Steps Towards Business Agility

The Art of Strategy: Glossary

Explanation of key terms and symbols

What is strategy? Why do you need it How do you do it? And, how can you be more certain to succeed? The Art of Strategy provides timeless answers to these eternal questions. It is a modern reading of Sun Tzu’s Art of War using the lenses of strategists John Boyd and Simon Wardley (swardley). All parts. Other reading formats.


From Simon Wardley’s (swardley) Wardley Maps, John Boyd’s A Discourse on Winning and Losing and readings of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Chinese language is highly contextual and many Chinese concepts are purposefully abstract, ambiguous and have multiple meanings; they seldom have precise definitions as Chinese are not fond of providing definitions or even of the idea of definition itself (Yuen).


Adapting to and Shaping a situation to take full advantage of the current conditions and to use the possibilities of the situation to succeed by fulfilling one’s Purpose. This requires Agility and Foreknowledge.

Yīn (因) means avail oneself of, to make the best of, to rely upon.


Ability to shift from one orientation to another in order to cope with new or unforeseen circumstances (Boyd). The ability to adapt to and influence situations more rapidly than Competition including timely break out of successful — but non-sustainable — patterns.
Part of IOHAI, ingredients for vitality and growth.


The User Need in a Wardley Map.


The recognition of worth or value, clear perception, understanding, comprehension, discernment, etc.; includes the ability to Monitor (Boyd). Used together with Leadership, i.e. Appreciation and Leadership, as an alternative to Command and Control.

Appreciation and Leadership

Appreciation used together with Leadership as an alternative to Command and Control.


A valuation of the current situation and Conditions based on Purpose, Leadership, Landscape, Climate, Doctrine, Capabilities, training and clarity of feedback; informs choices of Gameplays in a Strategy.

Jì (計) means assessment, calculation, gameplay, plan, plot, scheme, stratagem, strategy.


Succeeding together with your Stakeholders.


The ability to fulfill a Stakeholder’s Need, or, the ability of a Component to provide a service that fulfills the Need(s) of another Component in a Wardley Map.


The forces acting on the Environment including patterns of the seasons and Competitors’ actions. The rules of the game, patterns that are applied across Contexts.


The ability to direct, order, compel with or without authority or power (Boyd). See also Command and Control, and, Control.

Command and Control

Command and Control represents a top-down mentality applied in a rigid or mechanical (or electrical) way that ignores as well as stifles the implicit nature of human beings to deal with uncertainty, change, and stress (Boyd).


Commodity (including utility) is the Stage of evolution representing scale and volume operations of production, the highly standardized, the defined, the fixed, the undifferentiated, the fit for a specific known Purpose and repetition, repetition and more repetition. Our focus is on ruthless removal of deviation, on industrialization, and operational efficiency. With time we become habituated to the act, it is increasingly less visible and we often forget it’s even there (Wardley).


  1. Conditions where an Organization strives to gain advantage or Control over others using a constraint, i.e. a limitation of a resource or time or money or people.
  2. One or several Competitors.


An Organization that desires the same area in the Landscape as your Organization.


A single entity in a Wardley Map; there are different component types: activity, practice, data, knowledge. A component is located in a domain (Wardley).


Use Setup to create suitable conditions for an advantageous Momentum to develop as a consequence. This condition-consequence approach is complementary to the classic Western ends (objectives) — ways (courses of actions) — means (resources) approach to Strategy (Echevarria) which, although valuable for initial planning, is far from optimal in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) Environments with Stakeholders having different, potentially conflicting Purposes. For an outcome to be realized effectively, it follows as a consequence of a process which transforms a situation rather than a goal that leads to actions. Unlike the ends–ways–means approach which involves a predetermined plan (course of actions) that is liable to disintegrate when put into practice facing stakeholders, the condition-consequence approach is designed to leave as little room for chance as possible. This is done by identifying favourable factors before they have developed and creating suitable conditions in advance, and, in this way enable evolution in a suitable direction.There are three distinct advantages of the condition-consequence approach to Strategy compared to the traditional end-means-ways approach when circumstances (Landscape, Climate, Stakeholders, Organization, . . . ) change as they invariably will in a VUCA Environment (Yuen):

  1. It helps avoid being locked into a predetermined course of actions.
  2. It helps avoid constant re-planning when there is too big a difference between reality and plan.
  3. It helps avoid being locked into bringing about one single, predetermined outcome


The Organization’s Purpose and the Landscape.


