Wardley’s Doctrine

In this short series of short articles we’ve focused on how to develop high-Adaptivity Intelligence (AQ) in your organisation— so it’s able to respond to change quicker and more effectively than rivals. The first step is to use maps. Once you have maps you can start adopting universally useful habits and skills — principles — that AQ is built on (see picture). Let’s take a look at another of these principles — having a ‘bias towards openness’.

If you want to learn about what’s really going on inside your organisation and in the wider environment outside your windows you need…


This is a draft from a forthcoming book ‘Out-Think, Out-Move: Real-Time Strategy & Execution in an Uncertain World’. It focuses on business in Russia but the insights should be applicable to a much wider audience. Feedback and comments are welcome (marcus@powermaps.net). Earlier sections are here:

  1. Forget Strategic Plans!
  2. Adapt or Die
  3. Pal’chinskii’s Principles

Pal’chinskii’s first principle was:

Increase your chances of success by seeking out and experimenting with a variety of new ideas.

A few decades later W. Ross Ashby, a leading British scientist, echoed this in “An Introduction to Cybernetics” (1956) — the science of communication and control in…


There’s a story from the second world war about Winston Churchill inspecting an artillery unit’s firing drill. He was impressed with the speed with which the four-man team loaded, aimed and fired a large gun hitched to the back of a truck.

But he questioned what a fifth man standing off to the side, uninvolved in proceedings, was there for. “That’s fifth man, sir” the officer replied but could add little more. “Fifth man has always been there, sir” he explained.

That evening the insatiably curious Churchill took a book from his library on the Crimean war where this artillery…


This is a draft from a forthcoming book ‘Out-Think, Out-Move: Real-Time Strategy & Execution in an Uncertain World’. It focuses on business in Russia but the insights should be applicable to a much wider audience. Feedback and comments are welcome (marcus@powermaps.net). Earlier sections are here:

  1. Forget Strategic Plans!
  2. Adapt or Die

Russia is, of course, no stranger to systemic collapse. Its extreme experiences may explain the tendency of its people to avoid uncertainty and cling to the predictable. Yet, as the short 21st century has shown, uncertainty is a “fundamental and irresolvable characteristic of our lives”. Better instead then to…


Click here for the video

In any organisation many different types of people have to work together — sales, marketing, finance, IT operations, HR — and they need to understand each other if they’re to work effectively together. A common language therefore is critical to effective cross-silo collaboration. But silos use different tools to communicate (e.g. business process diagrams in operations, excel spreadsheets in finance) which leads to translation errors and misalignment as these tools can seem like foreign languages to those from other silos.

This is why companies value people skilled in multiple areas who act as translators (the rare “IT person who gets…


This is a draft from a forthcoming book ‘Out-Think, Out-Move: Real-Time Strategy & Execution in an Uncertain World’. Feedback and comments are welcome (marcus@powermaps.net). Earlier sections can be found here:

  1. Forget Strategic Plans!

2020 would have come as a nasty shock to anyone who thought the world was a predictable place. Yet anyone who thought the world was a predicable place hadn’t been paying attention. In the very short 21st century alone planes have appeared out of a clear blue sky and sparked a series of wars globally; defaults on loans on the west coast of America have triggered a…


Wardley’s Doctrine

During the Korean War US pilots shot down their Korean and Chinese counterparts at a 10:1 ratio despite flying the F-86, an aircraft technically inferior to their rivals’ Soviet-made Mig-15. While the quality of pilot training contributed to this combat advantage it couldn’t account for the size of the ratio as both sides had elite pilots. Eventually the secret was discovered: the bubble canopy of the F-86 provided a distinct advantage to the US pilot over the constrained view offered by the Mig-15 canopy in detecting enemy aircraft”.⁠ …


An article in the MIT Sloan, Management Review in 2017 (source) argued that “there are few management skills more powerful than the discipline of clearly articulating the problem you seek to solve before jumping into action”. They argue that defining the problem clearly was “the most underrated skill in management” and it’s also the hardest to master.

I started work with a client who complained about a problem they had with a core product: it had excessive costs (therefore low margins) and they disagreed about what to do next (which lead to endless meetings where they re-hashed the same old…


In autumn 2020 I had a meeting with executives from a leading retailer at their Moscow office. As I waited I studied the company’s strategy which, unusually, was printed on three large sheets of paper and pinned to the wall in their conference room. Here was the company’s vision, mission and values, key performance indicators (KPIs) for different business lines and a detailed GANTT chart detailing deadlines for delivery of various projects. At the bottom of each sheet of paper was the logo of the expensive management consulting firm that had created it.

The executives arrived, introduced themselves and sat…


Wardley’s Doctrine: 40 universally-useful principles for increasing an organisation’s Adaptivity Intelligence (AQ)

Executives often complain that they have the right strategy but lack the right people or organsiational culture to execute it. While it’s easier (and cheaper) to change your strategy than change your people many organisations could certainly benefit from becoming better executors than they are today. This is why ‘transformation’ programs are so popular in businesses today.

However, many ‘transformation’ programs are little more than re-arranging deck-chairs on the Titanic: it looks pretty but ultimately doesn’t tackle the real challenge your ship faces. …

Marcus Guest

Govern the state by being straight-forward; wage war by being crafty. — Laozi

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