• Toby Sinclair

Learning Journal: Wardley Mapping - Ben Mosior and Jabe Bloom | Designing Healthy Organisations



A learning journal of notes, quotes and insights from a wonderful training workshop led by Jabe Bloom and Ben Mosior. The workshop focused on the principles, theory, thinking behind mapping and "How to do" Wardley Mapping. All within the context of increasing epistemic health of organisations.

This journal is mostly focused on the thinking behind mapping and less so on "How To Map". If you are interested in how to do Wardley Mapping Ben's website is the place to go: https://learnwardleymapping.com/ Where specific course materials/quotes have been used, Jabe and/or Ben have been referenced. Disclaimer: ⚠️ These are learning notes so are likely confusing and wrong. As such, to learn your own insights I'd highly recommend joining the next workshop: https://learnwardleymapping.com/classes/

Insights 💡

My 5 biggest insights:


1. Organisational Health

  • An unhealthy system is where people within the organisational system are unaware of how the system works. So, therefore, cannot act effectively.

  • A healthy system is where people within the organisation understand the system and therefore can influence the system.

  • Wardley Mapping helps people understand "their story" within the bigger system. When this happens the health of the system will increase.

2. What is put on a Wardley map influences the story told. 5 "things" commonly explored on maps are: Artifacts/Data, Skills/Practice, Activities/Technologies, Knowledge


3. The relationship between the things on the map is important. Examine the qualities of those relationships and the cost of changing those links.


4. To map well you need a minimum amount of variety and coherence. Without these, decisions made from the map won't be as effective.


5. Don't focus on what "we" want the system to do. Instead, focus on what the system wants to do AND if the outcome is ok.


Contents:


The Principles, Theory and Thinking That Influences Mapping 🧠

  • Ontologies 🕵️

  • Using Ologies to Act Effectively 🤹

  • Mapping Helps Increase Organisational Health 🍏

  • Importance of Coherence 🕷️

  • Mapping Your Truth 👀

  • Correspondence Theory 🔍

  • Strategy Alignment Choices 🧩

  • Conditions Consequence Thinking 🌡️

  • SocioTechnical Architecture 🏗️

How To Do Wardley Mapping ✍️

  • Introduction to Wardley Mapping📍

  • Questions to engage with a Wardley Map 🤔

  • Working with a Wardley Map 🛠️

  • Defining Boundaries 🖼️

Open Questions 😕

The Principles, Theory and Thinking That Influences Mapping 🧠

Ontologies 🕵️

Epistemology

  • What are the valid methods and ways to come to know the world?

  • What should be considered valid explanations of what is happening?

  • Example: Science is an epistemic system... it defines methods for knowing about the world and defines criteria for “justified belief”... (and also what isn't justified beliefs)

  • Example: Product Management - It defines methods for knowing about the world (customers) and defines criteria for “justified belief”

Definition by Jabe Bloom An example: An operations team that is constantly fighting fires. Focused on fixing issues vs Preventing issues Possible Epistemologies:

  • There will always be errors and they cannot be avoided/prevented.

  • Incidents can be removed upstream


Ontology

  • What sort of things exist in the world?

  • What forms do things take? What are their essences?

  • Example: Minds are in brains and brains are made of neurons. Molecules are made of atoms, and atoms are made of sub-particles.

Definition by Jabe Bloom Relation to Wardley Mapping:

  • What things are we going to map? = Ontology

  • When mapping, you have to make decisions about what's in and out of scope. This is an example of ontology in action.

  • If your ontology is made up of short term things it will influence your strategy.

  • What you put on the map determines the story you tell which then constrains the action you take.


Mereology

  • How are wholes and parts related? Where are the boundaries?

  • How can we decompose a whole into parts?

  • How do parts “become" a whole?

  • Example. How are minds made from brains and brains made of neurons?

Definition by Jabe Bloom Relation to Wardley Mapping:

  • Boundaries of systems are always subjective.

  • Without boundaries, a map is likely to be confusing.

Methodology

  • How can we systematically produce knowledge?

  • What tools, practices and methods should we use to (re)produce knowledge? In what sequence?

Definition by Jabe Bloom Relation to Wardley Mapping:

  • The way you come to know about the world influences the methods you use.

  • The way you come to know about the world is influenced by what you decide to place attention on. What you place on the Wardley Map will influence what you pay attention to.

Using Ologies to Act Effectively 🤹

In summary, how all these "ologies" relate to Wardley Mapping:

  • Epistemology - Realities that people layer onto the map

  • Ontology - What goes on the map

  • Mereology - Defining boundaries of the map

  • Methodology - The process of building the map

Ologies influence each other. It's important to understand this relationship when mapping.

Source: Jabe Bloom Reflect on these questions:

  • Is there a bigger system at hand? (When people ask this question it's a sign of a healthy system?)

