20201127 - FlowConFR2020 - Situation Normal, Everything Must Change, Simon Wardley

by Thierry de Pauw on


Situation Normal, Everything Must Change, Simon Wardley, @swardley

- Strategy
- Maps
- Trapped by Context
- Patterns
- How To
- Sovereignty


Fotango, 2003
Our strategy is customer focused. We will lead a innovative effort in the market through our use of agile techniques and open source. ...

I've copied that from another company.

Common Blahs
digital business, big data, disruptive, innovative, collaborative, competitive, advantage, ecosystem, open source, ...

today it would be AI, blockchain, ...

The blah template

Our strategy is blah. We will lead blah effort of market through our use of blah and blah to build a blah.

Blahs + Blah template => 64 random strategies


1. This is the exact wording from our business plan
2. I've seen two of these used already
3. Are you for hire?

There must be something secret that you learn in a MBA. I've never found it.
Then I was in a book store and the book store manager suggested: have you ever read The Art of War.

The Strategy Cycle, Sun Tzu's 5 factors
- Climate
- Doctrine
- Leadership
- Purpose
- Landscape

John Boye's OODA Cycle
- Observe
- Orient
- Decide
- The "game"

at the heart of it there are two why's
- why of purpose
- why of movement

Good Leaders are Great Storytellers
the reason you haven't succeeded is because you haven't told the story well 🤷‍♂️

- Strenghts
- Weaknesses
- Opportunities
- Threats

What would you use to communicate and determine strategy in battle?
-> map: position and movement vs SWOT


there are lots of maps:
mind maps, system maps, customer journey maps, business maps, ...

System Maps
moving boxes around does not change the map

if you take a geographic map, if you move things around, it changes the map

what we usually call maps are in fact graphs!

in a map, space has meaning
you can't move a piece of the map without changing context

  • @malk_zameth: «in a map, space has meaning» — @swardley #FlowCon

=> I have to create a map for business
How do I do that?

A map has Anchor (North), Position and Movement

Cup of Tea?
- is needed by public and business

Cup of Tea has also needs:
- Tea
- Cup
- Hot Water
- Kettle
- Power
- Water

=> Position (Visibility) ↑ user needs at the top

Movement (Evolution) from Uncharted to Industrialised ->
- Genesis
- Custom Build
- Product (rental)
- Commodity (utility)

Trapped by Context

First map in 2005

Process flow:
compute needed -> order server -> (bottleneck in here) -> server -> modify -> mount -> rack

Let's Map this:
- User
- Compute
- Rack: custom build
- Mount: product
- Modify: custom build because the servers did not fit the rack
- Order Server

why not use commodity racks? evolutionary flow

lots of money is lost on custom build because
people cannot see the environment they are working on

Uncharted and Industrialised has different needs
- Uncharted: agile and XP and in-house development works best
- Industrialised: lean 6 sigma and outsourcing works best
- In the middle: lean

in reality you need to use multiple methods

- bits on the left will incur excessive change control costs
- bits on the right will be efficient

understanding the user need is the first important bit in mapping

you can share maps between departments and turn them into profiles to see which building blocks are shared

Government is a virtue to efficiency compared to the nonsense in private businesses, @swardley


Past success breeds inertia
Co-evolution: emerging practices -> DevOps
Efficiency enables innovation

Componentisation: ...

Higher order systems create new sources of worth: new industries emerges

because of that you need to adapt

Red Queen - effect: The need to constantly evolve in order to stand still relative to a surrounding ecosystem, Prof. Van Valen

=> cloud is not a choice anymore

It tells you Where to Invest? (unchartered) and Where not to focus (industrialised)

First lesson: Strategy is iterative (Doctrine)

Therefore: DevOps is the new legacy!
-> of course people will say: Burn them


All maps are an imperfect representation of space.
In order for a geographical map to be perfect it should be of the size of the country you want to map.

Maps are also models. And all models are wrong.

What have I used maps for?
- what early stage startups need

Book: Reaching Cloud Velocity, A leader's Guide to Success in the AWS Cloud
15 pages of mapping in there

  • Know your users
  • Think about your users' needs
  • Know the details: the value chain, what is needed to supply the users's need
  • Understand what is being build


Use appropriate language
Common Language
Remove bias and duplication
Bias towards data
=> use maps pre-mortem and post-mortem

these are all Doctrine
=> Wardley's Doctrine - universally useful patterns that a user can apply regardless of context


Physical Sovereignty is really easy-ish
this is our Border: this is the land we occupy
this is Our Collective: nation, family
Our Behaviours
Our Values

Principle: use appropriate methods
=> 2 believes:
people over process (agile, unchartered) vs process over people (6 sigma, industrialised)

here we have a system build with 2 believes

touching on the issue of belief brings us into Culture

Despite a century of efforts to define culture adequately, there is no agreement among anthropologies regarding the nature
-- Kroeber

Language is a disciple of cultural behaviour

Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Godel
=> you will not find language that is adequately defined to define culture

Stage of Evolution: Genesis, Custom, Product, Commodity
Practices: Novel, Emerging, Good, Best
Data: unmodelled, divergent, convergent, modelled

=> pipeline: displayed as a square on the map

Collective: you don't belong to only one collective: family, country, religion, ..
Values: you can't copy values
Doctrine: you can adopt

-> Sovereignty

Does it really matter in technology?

Car-industry: there is not much to differentiate, except status
=> digital subscription model for cars (BMW in 2018)

Values? whatever you do, there will be values embedded and even modelled in AI

=> Digital Sovereignty with borders, collective and values

But we don't do this. It is all story telling. Blah, blah, blah


Just say no to Strategy, Culture, Structure, Vision and Sovereignty

Focus on Awareness and Doctrine




Doctrine: collection of principles
Values: your beliefs
Behaviours: ...

Cynefin vs Wardley Maps

Maps don't tell you what to do
all they do is describing an environment

this is where Cynefin comes in place

Banks don't have doctrine. But all other banks don't have doctrine. So, it does not matter.
Facebook, has doctrine. They understand there users. But do you trust them?
What if Facebook starts a bank, would you use it? Probably, because they understand user's need.

It is alright to be rubbish if your competition is rubbish too, @swardley

When it comes to Values and Behaviour they matter to different collectives
I am all into values and behaviour as differentiators, but Focus on the doctrine first!

  • @malk_zameth: «you can disagree in the values and somebody with values you disagree but a better doctrine can still take you out» — @swardley #FlowCon