The power or authority to regulate, restrain, verify, (usually against some standard) direct or Command. Comes from medieval Latin contrarotulus, a “counter roll” or checklist (contra, against plus rotulus, list) (Boyd). See also Command, and, Command and Control.

Correlative Pair

A pair of opposite and complementary aspects used to understand relations, transcend, move beyond or integrate apparent paradoxes or trade-offs, or, embrace clashing, instructive perspectives, e.g. order — chaos, Strength — Weakness, courage — fear, Expected — Surprise, Devious — Direct, attack — defense, Resilient — Fragile, speed — quality, alignment — autonomy.

Far from being two irreducible or even mutually exclusive states, a pair consists of two consecutive stages that are part of the same continuum — influenced by the ever-changing reality, e.g. efforts by Stakeholders and changes in Landscape and Climate, and have a tendency to mutually influence each other in an endless cycle.

Finding ways to move beyond or integrate the apparent paradoxes or trade-offs requires deep analysis and synthesis and is an essential part of Strategy Development. The resulting pattern for understanding the dynamics of the correlative pairs serves as an important means for successful Strategy Deployment and Engagement, e.g.

If you want to understand something, take it to the extremes or examine its opposites (Boyd).

Skilled leadership employs correlative pairs for orientation as preparation for initiatives, decisions and actions to move beyond apparent trade-offs, and, as a stepping stone towards seeing and Harmonizing the System (Yuen).

Modern examples of correlative pairs where it is possible to move beyond the apparent trade-off include:

  • cost — quality in manufacturing, where a focus on lead-time resolves the apparent trade-off and results in both lower cost and higher quality;
  • speed — quality in product development where securing high product quality brings high development speed (Reinertsen, Modig&Åhlström);
  • control — initiative in organizations, where Einheit resolves the trade-off (Boyd, Richards);
  • alignment — autonomy in organizations, where high alignment on intent (what&why) enables high autonomy in actions and decisions (how) by individual people and teams which results in higher speed, more innovation and higher engagement (Bungay, Schön).

Custom built

The Stage of evolution representing the very uncommon and that which we are still learning about. It is individually made and tailored for a specific environment. It is bespoke. It frequently changes. It is an artisan skill. You wouldn’t expect to see two of these that are the same. Our focus is on learning and our craft (Wardley).


(迂) means tortuous, circuitous, crooked, roundabout, hidden. See also Direct and Devious — Direct.

Devious — Direct

A Correlative Pair used in Strategy Deployment and Engagement together with Shaping for inverting time and space, e.g. to make what looks like a time-saving shortcut ending up taking more time to follow than the standard route, or to create the perception that it is so; to make the adverse advantageous by giving the difficulty to Opposition; to offer advantages to confound Opposition’s perception of what is difficult and easy.

Synonyms: circuitous — direct, crooked — straight, tortuous — direct, plain — hidden.

See also Devious and Direct.


Zhí (直) means direct, straight, plain. See also Devious and Devious — Direct.


Ways of operating, communicating and organizing that apply irrespective of Landscape and Climate, i.e. approaches which can be applied regardless of Context.


A zone in the evolution of Components — uncharted, transitional and industrialized.
The uncharted Domain is associated with high production costs, high levels of uncertainty and potentially very high future opportunity. Being first is sometimes unfavorable due to the burden and risks of research and development.
The transitional Domain is associated with reducing uncertainty, declining production costs, increasing volumes and highest profitability. However, whilst the environment has become more predictable, the future opportunity is also in decline as the act is becoming more widespread, well understood and well defined. So at the same time we reach the zenith of wealth creation the future is looking decidedly less rosy for the industry itself.
The industrialized Domain is associated with high certainty, high levels of predictability, high volumes, low production costs and low unit margin. The activity is seen as an expected norm, it has become commonplace. Those activities that have evolved to this state (e.g. nuts and bolts) are seen as having a minimal differential effect. They are associated with high future opportunity only in early Stage replacement of any existing Product industry. Their future is seen as one of stable and increasingly low margin revenues that may nevertheless be significant due to volume (Wardley).

Ecological Resilience

A way of maintaining the existence of function (Holling); see also Engineering Resilience and Resilient.