  • Are we talking about the right things? (Ontology)

  • Are we focused too much on doing the methodology better? (AKA doing agile better. This is a common trap for Management)

Consider: The reason why our decisions from mapping are not proving to be effective is not that we didn't do the methodology "well" it could be:

  1. We chose the wrong things to explore (ontology)

  2. Our reality was shaped by a poor epistemology

A concrete example: Scenario: An operations team that is constantly fighting fires. Focused on fixing issues vs preventing issues Current Reality:

  • Epistemology - There will always be errors and they cannot be avoided/prevented.

  • Ontology - Focus on incidents and errors

  • Methodology - Incident Management (ITIL) ← Management's common focus

Alternative Reality:

  • Epistemology - Incidents can be removed upstream

  • Ontology - Focus on root causes

  • Methodology - Lean/5 Ways

Mapping Helps Increase Organisational Health 🍏

Power is dependent upon the context of a functioning social world - shared institutions, shared, meanings, shared expectations... - Miranda Fricker

Organisational Health

  • An unhealthy system is where people within the organisational system are unaware of how the system works. So, therefore, cannot act effectively.

  • A healthy system is where people within the organisation understand the system and therefore can influence the system.

Indicators of an unhealthy system:

  • A significant amount of power is centralised. As such decision making is made in these central groups.

  • Many people/teams have high cognitive load and feel overwhelmed and unable to act.

  • Parts are knowingly optimised over the whole.

Indicators of a healthy system:

  • People are educated and made aware of the broader system

  • Cognitive Load is minimised and managed. The system should "fit in the heads" of the team.

  • Parts are not knowingly optimised over the whole.

Power = Knowledge of how the system works. Wardley Mapping helps people understand the systems in which they are working in. As such this increases the health of the system. Epistemic Health explored more in this book

Importance of Coherence 🕷️

Coherence:

“the quality of being logical and consistent OR the quality of forming a unified whole.”

This article explores more

Helping people find their place in the story

Hermeneutic Cycle

If you can't locate yourself in the narrative you feel disadvantaged. You also don't feel empowered to change the narrative. Without coherence, people will not understand their place in the system. Example: When a manager says “this is how the world is,” and a team member says “that makes no sense” When you can't describe yourself in the narrative, others in the story will struggle to relate with you. We find it hard to share our social world with others.

Meaning flows from intention into action - Alicia Juarrero

"Imagine for a moment, that you find yourself astride a horse. Looking down you find a large heavy sword in your hand. Looking forward you see an extraordinarily large lizard.

Given this narrative, in MacIntyrian ethics, one can ask, 'What would you feel justified doing now?' or 'What would you expect to do?'

Gadamerian hermeneutics would allow us to explore the way in which the narrative is a passing down of history, and a way of forming an intersubjective (non-relative) answer, changing "What would you expect to do" to "What would 'we' expect you to do".


One of the questions we must explore then is, “How does the sword dispose you towards the narrative of the Knight and the Dragon"?"

Source: Jabe Bloom, Ben Mosior Wardley Mapping helps people understand "their story" within the bigger system. When this happens the health of the system will increase.

Finding a Minimum Level of Coherence and Variety

In order for people to act within a system, they require a minimum level of coherence and variety. We shouldn't expect people to know everything and explore all options. Finding the minimum level of coherence and variety is an enabler for collaboration. Without coherence, you don't have a common ground so conflict resolution becomes challenging. Requisite Coherence:

A problem never exists in isolation; it is surrounded by other problems in space and time. The more of the context of a problem that a scientist can comprehend, the greater are his chances of finding a truly adequate solution. -Ackoff

Requisite Variety:

Informally, practically, it says that in order to deal properly with the diversity of problems the world throws at you, you need to have a repertoire of responses which is (at least) as nuanced as the problems you face.

Ref: http://requisitevariety.co.uk/what-is-requisite-variety/ Guiding Principle for Wardley Mapping: What's the minimum amount of shared understanding required to maintain the minimum amount of coherence to keep the system healthy. When there is no coherence the system will fall into chaos/disorder. It may break. Resilient systems "bounce back" whereas robust systems will break, often dramatically.

Mapping Your Truth 👀

Correspondence Theory Usually applied much more broadly to any view explicitly embracing the idea that truth consists in a relation to reality, i.e., that truth is a relational property involving a characteristic relation (to be specified) to some portion of reality (to be specified). 3 Theories of Truth

  • Pragmatic - Truth is what works, or serves our purposes.

  • Coherence - Truth is what coheres with the rest of our knowledge

  • Correspondence - Truth is what corresponds to facts

Implications for Wardley Mapping Depending on the truth people hold will influence how they respond to the mapping activity.

  • Heretic Trap - We have found a new profound truth. Other people will not listen.

  • Conspiracy Theorist - I know what I have experienced and you are wrong.

