A Statement of Official Policy

Wardley maps: Topographical intelligence in business. Figure 29 – Doctrine

As I mentioned previously, the full description of Wardley Mapping is beyond the scope of this series, however I want to highlight some aspects as noteworthy in the context of onboarding.

One of these aspects is Wardley Doctrine, which Simon Wardley defines as the basic universal principles that are applicable to all industries regardless of the landscape and its context. Whereas mapping and strategy are context-specific, doctrine applies always.1

Wardley Doctrine

Wardley’s Doctrine, Steve Purkis variation,

Wardley Doctrine consists of 40 principles pictured above. It is worth noting that the names of the principles are just their names for easy reference. They are not to be confused with platitudes like “hire A players”. Each one is described in detail in Wardley maps: Topographical intelligence in business, starting with Chapter 4, and then also highlighted and elaborated further throughout the book, Wardley’s blog posts, and Twitter threads.

Sequence of Adoption

As the figure above illustrates, Wardley Doctrine is divided into four phases. The idea is to focus on Phase I prior to Phase II and so on, as the principles build on each other. Additionally, within each phase, there is a typical sequence of principle adoption. 

In general, the sequence is:

Phase I

  • Know your users
  • Focus on user needs
  • Know the details
  • Understand what is being considered
  • Common language
  • Challenge assumptions 
  • Remove bias and duplication
  • Bias towards data
  • Use appropriate methods

Phase II

  • A bias towards open
  • Effectiveness over efficiency
  • Focus on the outcome
  • Bias towards action
  • Use standards
  • Be pragmatic
  • Think small teams
  • Think aptitude and attitude
  • Use appropriate tools
  • Think fast, inexpensive, restrained, and elegant
  • Manage failure
  • Distribute power and decision making
  • Move fast
  • Manage inertia
  • Strategy is iterative

Phase III

  • Be the owner
  • Be humble
  • Set exceptional standards
  • Embrace uncertainty
  • Do better with less
  • Optimize flow
  • Bias towards the new
  • Commit to the direction
  • Inspire others
  • Seek the best
  • Provide purpose, master, and autonomy

Phase IV

  • There is no core
  • Listen to your ecosystem
  • Exploit the landscape
  • No single culture
  • Design for constant evolution


40 doctrine principles is a lot. On the one hand, it is a great set of principles to adopt, on the other it is a lot of principles to adopt. Additionally, each principle can be quite complex. For example, knowing your users consists of knowing who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, and listening to their feedback. Using common language includes learning Wardley Mapping. So, while our eventual goal is to adopt all principles of Wardley Doctrine, it may be of use to break some of these into smaller chunks. That’s the idea behind Microdoctrine.

I’ve written about Microdoctrine before. It takes inspiration from a pattern language and breaks up Wardley Doctrine principles into specific practices for individual learning. For example:

Phase: Stop Self Harm
Category: Development
Principle: Focus On User Needs
Practice: Examine Transactions

Any value we create is through meeting the needs of others. A mantra of “not sucking as much as the competitors” is not acceptable. We must be the best we can be.

Consider these first:
Know Your Users

Illustrative description:
Look at the transactions that an organization makes with the outside world. Examine the customer journey when interacting with those transactions.

Detailed description:
Look at the transactions that an organization makes with the outside world. This will tend to give you an idea of what it provides and what is important. Next, examine the customer journey when interacting with those transactions. Question this journey and talk with customers. You will often find pointless steps or unmet needs or unnecessary needs.

Another mechanism, if you adopted Wardley Mapping, is to map out the user’s landscape. By mapping out their landscape, you can often clarify what the user needs. You can also find entire new opportunities for business.


Consider next:
Align Value Generation With User Needs or Consider Stage of Evolution

So far, I wrote out Microdoctrine for Phase I of Wardley Doctrine: Stop Self Harm, which can be found here.

What Do You Think?

Doctrine is a common thing within the world’s militaries. For example, the U.S. Army publishes ADP-1 The Army, amongst others. But more importantly, within militaries, doctrine is recognized and thought of as a concept. Have you been aware of what your business doctrine is? Has it been reified as a concept before now? Let me know in the comments.

Next Up

With doctrine being universally applicable principles to adopt and operate by, what do we do when we need to act specifically and not generally? Next, we’ll take a look at some examples of context-specific action offered by Wardley Mapping, coming soon.

1 Until it doesn’t. “This doesn’t mean that the doctrine is right but instead that it appears to be consistently useful for the time being. There will always exist better doctrine in the future. As with climatic patterns we will go through some basic forms and refine in future passes through the strategy cycle.” Wardley, Simon. (2016). “Wardley maps: Topographical intelligence in business”. Chapter 4., accessed on 17 Sep 2022.



  1. Pingback: Wardley Mapping | No Motherships
  2. Pingback: Onboarding to a Software Team: In Three Parts | No Motherships

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