A collision of Organizations going through their respective OODA Loops where each Organization aims to fulfill their Purpose and succeed together with their Stakeholders; a conflict where two Organizations desire the same area in a Landscape;
zhàn (戰) means specific engagement, military action, battle;
zhēng (争) means conflict, dispute, fight;
bīng (兵) means competition, war, weapon, soldier, force.

Engineering Resilience

A way of maintaining the efficiency of function (Holling); see also Ecological Resilience and Resilient.


The Context and how it is changing (Wardley).


Zhèng (正) means expected, correct, direct, ordinary, orthodox, proper, right, straight, straightforward, true. See also Expected — Surprise and Surprise.

Expected — Surprise

A Correlative Pair signifying contrasting types of Engagements used in combination in order to succeed. In Business, start with delivering the Expected, e.g. expected features, quality and performance; then positively Surprise your customers in order to secure delight and loyalty, just like Apple pursuits the “Wow” and “desire to use”. Users decide what is Expected and Surprising and this can change over time, e.g. based on Components’ Movement and Competitions’ moves.
See also Expected and Surprise.

Synonyms: direct — indirect, direct — oblique, regular — irregular, conventional — unconventional, orthodox — unorthodox, normal — exceptional, ordinary — extraordinary, regular — irregular, overt — covert, straightforward — crafty;


The transfer of money, risk and information between Components (Wardley). A metaphor for Agility.


A system that adapts rapidly to changing circumstances, i.e. the efficiency of function might decline rapidly due to a change although the function continues to exist (Holling). See also Fragile, Resilient and Robust.


Knowledge about the Environment for estimating Momentum to secure the Organization’s safety and success. It is gained through careful observation and Intelligence. It is a recognition of relevant patterns and relations understood holistically as part of a System and Components understood in the light of their Environment.

It is knowledge with uncertainty since it is an interpretation of the situation to gain Situational Awareness. The quest for knowledge is relative: strive for higher Situational Awareness than Competition.


The opposite of having a Setup; without a discernible Setup, or, a perceived lack of Setup, e.g. by means of a hidden Setup; being more adaptable and ready to seize opportunities. See also Formless — Setup and Setup.

Wúxíng (無形) means formless, invisible, imperceptible, intangible, unfathomable, unreadable, without form.

Formless — Setup

A Correlative Pair. See also Formless and Setup.


The characteristics of a system unable to adapt or cope with change, breaking easily and ceasing to function (Holling). See also Fluid, Resilient and Robust.


A context specific choice that depends on Components’ Positions and Movement on the Wardley Maps (Wardley) extracting maximum value from psychological, social, financial and physical factors; sometimes called a stratagem; often involving Shaping.

Móu (謀) means gameplay, (operational) plan, plot, scheme, stratagem, strategy.


A Stage of evolution representing the unique, the very rare, the uncertain, the constantly changing and the newly discovered. Our focus is on exploration (Wardley).


An emergent sense of order that begins from the coordination of concrete details, maximises diversity and avoids sameness; the quality of the combination at any one moment created by effectively correlating and contextualizing the available events or entities (Ames).
(Power to perceive or create interaction of) apparently disconnected events or entities in a connected way (Boyd).
Part of IOHAI, ingredients for vitality and growth.
(和) means harmony, achieved order, peace, union.


Resistance to movement; resistance to change, e.g. existing practice, political capital or previous investment (Wardley).


Internal drive to think and take action without being urged (Boyd).
Part of IOHAI, ingredients for vitality and growth.


Value from ideas. There are many different things which we call innovation — this includes genesis of an act, feature differentiation of a product and a shifting business model from product to utility. They are very different despite our use of a single term to describe them (Wardley).


Ability to peer into and discern the inner nature or workings of things (Boyd).
Part of IOHAI, ingredients for vitality and growth.


A connection between Components.


Insight, Orientation, Harmony, Agility and Initiative are ingredients for vitality and growth (Boyd).

John Boyd

Born January 23, 1927, died March 9, 1997. US Air Force fighter pilot, Pentagon consultant and innovative strategist. His strategic theories — including the OODA loop — have been highly influential in the military, sports, business, and litigation fields, e.g. the Doctrine of maneuver warfare adopted by the US Marine Corps and the Agile movement in business.


