From Purpose to Leadership and Back Again

It’s hard to ramp-up on Simon Wardley‘s thinking. I’m far from being an expert myself, but I’m slowly working my way towards that goal and find good value in the things I learn along the way.

At the core of Wardley’s thesis is a tool that he developed called a Wardley Map. But this is not the topic of this post. The topic of this post is a more recent piece by Wardley, putting the maps in the broader context of leadership and strategy:

From  Purpose to Leadership and Back Again

The following image outlines that content in the post:


  1. Purpose – your scope the moral imperative. The broader value chain that your organization contributes to. This not purely an input, as it may change dramatically based on the decisions you make
  2. Landscape (situational awareness) – understanding the landscape requires a map. Maps consist of three element: an anchor (chess board, compass), positions of the pieces  relative to the anchor (typically using some coordinate system), and movement (where pieces have been and where they can go). A Wardley map is used to understand a business landscape. User needs serve as the anchor; relative position is given through a chain of needs anchored to the user; and movement is determined through an evolution axis – another concept that’s worth further exploration.
  3. Climate – the rules of the game. Understanding the climate allows you to anticipate what will happen next: “pressing play” on the static map of how things are right now, and doing a reasonable job anticipating how it’ll dynamically change in the future. Wardley covers 13 such rules in the article.
  4. Doctrine – doctrine helps you decide how to organize around the map. This is meant to be context-free doctrine – one the applies in almost all situations regardless of context. Wardley covers 7 doctrine principles in the article.
  5. Leadership – The ability to anticipate movement on the map reveals multiple points of attack. Now context-specific gameplay comes into play and helps you choose the best option of this set of “where’s”.

That’s the key about strategy, the why is relative as in why here over there. You never start strategy with why, you always start with WHERE.

Mata-comment: this is the 2nd post in a row in which the authors referenced the work of John Boyd as an inspiration for their own thinking. Which probably means that reading his biography will move up in my reading queue.

From Purpose to Leadership and Back Again

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