PRODUCTHEAD: Being able to see the chessboard

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Posted on Monday, 7 December 2020


Business strategy is guesswork without situational awareness

Once you understand the game’s rules, you can out-manoeuvre your competitors


Have you ever seen something work in one context, but utterly fail in another? Were you then completely perplexed when you couldn’t figure out why?

Every now and again, I come across something that lifts the veil from my natural state of confusion. A technique or approach that neatly explains and ties together concepts whose relationship I’d never figured out. It’s a bit like when a magician reveals how an illusion works.

Simon Wardley is one such magician. While he may not produce doves from his coat sleeves or rabbits from his top hat, his mapping technique makes it much easier to look at your product or service and determine what are the right strategic plays you should be making. Wardley maps (as they’re known) reveal the context you’ve been missing.

Simon’s entertaining talk from SEACON 2019 below will serve as an excellent primer. This week I’ve pulled together everything you need to get started with Wardley mapping.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

An introduction to Wardley maps

Simon Wardley examines the issue of situational awareness and explains how it applies to technology. Using examples from government and the commercial world, he explores how you can map a complex environment, identify opportunities to exploit, what techniques to use and learn to play the game.

Chess is easier when you can see the chessboard


Topographical Intelligence in Business

There is not one but two questions of why in chess. I have the why of purpose such as the desire to win the game but I also have the why of movement as in “why this move over that?”

In his book, Simon Wardley describes how he arrived at his mapping technique, and how it can help you to find opportunities, remove waste, to organise a team of people or determine the strategy for a company.

Gain the situational awareness you’re lacking

(Creative Commons ebook and audiobook editions also available.)


Product management coaching

Whether you’re new to product management or have been a product manager for years, a coaching session can help you to step up your career.

We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.

We can help you prepare for your product manager interview, including mock interviews.

A proportion of the fees from every coaching session is donated to charity.

“Jock’s unique blend of soft skills and professional expertise has helped me improve in so many areas around product management.

“He took time to truly understand my challenges, helped me create a plan of actions, and then measured my progress along the way.

“He supported me with valuable information resources and made sure I understood what the problems were and how to solve them. Thank you, Jock!”

Razvan Braghesiu
Razvan Braghesiu
Product Manager, Safebridge

Find out more about product management coaching

MapCamp 2020

All the videos of the talks from the annual gathering of enthusiastic Wardley mappers working in the public, private and third sectors.

Learn from the people using Wardley maps


Automated corporate strategy generator

Fun for all the family! Create meaningless (but plausible-sounding) corporate strategy statements.

Created by Bill West in response to Simon Wardley’s original article.

Capture the upside by becoming agile in a digital-first world (natch)


recent posts

Misunderstood metaphors: Product manager as conductor

Product managers are sometimes referred to as the conductor of the orchestra. Some people think that the conductor’s job is to direct the players, to lead them through the music. That would be to misunderstand the relationship. Instead, here’s a different take.

Conductors don’t tell the players what to do


The dirty little secrets of decision making

As individuals, we’re continually evaluating options and taking decisions. As product managers, we have the additional responsibility to balance the often competing needs of users, the business and wider ethical considerations. What makes one decision better than another?

How to make better decisions


What’s the difference between a product manager and a business analyst?

I’m asked questions about product management from time to time. This is one I’ve answered recently.

Like Sherlock Holmes for your business


can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

Product People Limited logo
Product People Limited logo

Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from anomalous PK meter readings.




PRODUCTHEAD is my free curated newsletter of the best articles, videos and podcasts from product leaders and commentators all over the world. All neatly packaged up in a weekly email delivery for your reading, viewing and listening pleasure.

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Jock Busuttil

Jock Busuttil

Freelance head of product, author & founder of My surname tends to come up as ‘Bushtit’ in spell-checkers. I also blog at

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