A description of the Environment including Positions, distances, space and obstacles (Inertia) (Wardley).


The art of inspiring people to cooperate and enthusiastically take action toward the achievement of uncommon goals. Used together with Appreciation, i.e. Appreciation and Leadership, as an alternative to Command and Control (Boyd).

Actions, decisions, choices and Gameplays based on Purpose, Landscape, Climate, Doctrine and Capabilities (Wardley) — guided by knowledge, trust, compassion, courage and fairness. Leadership is beyond what managers or people in formal leader roles do: it is a service provided by — potentially all — people in the Organization.


A visual, Context specific depiction showing Position and Movement starting from an Anchor. Sometimes used as a short form for Wardley Map


The acts of preparing a Map or a Wardley Map.


A contract, hence an agreement, between leader and followers. The followers agree to make their actions serve their leader’s intent in terms of what is to be accomplished and the rationale (why), while the leader agrees to give followers wide freedom to exercise their imagination and initiative in terms of how intent is to be realized.

The followers are given the right to challenge or question the feasibility of the mission if they feel their leader’s ideas on what can be achieved are not in accord with the existing situation or if they feel their leader has not given them adequate resources to carry it out. Likewise, leader has every right to expect followers to carry-out the mission contract when agreement is reached on what can be achieved consistent with the existing situation and resources provided.

Limitation: While this concept of mission gives form and expression to what is expected between an individual leader and follower, it does not suggest ways to coordinate or Harmonize activities among many leaders and followers as a collective group (Boyd).


The quantity of motion of a body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity in a particular direction.

An abstract field formed by tangible factors such as equipment and logistics and intangible factors such as timing and psychology that constantly shifts according to what is happening in the Environment; all of the factors and tendencies bearing on a possible engagement (Mair); wresting advantages from the conditions at hand and controlling contingencies (Nylan); making the most of favorable conditions and tilting the scales in our favor (Ames).

[Momentum] of a particular situation is changing as a consequence of shifting conditions. It is as if we were placing weights along abeam whose balance point is always in motion. From assessments and foreknowledge, the fulcrum is more easily found (Denma).

[Momentum] is like looking at a chessboard: the effectiveness of a position is read in terms of the relative power of certain pieces, the strength of their setup, their relationship to the opponent and also their potential to turn into something else. Add the particular psychological disposition of the opponent. All these are aspects of momentum. They are analytically distinguishable and a chess players sees them all at once. The world is more complex than multi-dimensional chess (Denma). The favorite game in China, however, is go (Wéi qí, 圍棋), the oldest board game still being played, dating from before 500BC. Chess is about total victory, checkmate, to put the opposing king in a position where he cannot move without being destroyed, whereas go is about surrounding your opponent, i.e. strategic encirclement. In chess all the capabilities are fully visible at all times since all the pieces are on the board; in go, the players can introduce new pieces changing the strategic configuration. While the skillful chess player aims to eliminate the opponent’s pieces in a series of head-on clashes, a talented go player moves into empty spaces on the board, gradually migrating the strategic potential of the opponent’s pieces. Chess produces single-mindedness, go generates strategic flexibility (Kissinger, Lai).

Shì (勢) means momentum, authority, circumstances, conditions, energy, force, latent energy, influence, inherent power or dynamic of a situation, military strength, outward appearance, outward shape, patterns of influence, positional advantage, potential, potential energy of the situation, power, situation, strategic advantage, strategic advantage within a particular configuration of space and time, strategic configuration of power, tactical power, tendency, trend.


The process that permits one to oversee, listen, observe, or keep track of as well as to advise, warn, or admonish; a part of Appreciation (Boyd).


A description of how evolved a Component is, e.g. in which Stage of evolution it is (Wardley).


Something that is wanted or required from a higher level System (Wardley).


A schematic representing three processes and their interplay:

  • implicitly using existing capabilities;
  • creating new and unexpected ways of using existing capabilities;
  • creating new capabilities;

visualized as a “loop” consisting of four distinctive although connected activities — Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action, invented by John Boyd.

Observation is sensing yourself and the world around you.

Orientation is a complex set of filters of genetic heritage, cultural predispositions, personal experience and knowledge, and, analyses and synthesis in order to create new capabilities to deal with unfamiliar phenomena or unforeseen change.

