge
Component A single entity in a map
Anchor The user need
Position Position of a component relative to the anchor in a chain of needs
Need Something a higher level system requires
Capability High level needs you provide to others
Movement How evolved a component is
Interface Connection between components
Flow Transfer of money, risk & information between components
Climate Rules of the game, patterns that are applied across contexts
Doctrine Approaches which can be applied regardless of context
Strategy A context specific approach

Wardley Mapping is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0, courtesy of Simon Wardley.