Wardley Mapping during a pandemic


by Difrent
03 December 2020

5 mins read

Wardley Mapping is something we’ve been using at Difrent right from the start. Our CEO, Rachel, used it to determine if Difrent was a realistic and workable idea for a company. She identified a gap in the market using Wardley Mapping, and since Difrent was born, it has been used on multiple projects to add value, even when selling the company!

Wardley Mapping Company B

Image: A screenshot of a Wardley Map used to help identify the right culture for an acquisition

What Wardley Mapping can be used for

Wardley Mapping is a brilliant tool for mapping out the landscape of a company, product, service, content strategy, and pretty much anything else. At Difrent, we’ve used it to map ourselves, our industry, our clients and the projects we work on. We also help organisations learn to map for themselves and help them on their mapping journeys. It’s a really useful tool for identifying areas of importance within an organisation, and what can be improved. It creates situational awareness based on evidence rather than emotion.

Image: Map: Police public contact channels, informing a police service’s contact programme

Image: Map: Police public contact channels, informing a police service’s contact programme

Wardley Mapping during COVID-19

Wardley Mapping is similar to any project plan or business plan. While it can’t plan for a pandemic or future emergency situation, you can use it to make sure the business is focussed on what’s important. This can help when something like COVID happens because it enables you to prioritise critical activity. If you are busy with keeping the lights on, you have to carry on doing that and it takes over. When something like a pandemic hits, you’re so committed to that one goal, that everything else is neglected. It can mean the difference between sinking and swimming. Wardley Mapping can help you ensure you are working on an area of the business that needs attention.

Focusing your attention

What Wardley Mapping allows us to do is focus attention on the important things for the business. Using the first wave of COVID-19 as an example, it showed that respirators and intensive care beds in hospitals were in high demand and short of capacity. Hospitals and Healthcare Trusts had to pivot and focus attention on the most pressing issue right now which is keeping people alive. A Wardley Map would help you plug in that new important situation so you can de-prioritise the less important activity to focus on the emergency.

A Wardley Map can also help you find out the dependencies and links between things. Again, using the first wave of COVID-19, as an example, a Wardley Map would help us to determine that if we stop doing chest X-rays for routine patients, it might free up capacity for emergency patients. If a routine operation happens, they will need a bed and might need a respirator. If an activity like this can be postponed safely then it can be taken off the list. This means the focus is on the pandemic and on saving lives by freeing up essential resources safely.

Image: Our Wardley Mapping service is remote first using a variety of tools

Image: Screenshot of our Wardley Mapping service as remote-first using a variety of tools

Wardley Mapping outside of healthcare during a pandemic

It’s all about importance and mapping out who you have in your business and where you can focus your attention to keep going. If there are 10 people in a business who work in sales and marketing, and the industry shuts down, sales and marketing become less important than it was. In this situation, the furlough scheme might be able to save the jobs of some of those people, who might otherwise have been made redundant. You could furlough some of the people on that team, and then refocus your attention on what you can do.

Using weddings as an example, where you once did wedding cakes for 100 people, now you can only have 30 people at a wedding. So you’d scale down those processes. It’s not an ideal scenario for employers or employees, but if it keeps the business going, then it’s adding value. When we get ahead of this pandemic and we adjust to being able to do things safely then the business will pivot again and everyone will benefit from that.

The value of Wardley Mapping

It allows an organisation to understand itself better and to be able to respond quickly. The value isn’t the map, that’s the end product. The most important thing is the mapping, the conversations that happen and the decisions that are made. If a priority is agreed then you can quickly change things to meet that priority. Wardley Mapping is an organic process. You create a map and the next day it could be out of date because things are always changing. The mapping process is what adds the value, and the product you get at the end gives you an overview of everything you’ve discussed to come to a shared decision.

Looking at hospitals again, during the first wave of the pandemic, we needed more oxygen and personal protective equipment. Those things are products we can buy if the supply chain is sufficient, so they’re relatively easy things to fix. Beds were also needed but they might take longer to source, so they take more work. Respirators were required, for which new technology was needed and which could take the longest to deliver.

Now looking at the case of respirators in a second wave, because those things were done back in March, those items should be much easier to source now, because we’ve learned that these were the most important and most difficult items to get so we need to make sure it’s available in the case of a second wave. The technology has been created and the concept proved so now we can say that is a product we can source. So we look again at the landscape, repeating that mapping process to refocus on what the new priority is. We align our efforts around the essential goals.

Key uses for Wardley Mapping

Looking at the value this process can add, the main things it can help with are:

 Aligning businesses and leadership teams around a shared goal

 Finding out what a business is focussed on and working out if this strategy is right

 Refocusing a business so the important things come first

 Allowing a business to see the bigger picture and to pivot quickly

 Working out dependencies and links, and how taking the focus away from one thing affects everything else

 Understanding your competition, your space in the market, and identifying priorities

Wardley Mapping is a great resource that can add value to any business, product, service and anything else where the goal is to understand where you are now, find important things to focus on or bring a team together around a shared goal.


If you want to learn more about Wardley Mapping, here is a great YouTube video about situational awareness which explains more.

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