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Using Wardley Maps and Cynefin together

In today's dynamic business world, two noteworthy tools, the Cynefin framework and Wardley Maps, emerge as beacons for organizational navigation. While they might seem separate at first glance, their interconnectedness provides rich insights. Let's delve into the synergy between these tools.

Deciphering the Basics

Cynefin Framework: Developed by Dave Snowden, the Cynefin framework acts as a compass, guiding organizations through different types of challenges:

  • Clear: With predictable outcomes and established solutions. Tactic: Use best practices.

  • Complicated: Multiple solutions exist, warranting expert analysis. Tactic: Seek specialist insights.

  • Complex: Undefined challenges with emerging solutions. Tactic: Experiment to identify patterns.

  • Chaotic: Unpredictable challenges requiring immediate action. Tactic: Act first, analyze later.

  • Aporetic (or Disorder): Ambiguous scenarios. Tactic: Dissect the problem to gain clarity.

Wardley Mapping Essentials

Crafted by Simon Wardley, this strategy tool aids businesses in visualizing and strategizing based on the value movement within their ecosystem.

Evolution Stages of Wardley Maps:

  1. Genesis: New, unique offerings.

  2. Custom-built: Tailored solutions for specific needs.

  3. Product/rental: Generic solutions for a wider audience.

  4. Commodity/utility: Standardized, universally applicable offerings.

The Intersection

A surface-level comparison might suggest a linear alignment between Wardley's phases and Cynefin's domains. However, a deeper exploration advocates for a more nuanced understanding. For instance, while the "Genesis" phase's unpredictable nature seems to fit the "Chaotic" domain, the association isn't always straightforward. Similarly, while the standardized "Commodity/utility" phase of Wardley aligns with Cynefin's "Clear" domain, nuances persist.

Wardley Maps Within Cynefin

Blending Wardley Maps with Cynefin's domains reveals intriguing patterns. Mapping within the "Chaotic" domain can be challenging due to its unpredictable nature. Conversely, the "Clear" domain, with its well-defined challenges, might render a map superfluous. However, maps can still offer value in terms of communication or training. In the "Complicated" domain, the map offers detailed insights. Yet, in the "Complex" domain, maps may only provide a provisional snapshot due to inherent uncertainties.

Potential of Wardley Mapping in Cynefin's Complex Domain:

Within Cynefin's "Complex" domain, the unpredictability reigns supreme. Yet, with Wardley Mapping's ability to visualize value chains, we can hypothesize that a transition from "Complex" to "Complicated" domains might be possible. By grounding experiments in known components and continuously adapting, complexities may gradually yield to clearer solutions.

The Cynefin Influence on Wardley Mapping

In Wardley's "Genesis" phase, there's an overlap with Cynefin's "Chaotic" domain. Here, rapid experimentation is crucial. As entities mature into the "Custom" phase, they echo both the "Complicated" and "Complex" domains of Cynefin, depending on context and interactions. As they progress to "Product/rental" and "Commodity/utility" phases, they predominantly resonate with the "Complicated" and "Clear" domains, but occasional chaotic disruptions or complexities might arise.

In Conclusion: A Fusion of Insight and Action

The merger of Wardley Mapping with the Cynefin framework offers a holistic strategy toolkit. Wardley Maps shine a light on the organizational landscape, particularly in complex and complicated terrains. Simultaneously, Cynefin directs context-specific actions. In essence, their combination grants businesses both the vision and agility needed in today's ever-evolving landscape.


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