Mapping Strategy with Wardley Maps and S-curves

Working with strategy might be hard, but I’ll show two tools I use to visualise current and future positions in order to make the right decisions.

Wardley Maps

Simon Wardley (you can find his book on Medium) has created a visual model called Wardley Maps to map a state or situation and add movements and other information to it in order to build a model of what you see and what might happen. An other tool I use to map out maturity is an S-curve. I’ll show how I used it to find focus in our strategy at SeventyOne. Note that the actual mappings are examples only.

Mapping our Strategy at SeventyOne with Wardley Maps

One challenge for us is to figure out where the market is going. Since one of our services is supporting our clients with building great Product teams, we need to understand what is happening in that area and where we want to be. In order to have a discussion about it and make som decisions, we created a Wardley Map.

Wardley Mapping example with possible trends in Delivery Teams and consequences

Map format

Let’s look at the map itself. On the X-axis I have used the standard sections in order to see how things mature over time. It goes from Genesis (this is where you explore new ideas and solve problems no one done before), to Custom built (services you create yourself since there are no products for you to use based on your needs), Product or rental (things you can buy which build parts of your solution) to Commodity or Utility (this is something you just use, like cloud platforms and electricity).

On the Y-axis I chose the Customer perspective, the more direct contact a team has with it’s users, the higher up (more visible to the customer). You can chose what you think is relevant as a parameter for the mapping you are doing. It’s also likely that you need several maps and perspectives as you try to get different views of your problem.

With this in place you can start mapping out your problem to draw your conclusions. A tip is to start with a customer or user view and go from what is visible from the customer or user perspective and place it at the top of the map and the further away you get from the customer or user the lower you place what you are mapping.


The mapping is pretty straight forward when we do it. Decide on a topic and map out how you find the current situation. Make sure you are aligned on the scale of the axis. Then have a discussion and note what changes you think will happen, what movement you will see in the map, and add them to the map. From there you draw your conclusions and define the actions to succeed in you business.


The S-curve is probably more widely spread than the Wardley Map. Based on the adoption of a service or product you can map it to the phases in the S-curve, from Explore (it’s new and we explore if it’s picking up traction) , to Scale (we have traction and scaling to more users is happening), further into Sustain (we maintain the current user base and don’t grow any more) and finally to Retire (the end phase where we retire the product or service).

Mapping of training services along the S-curve

The mapping is best done in you team as a joint activity and the discussion is (as always?) the most valuable part. Decide on the topic, brainstorm ideas and map them on the S-curve followed by a candid discussion and new direction. In this example I look at trends within training. The good old classroom training is on the way out and we are phasing it out, while the Multi half day digital training sessions seems to have got traction and is scaling, and here we want to focus our efforts, as well as find more alternatives in the Explore phase. What you want to achieve from a portfolio perspective is to ensure you have lots of ideas in Explore to increase the likelihood that a few of them scale and take over the old products you have in Sustain and Retire states.


Visualisation doesn’t just bring clarity to my own thoughts, it also makes it possible to include other people’s great minds in the process, and Wardley Maps and S-curves are great tools to facilitate this process. The co-creation include your team in the process and give a great basis for further actions to help you go forward. They are great tool to try out, simple to start with and you can tweak them as you like and make it as complex as you need. The mapping creates a great visual presentation of your information and a basis for decisions.

Have you tried it or have questions about it? I’d love to hear. Maybe you have other formats you use you’d like to share? Looking forward to hear from you.