Better than a transformation plan, a (battle) map

During my work with a previous Canadian customer, I was confronted with a new challenge. Although the audit of the organization I conducted was well received and the weaknesses identified were shared and accepted, the plan in order to improve the problems observed was put to the test and each action questioned. And I found myself more and more in discussions during which each one exposed a personal opinion and thought to be right.

– Manager: Why would you start with that?
– Me: This seems to me the more pressing matter to solve, according to my observations.
– Manager: No, I think this “other intervention” is more judicious.

Who’s got the best opinion? Impossible to say. Until then, the expert status I was tacitly granted when I was hired, prevented me from falling for this kind of mistake. But no longer was it enough this time.  Like any coach in search of alignment, I immediately thought about resorting to Visual Management. And yet, posting a « roadmap » wouldn’t have got me out of trouble.  Even co-constructing it would have just made us focus the whole discussion on the best opinion within a quite inefficient workshop. I needed something else, and that’s why I decided to build a battle map of transformation. This one will allow placing the forces involved along with their states and help to decide which movement is the most relevant to achieve our goal.

In the rest of the article, we’ll try to demonstrate why this map is better than any plan (I do my best about puns) by detailing how it works. Another article will be later dedicated to tips for building it effectively. Right now, just keep in mind that this map is all the more useful since it is shared, and therefore, that it should ideally be co-constructed.

Each battle must mean something

If we need to make a battle map, we’d better know what we’re fighting for. Indeed, this helps us chose better where to put intensity and where to keep up our strengths.
It’s simply a matter of making explicit the purpose of our transformation.
Which, in my example, is:

Deliver faster the elements of a product we want to keep living in the long term.

Each map must have a reference

referencegoalOn a traditional map, it is the north that serves as a reference and orients everything that is represented.
In our case is it a little different, as someone will be the key witness to our progress (towards the goal of our transformation). This person is often a sponsor or a customer, but not always. If you’ve already used some of the techniques from the Grimoire to carry out an audit of the organization, then you should have an idea of who this reference is, since it is part of the questions you need to ask your representative in this tool.

You can choose to represent your reference by stating the purpose of your transformation on the map.

Each map must have a representation of space

map-axisNow that we do have a reference for our card, we are going to be able to get a real spatial representation of our transformation. To do this, let’s draw two perpendicular axes.

  • On the vertical axis, we shall represent the distance to our reference, the key witness to our transformation. The more an object is visible to this person, the higher it will be mapped.
  • On the horizontal axis, we shall represent the degree of control we have for each element displayed. For this, we’ll use the following categories: « to try », « new practice », « emerging practice », « good practice », « integral part of the culture of the team ».
    The more a practice is under control within your organization, the further on the right it will be.

Note, therefore, how important the choice of the reference is. Two maps with the same elements can look totally different with a simple reference change. What is very visible to a manager in your organization is probably quite different from what one of your customers accesses.
Sometimes the choice of the reference even completely changes the content of the map by leading us to totally different choices, as on the opposite illustration. This one allows comparing two maps that deal with the same transformation (same purpose, same organization) but with the use of different people as a reference point.


Each battle map must include the forces involved

Let’s place three types of objects on our map: practices, actors and themes.

  • The practices are the habits, attitudes, and tools, already existing or to be acquired, that you consider useful for carrying out the goal of your transformation. They are the troops on your battle map.
    These elements you shall place on the map according to their « distances to your reference » and to the corresponding degree of mastery within the organization involved in the map.
    Then you can draw some links between the practices if you wish. These links can represent a dependency, a logical connection, and so on.
  • 20180727_123532The actors are the roles which are impacted if we start or change the characteristics we called « practices » just above. You shall draw actors near each practice displayed on the map.
    Be careful to use only roles you can act on. If you have practices whose every actor is out of your scope, out of your reach, it is useless, even counter-productive, to have it displayed.
  • The themes are optional but allow grouping your practices so that they become a bit more readable. They’re like the weapons for your troops (infantry, air force, etc.). You may use a color code for each theme for example.


Each battle map must include troop movements

map-movesYou can show on the map the current movements: the practices on which actions are in progress and the direction in which they are thought to be moving. You can also make visible the future movements you are considering. Note that the movements are not only from the left to the right but can also be done horizontally (or both, of course) if you wish to act on the visibility of a practice.

Note that, in our example, we decided to limit ourselves to one ongoing action by theme.

How to use the map?

battle-map2The map obviously allows to establish a transformation strategy and to prioritize your actions of coaching and improvement of the organization. Except in the case of dependencies, top priorities are certainly at the top left on your map. Also, the map should help you define the contents of your next trainings, as the formation topics are probably to pick from (the last elements of a chain of dependence in) the two columns on the left. Something to help you in the dance of the postures that the specialized agile guides need to master.
Moreover, if you happen to be yourself one of these guides (whether they call you coach, Scrum Master, RTE or other), the map shall allow you to establish the bases for your mission:

  • You can make your audit report more visual and impacting, and your recommendations more accessible
  • You can make clear and easily share your mandate: the purpose assigned to you and that should be the one displayed on the map, along with the powers given to you in order to achieve it and that should correspond with the practices on the map
  • You can make clear and easily share the coaching scope on which you have the possibility to act. On your map, it’s the different actors involved. The map represents a valuable asset when you’ve got to decide to share out the scopes between several coaches or in order to highlight everything out of your reach
  • You can use the map to make clear the ongoing transformation actions and show up the progress of the organization. This can turn out to be very useful for your scheduled reviews with your representative
  • You can use it to define a state of the organization that you consider as a « target » and would, therefore, be the goal of your coaching assignment. Thus, you will be able to get an estimate of the progress of your transformation.
  • The themes can also help you define the major transformation projects. By combining this notion with the one of advancement, you get a powerful tool for promoting transformation among managers following it from afar.


This transformation battle map is inspired by Simon Wardley’s work. He worked out a visualization system of a company, bearing the military maps in mind as well as the ideas Sun Tzu developed in The Art of War. Such a representation helps him make the best strategical decisions for his own business. While waiting for his book to be published, you can track the progress of its writing here.

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