Decision is a review of alternative courses of action and the selection of the preferred course as a hypothesis to be tested.

Action is testing the decision selected through an experiment.

“Loop” means that observation, orientation, decision and action are repeated again and again. You are simultaneously observing any mismatches between your conception of the world and the way the world really is, trying to reorient to a confusing and threatening situation, and attempting to come up with ideas to deal with it. Success depends upon the quality and tempo of the cognitive processes of Leadership and the Organization going through complete OODA loops; it is crucial to secure higher tempo and/or more variety in the rhythm of the OODA loop than competition. “Getting inside or operating inside your competitors’ or customers’ OODA loops” includes shaping their orientation as well as using information from intelligence operations (Boyd).

Insights from the illustration below: Note how orientation Shapes observation, Shapes decision, Shapes action, and in turn is Shaped by the feedback and other phenomena coming into our sensing or observing window. Also note how the entire “loop” (not just orientation) is an ongoing many-sided implicit cross-referencing process [viewing something from as many perspectives as possible] of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection.


A group of people with a particular Purpose and Doctrine.


The most important part of the OODA loop … Common outlook to encourage initiative yet realize superior intent in pursuit of vision … An interactive process of many-sided implicit cross-referencing projections, empathies, correlations, and rejections that is shaped by and shapes the interplay of genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, [the processes of analyses and synthesis,] and unfolding circumstances.
Disorientation: Mismatch between events one (seemingly) observes or anticipates and events (or efforts) [one] must react or adapt to.
Part of IOHAI, ingredients for vitality and growth.


The location of a Component relative to the Anchor in a chain of Needs (Wardley).

Product (including rental)

A Stage of evolution representing the increasingly common, the manufactured through a repeatable process, the more defined, the better understood. Change becomes slower here. Whilst there exists differentiation particularly in the early Stages there is increasing stability and sameness. You will often see many of the same Product. Our focus is on refining and improving (Wardley).

Punctuated Equilibrium

A sudden shift in a social systems leading to radical change.


A higher meaning or reason that keeps people united, supporting each other without fear through success and failure.

Dào (道) is etymologically constructed out of the elements “foot” hence “to pass over”, “to go over” and “head” (hair and eye together), therefore “foremost” carrying the meaning “to lead” in the sense of to give direction, so combined, “to give direction to your steps”, “to give direction to life”, hence “purpose”.

Dào (道) means purpose, to give direction; path, road, way; commands, guide, method, principle, steps in a process; morality, reason, truth; say, speak, talk, tell, verbalize; courses in a meal.


The Capability of being Resilient.


The characteristics of a system capable of coping with a wide variety of physical extremes with the entire system rapidly adapting to a changing Environment in order to exist (Holling); see also Ecological Resilience, Engineering Resilience, Fluid, Fragile, Robust.


The characteristics of a system with a broader range of physical constraints that it can cope with, although only able to cope with expected events. See also Fluid, Fragile and Resilient.


The arrangement of an Organization or a part of an Organization and the Capabilities and behaviours of its people. A setup can be

  • visible: consisting of factors that can be observed, e.g. organization charts;
  • invisible: consisting of unobservable factors, e.g. informal networks.

It is possible to understand the visible setup without understanding the invisible setup.
Xíng (形) means setup, (military) deployment, disposition (of force), form, formation, manifestation, patterns, positioning, shape, system.
See also Formless and Formless — Setup.


Influencing Competition in order to erode their Resilience by hiding intentions, creating false impressions, and, unsettling Competition to discover a potential advantage, encourage its impetus, push it to the extreme to get them into a weak position (or get them to get into a weak position by themselves) before exploiting the impetus when it reaches the tipping point, i.e. creating the conditions for success before Engagement starts.

Also, influencing customers and other stakeholders in order to succeed together, e.g. by positively surprising them.

Guǐ (詭) means anomaly, bluff, concealment, confusion, cunning, deception, deceit, delusion, dissimulation, distraction, feint, illusion, lie, manipulation, oddity, paradox, weirdness.

Simon Wardley

Inventor of Wardley Mapping, business strategist, industry and technology mapper, and, researcher for the Leading Edge Forum (LEF); former VP Cloud of Canonical and former CEO of Fotango.

Situational Awareness

The level of understanding of the Environment (Wardley).

