Shape Up Forum

Bringing together Wardley Maps with ShapeUp

Hello Everyone,
My name is Venky. I used to work as a Product Manager in an agritech startup. I am currently working with few startup clients on Product Management problems. I’ve been very much fascinated with 1) Wardley Maps and 2) Shape Up as two powerful toolkits that makes a lot of sense when placed together. Esentially, it addresses two risks which @rjs talks about in his book. i.e. 1) Risk of building the wrong product 2) Risk of not shipping on time. As Ryan makes it clear, Shape Up is very much useful in addressing the second risk. For addressing the former, I have been experimenting with Wardley Maps to facilitate dialogue on the “demand” side and get a clear understanding of the “poles” ( or boundaries) of the solution. I am curious if anyone is also thinking along these lines. I am not sure how much folks are here familiar with Wardley Maps as well.

Would love to have a dialogue on this, if there is sufficient interest to explore the intersections of Wardley Maps and Shape Up.

Hi Venky! When researching business strategies I did dive into Wardley Maps and tried to create value chains for some products I was developing at the time. The obstacles I faced:

  1. I had to make tons of assumptions about the landscape and climate, without a built-in process to validate them.

  2. The value chain IMO overly focuses on functional needs, and makes it difficult to bring in shades of context, emotion and social pressures. The maps don’t handle “it depends” scenarios very well, as they are overly static in mapping anchor flow.

  3. It was really hard to tell a story and explain to non-experts how to decipher a Wardley Map. This factor really sunk it for me. While I could use the maps in personal thought exercises, I couldn’t use them to tell an evidence-based story about the customer.

In terms of integrating Wardley Maps with ShapeUp … sure, I suppose they could mesh, but I’d be concerned about all the subjective assumptions you have to make to put a map together. Bad data in, bad data out. Also, while the maps may be good at explaining “what” the market might do, they don’t address the “why” causality for those behavior shifts.

That said, this is just my experience, and I could totally have used them wrong. You should continue to explore as it may be great for your startup’s needs. Best of luck!