How Can the Wardley Value Chain Mapping Method Help Your Startup?

Written by Dr Timothy Mansfield
Published on 18 August 2018

About the author

Tim Mansfield is a strategist, culture consultant and futures researcher, specialising in the cultural sector. He has been the CEO of the Interaction Consortium since August 2016.

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Geneticist turned CEO Simon Wardley uses his copious research skills to craft better ways his company can strategize and develop. One of his favorite methods of tracking current processes and forecasting their development can help your startup, too. His take on value chain mapping turns a simple flowchart creation into a tool for organizational learning and change, as well as a strategic methodology tool.

Value Chain Mapping

Value chain mapping describes the process of creating a visual map or flowchart of the connections between the end-user, business, vendors, and other market players. Wardley used the basic process as a starting point, tweaked it over 20 years and authored a workbook to help companies jump-start their efforts using it, "The Future is More Predictable Than You Think - A Workbook for Value Chain Mapping."

Wardley's Mapping Steps

Wardley implements an eight-step method with the end-user and user need(s) at its core. The goal of his method is the best possible customer experience. It proves particularly valuable at the idea stage of a minimum viable product (mvp) to map potential fulfillment methods of the user need. Follow these steps to create a value chain map and spinoff strategies.

  1. Start with user need(s). What need will you fill or problem will you solve? Map a route for each possible solution.
  2. Create your value chain - the pieces or steps needed to address the user's need, thereby creating a valuable product.
  3. Create a map that includes options for change and evolution. Although you can't specify a timeline, Wardley recommends plotting the following components on an "evolution axis":
  • genesis,
  • custom-built,
  • product (+rental),
  • commodity (+utility).

Although the timing of evolution remains uncertain, he points out, the inevitability of organizational evolution remains certain.

  1. Challenge your organizational structure with respect to its bias, communication and duplication. Use a simple dot plot to show duplication. Follow it with communication to foster partnerships that eradicate the duplication. Wardley warns that everyone has bias. You must overcome the bias of one group over/against another to streamline processes.
  2. Adjust the map according to changes implemented in step four. This finalizes the changes and people may evidence inertia against change, rather than for it.
  3. Apply strategic thinking to the new map. Play with the "what ifs" open to you and determine where to attack. With your development environment mapped, you can manipulate its pieces. (Pretend it's a board game.)
  4. Define methods of achieving the potential strategies identified in step six. Brainstorm multiple methods for each strategy.
  5. Break the map down into small teams of 12 or fewer members. Wardley favors teams using Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny (FIST) principles. He conducts a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) analysis or a Business Model Canvas (BMC) to refine process details and validate the value chain map.

Creating the draft value chain map takes about two hours. Refining it and gaming the future from it has no set time limit, but it is a tool meant to spur action. Don't get stuck on one step. Move through them fluidly so you can create your teams and get to work serving your customers.

End of article.
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