The perception of environmental elements and events concerning time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status (Endsley). High situational awareness comes from skillful use of the OODA loop, e.g. using Wardley Mapping.


A step in the evolution of a Component, e.g. Genesis, Custom built, Product and Commodity (Wardley).


A person or Organization who can affect or is affected by the fulfillment of the Organization’s Purpose, e.g. a customer of Products and services that the Organization provides, people in the Organization, suppliers and partners to the Organization, owners and other financiers of the Organization, trade associations, standardization bodies, trade unions, people and communities in the society where the Organization operates, and, other Organizations including Competitors (Freeman).


Doing Strategy by means of the Correlative Pair Strategy Development — Strategy Deployment in the Strategy Cycle — including devising Gameplays.


Governed by Sun Tzu’s five fundamental factors: Purpose, Landscape, Climate, Doctrine and Leadership.

A mental tapestry of changing intentions for Harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or Purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests (John Boyd).

The art of manipulating an Environment to gain a desirable outcome (Simon Wardley, swardley).

The essence of strategy . . . is to force or persuade those who are hostile or unsympathetic to act differently than their current intentions . . . it is about getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest. It is the art of creating power (Freedman).

Individuals, teams or organizations fulfilling their Purpose in situations outside their direct control, sometimes engaging with others desiring the same thing — consisting of the intricate interplay of Strategy Development and Strategy Deployment.

The Art of Strategy is to succeed — by securing Harmony among Stakeholders and keeping Competition off balance — through evolving better Capabilities to influence, adapt and Map.

Strategy Cycle

An iterative cycle for Strategy Development and Strategy Deployment — combining Sun Tzu’s five fundamental factors (Purpose, Landscape, Climate, Doctrine and Leadership), John Boyd’s OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and the two types of “why”:

  • the “why” of Purpose: the chess master wants to win every chess game.
  • the “why” of Movement: the chess master moves the queen to gain a better Position on the chessboard.


Strategy Deployment

Making Strategy happen by everyone everywhere in the Organization taking initiatives, decisions and actions in a Harmonized direction.

The following Doctrine is often used:

  1. Purpose. Ensure every action contributes to achieving it.
  2. Maneuver. Gain positional advantage.
  3. Surprise. Move in unexpected ways using Gameplays.
  4. Focus. Concentrate Momentum to achieve success and ensure secondary efforts receive only as much Momentum as needed.
  5. Initiative. Secure higher tempo or more variety in the rhythm of the OODA Loop than Competition
  6. Security. Ensure that the Organization is well-protected.
  7. Simplicity. Simplify Gameplays and communications.
  8. Unity. Place the direction of Strategy and Engagement under a single team to avoid conflicting interests

Strategy Development

Preparing Strategy by making choices for a Harmonized direction for the Organization based on regular assessments of Stakeholders’ Needs and the Organization’s Purpose.


A condition of high value in a sense beyond the physical, e.g. a well defended position, or, a poorly defended position where the Organization has an influential Purpose and skilled Leadership.

Shí (實) means strength, brave, concentrated, energy abundance, full, many, prepared, relaxed, solid, strong, substantial, well-nourished, well-ordered. See also Strength — Weakness and Weakness.

Strength — Weakness

A Correlative Pair used in Strategy Deployment and Engagement together with Setup and Shaping, e.g. causing Competition to see our Strengths as Weaknesses and our Weaknesses as Strengths, converting Competition’s Strengths into Weaknesses, being fully aware of Competition’s Weaknesses and using this to strengthen our own Setup. See also Strength and Weakness.

Sun Tzu

Born c. 544 BC, died c. 496 BC. Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher. Sun Tzu (“Master Sun”, Su ̄n Zˇı, 孫子) is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War.


(奇) means crafty, extraordinary, indirect, oblique, odd, rare, strange, surprise, unique, unorthodox, weird, wonderful. See also Expected and Expected — Surprise.


A regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. A whole which is defined by its function in a larger system of which it’s a part. Every system is contained in a larger system. Its role or function in that system or the service it provides is what defines it. For a system to perform its function it has essential parts. A system is not the sum of its parts, it is the product of their interactions (Ackoff).

The Art of War

An ancient Chinese military treatise (“Military Methods”, 兵法) dating from the 5th century BC. The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is composed of 13 chapters. Each chapter is devoted to an aspect of warfare and how it applies to military strategy and tactics.

It remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare and has influenced both Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, politics, legal strategy, lifestyles and beyond.

Here is John Boyd’s thematic summary with added references to the relevant chapters:


A person or Organization that uses Products and services that an Organization provides.


A Stage of evolution representing the increasingly common, the manufactured through a repeatable process, the more defined, the better understood. Change becomes slower here. Whilst there exists differentiation particularly in the early Stages there is increasing stability and sameness. You will often see many of the same product. Our focus is on refining and improving (Wardley).

Value Chain

A set of activities that an organization performs in order to deliver a valuable product (Porter); a chain of needs fulfilled by components starting with what the users value (Wardley).

Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA)

An acronym coined by the US military and adopted by a wide range of organizations, including everything from for-profit corporations to universities, to describe certain conditions and situations in the world and the challenges those pose.

Volatile. The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.

Uncertain. The lack of predictability and the prospects for surprise.

Complex. The multiplex of forces and dependencies and the confusion that surround an organization.

Ambiguous. The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

Wardley Map

A Map that visually shows the evolution of a Context specific Value Chain using Position and Movement of Components — with Stakeholder Needs as the Anchor. The Components of the Map have a Stage of evolution: Genesis, Custom built, Product and Commodity and are located in a Domain.

Sometimes called Value Chain map since it is based on a Value Chain where the components have been located horizontally along an evolution axis based on their stage of evolution. Often abbreviated as Map.

Wardley Mapping

A visual method for exploring and communicating Strategy in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) situations invented by Simon Wardley. It helps achieve a high level of Situational Awareness, e.g. by answering the following questions:

  • What is our competitive Environment?
  • Where are our Competitors relative to us?
  • What market changes can we anticipate?
  • Where do we focus?
  • Where can we expect Inertia?
  • Which Context-specific strategic Gameplays are currently possible for us?
  • What do we own and what do we develop in-house?
  • What do we buy off-the-shelf and what do we outsource?
  • Which methodologies do we need?
  • How can we organize to accommodate continuous change?
  • What Context-specific Capabilities do our teams and our Organization need for the Products/services we are developing?

Wardley Mapping, often abbreviated as Mapping, enables collaboration for improving Strategy by helping contributors articulate, share and assess their perceptions and understanding of the Environment. This leads to a common, shared context specific language and a common, shared visualization of User Needs, Position of Components, evolution of Components (Climate) and (potential) Movement(s) and Gameplays in a Wardley Map.


A condition of very limited value in a sense beyond the physical, e.g.a poorly defended position, or, a well defended position where the organization lacks legitimate purpose and skilled leadership.

(虛) means weakness, dispersed, disorderly, empty, energy exhaustion, exhausted, fearful, few, hollow, hungry, insubstantial, unprepared, vulnerable. See also Strength and Strength — Weakness.

Wardley Map Symbols

From Wardley Maps.

Wardley Maps are obviously visual and whilst they are far from the ordinance survey Maps of geography, it’s useful to have a common lexicon of symbols.

The Art of Strategy: All Parts

Contents: A very short summary of each part
Introduction: What is strategy and why do you need it?

  1. Assessments: How to assess, prepare and shape
  2. Challenges: How to use and reduce inertia, entropy and friction
  3. Success: How to succeed together with stakeholders
  4. Setup: How to create resilience
  5. Momentum: How to use creativity, focus and timing
  6. Shaping: How to shape and avoid being shaped
  7. Engagement: How to engage using surprise
  8. Adaptations: How to adapt to shifting situations
  9. Movements: How to move to optimize momentum
  10. Landscape: How to approach difficult areas
  11. Situations: How to handle difficult situations
  12. Disruption: How to disrupt and avoid being disrupted
  13. Intelligence: How to use intelligence to create foreknowledge

Annex: Wardley Mapping Examples
Glossary: Explanation of key terms and symbols
Acknowledgements: Standing on the shoulders of giants
Sources: Where to learn more
Other reading formats: Hardcover, paperback and PDF

This is provided as Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International by the author, Erik Schön.

Wardley Mapping is provided courtesy of Simon Wardley (swardley) and licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.



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Erik Schön

From hacker, software researcher and system engineer to leader, executive and strategizer. Writer: #ArtOfLeadership #ArtOfStrategy