Joint activity depends on interpredictability of the participants' attitudes and actions. ... interpredictability is based on common ground-pertinent knowledge, beliefs and assumptions that are shared among the involved parties. Joint activity assumes a basic compact, which is an agreement (often tacit) to facilitate coordination. - Klein et al

We want people to understand the parts of the system they share. Not everything. Wardley Maps helps you find good questions, not answers. The context in which you map will influence what you map.


Strategy Alignment Choices 🧩

  • Directional Alignment (top-down) - Good in simple situations "This is what you need to know"

  • Alignment clarified (top-down and bottoms up) "This is what we know, let us know how you get on then we'll reshare"

  • Alignment through peer level/lateral alignment (Best strategy in a complex situation) "What do you know?"

Conditions Consequence Thinking 🌡️

Don't focus on what "we" want the system to do. Instead, focus on what the system wants to do AND if the outcome is ok. Questions to explore:

  • What is the system likely to do given its current state/disposition?

  • If we let the system play out, will it result in a good or bad outcome?

  • If it's a bad outcome, how can the system be encouraged to change?

Alt:

  • What does the system like to do now?

  • What is likely to do now?

  • What is the likely outcome of the system doing what it likes to do?

Remember: It's easier to go through the valley rather than through the hill (law of least effort). As such, there will be competition in the valley not on the hill. Make the right thing the easiest thing to do.

Manage the peg, the conditions that influence the beads, rather than managing the beads. This article expands further

SocioTechnical Architecture 🏗️


Source: Jabe Bloom, Ben Mosior Within a SocioTechnical system three things flow:

  • Meaning

  • Materials

  • Competence/Skill

Source: Jabe Bloom, Ben Mosior It's important to understand how the "flows flow".

How To Do Wardley Mapping ✍️


Introduction to Wardley Mapping📍

Wardley Mapping is a tool for strategic intent that supports you in your role as a knower, communicator, and leader. (https://learnwardleymapping.com/) Wardley Mapping drives the following shifts:

  • From individual focus to a systems focus

  • From wishful thinking to the pursuit of truth

  • From generic words to meaningful specificity

What does this map convey? What can you learn from it?

Source: Ben Mosior, Jabe Bloom Evolution = How do things change under market pressures (Supply and Demand) What distinguishes Wardley Mapping from other types of maps is that Wardley Mapping is aimed at exploring the influence of market dynamics on "things". Ontology of Wardley Mapping is "Market Dynamics" Ontology determines the "scope" of what you explore

  • My personal relationship to the thing

  • My family and friends related to the thing

  • Societies relationship to the thing

Questions to engage with a Wardley Map 🤔

Source: Ben Mosior and Jabe Bloom 2 Heuristics to determine the size of capabilities on the map:

  • Too many different granularities can get confusing. Too many big and too many small items - Agree on a shape

  • In general, Larger granularities in Commodities and smaller in Genesis

Working with a Wardley Map 🛠️

Overall Tips:


Map more granular "things" in your local context. Less granular "things" the further you go out from your local context.


Make sure to look at the qualities of the connections/relationships.


Team Topologies:

  • Facilitative

  • As-a-service

  • Collaborative

Jabe's version:

  • Collaborative

  • Co-operative

  • Co-ordinative

Understand the cost of change. This is influenced by:

  • Evolutionary stage

  • Nature of interactions

  • The number of relationships.

Rate the components and relationships within the map in order to understand the cost of change. The relationships across teams are most important. How much does it cost to change the "things" on the map:

  • Change

  • Maintain

  • Switch Out

Note: The system is likely to prefer "paths" with a lower cost of change. When Mapping with teams:

Sharing Maps across Teams:

  • Map within individual teams first - Create Variety

  • Bring the maps together - Seek Minimum Coherence

  • Make decisions on how to act

Source: Ben Mosior, Jabe Bloom Capability Typology 5 "things" commonly explored on maps are:

  • Artifacts/Data

  • Skills/Practice

  • Activities/Technologies

  • Knowledge

Defining Boundaries 🖼️

Design the system within the next largest system The broader you explore the more the system will become vague. Example:

  • Design the chair to be placed in the room

  • Design the chair to be taken through the door

  • Design the chair to be transported to the customer

  • Design the chair to be non-harmful to the environment

At each stage, the system scope has been made broader, more complex and unknown. A great video to demonstrate boundaries over time/space.

Open Questions 😕

  • How to decide boundaries in a system(s)?

  • How could Human Given Needs be mapped?

  • In what way can Power "blind" people to the health of the system?

  • How to help Heretics and Conspiracy Theorists move?

  • How is constraint management/adjustment linked to Wardley Mapping?

  • If you are in an "unhealthy" system, how do you make it "healthy" without succumbing to the tendency towards power? Thus recreating the existing "unhealthy" system again.

  • Can people hold multiple narratives at the same time? How does context influence the narrative that people hold at a particular point in time?

©2020 by Toby Sinclair.

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