How to engage your coworkers with Wardley Mapping.

“Mapping is such a good thing, but it really needs time for people to get into it.”

Is that really true? In order to let people have valuable insight through Wardley Mapping, do you have to teach them a whole course and hope they keep tagging along with you until you are finally done explaining and eventually start mapping… all before the meeting is over?

Even though fast-paced business environments could use a good bit of slow thinking every once in a while (exactly the category Wardley Mapping falls into), cutting the “time to Mapping” as short as possible does a great service to your coworkers and clients — as they should not have to wait to create value. You also do a service to yourself — as you get to share your perspective and contribute better results.

To date, the process of sharing maps is not well documented. So let us use some empathy, pragmatism and make onboarding no-mappers a breeze:

Six factors that easily get people onboarded with Wardley Mapping:

  1. Accept that you are their guide to mapping
  2. Know the common problem you are trying to solve with them
  3. Know which parts of your map will be relevant and recognizable for them
  4. Plan the onboarding
  5. Leave room for interaction
  6. Finish gracefully

1. Accept that you are their guide to mapping

You are doing your work and have decided that making a Wardley Map would help. And you have made a map and found some insight.

If you are going to share it with another Mapper — a person fluent with Wardley Mapping, its language and its grammar — lucky you: There is a good chance you will both stick your heads together and have a stimulating dialogue.

But if the other person is an unsuspecting muggle? Then you are their guide and first teacher of mapping. You will plan their onboarding and cut away as much unnecessary fat as possible.

2. Know the common problem you are trying to solve with them

Look up from the grindstone and remember: Your new mapping buddy probably has a problem they are trying to solve and you are here to help them solve it. Use your empathy to see the world through their eyes.

State a problem that is:
a) Relevant to your mapping buddy
b) At least partially connected to your responsibilities
c) Represented on the map you are trying to share with them

The more relevant you can be in your problem statement, the more it will grab their attention and the easier your dialogue will be over time.

Make a blank map specifically for this occasion and put your relevant problem statement on top.

3. Know which parts of your map will be relevant and recognizable for them.

From your map, select one fundamental pattern you want to share. Try boiling your point down to a story with 3-5 (maximum) components. The less components your story needs, the better.

Preferably pick components that:
a) are directly relevant for the problem
b) reveal a dynamic relevant to your partner
c) are familiar to both you and your counterpart

By following the above ideas, you ensure minimal cognitive resistance and/or the other party “shutting down” before the value is apparent.

For inspiration of what dynamics you can point out, here are some fundamental patterns you might find on a Wardley Map: https://twitter.com/timheiler/status/1501120051872772100

Use your few select components and place them on the map with your problem statement on it.

4. Plan the onboarding

For a first conversation, only pick the factors that are relevant to your initial point and problem statement.

Value Chains are easy to explain when both of you are aware of the matter at hand.
Use “<this> depends on <that>” as a pattern to introduce the value chain.

Also evolution is simple in practical terms:
Use “Left is new, right is established.”

Only later in the conversation bring up specific components, use the reference table of evolutionary stages. Make sure the situational value is obvious and Mapping as a tool only comes second.

When in doubt, remember the agile principle “people over process.”

5. Leave room for interaction

When you present your map, make sure to clarify your intent: To have a conversation about the problem at hand and to make obvious the assumptions around it.

Once the dialog emerges, there should be a natural tendency to move and add components as you work together. The conversation is now yours to have. When appropriate, keep introducing more and more parts of your original map.

6. Finish gracefully

In oder to leave your conversation in a good light, make sure to capture some next steps before you end it. Ask questions like:

a) Are there actionable insights coming from the map? Document them and assign responsibilities as soon as possible.
b) Is more clarification needed? Document what needs to be done to move forward.
c) Is the map you made disposable? Or should it be part of any certain repository?

Closing thoughts

“All maps are wrong, but some are useful” — swardley

Using Wardley Maps as part of your work can create huge benefits, yet getting others to adopt the practice alongside you creates real exponential impact over time. This type of collaboration is all about mutual empathy. Being mindful of our colleagues’ time and mental capacity is crucial to create and maintain trust and move towards your common goals together.

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I help groups make better decisions through structured conversations. Polymath, humanist & workshop facilitator.

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Tim Heiler

Tim Heiler

I help groups make better decisions through structured conversations. Polymath, humanist & workshop facilitator.

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