A different view on @swardley's Doctrine

TL;DR at the end.

You are all probably familiar with @simonduckwardley’s Doctrine introduced in chapter 18 of the mapping book.

Figure 1: The table of Doctrine rules, colors suggest the priority of introduction to an organisation.

When I first saw the four phases, I got a small impression that I missed something. It was out there, in my subconsciousness, causing me to feel slightly uncomfortable, and, in fact, this feeling got even stronger when I did my homework around mapping (finances, marketing, etc.).

Today, I think I know what bothered me, and I am sharing my thoughts with the hope of sparking a discussion (here or on Slack). I am really curious about hearing what you think.

Let’s start with Be the owner (take responsibility) which is shown to be in the Phase III, and should be introduced long after Phase I principles such as Focus on user needs are implemented. This is at least, how I read the table, and how I suspect many of you read it, too.

The challenge here is that you cannot suddenly start doing Focus on user needs. You need to transition into it that state, and that requires mandate (or at least some support) from the rest of the company, but what is most important, it also means that you have to accept that existing state of the matter is not sufficient and that it is your fault.

Suddenly, Focus on user needs appears to be depending on Be the owner, and once you assume your responsibility, you will have to think about being transparent, using common language and challenging assumptions. The latter will not work if you are not humble.

What we are seeing are clusters of best practices. The interesting thing about the cluster is that you cannot introduce the whole cluster in one go. As in the example above, it is a spiralling process - if you take responsibility at a minimal level, you will introduce fundamental transparency and some early common language. That will allow challenges to happen, and that… will require a whole level of new ownership skills, which in turn… you get it.

I see three clusters:


  • Be the owner
  • Be humble
  • Think big
  • Commit to direction
  • Be transparent (a bias towards open)
  • Common language
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Exploit the landscape

Customer focus

  • KYC
  • Focus on user needs
  • Outcome
  • Pragmatic
  • FIST
  • Small teams
  • Do better with less
  • Distribute power and decision making
  • Provide purpose, master & autonomy
  • Aptitude and attitude
  • PSTP

This one is somewhat unexpected to me. Once you learn who are your customers, what are their needs and what outcomes do you need, it all gets pragmatic. But once you get to small teams, you will have to rethink not only how are you focusing on user needs (because things have changed), but also how are you going to lead your organisation. Distributing power and decision making will not work without some Leadership in general. More, those two need to be balanced - the more power you distribute, the more transparency and the better vision you need.


  • Understand what is being considered (high situational awareness)
  • think small (details)
  • Bias towards action (learn by doing)
  • Move fast
  • bias towards new
  • There is no core
  • Listen to your ecosystems
  • Systematic learning
  • Strategy is iterative
  • Strategy is complex

I had a hard time putting those in order. To think deeply about what is being considered you need robust common language and some transparency. To just think about what is being considered you need you to have basic common language and a bit of transparency The learning within organisation seems to depend heavily on the Leadership and Customer Focus clusters.


  • manage failure
  • manage inertia
  • design for constant evolution
  • use standards
  • tools
  • flow
  • set exceptional standards
  • effectiveness over efficiency

This one shows exactly the same pattern as the two previous. To get it started at the primary level, you need fundamental leadership, but the more efficient you want to get, the more capable you have to be in other areas.


My hypothesis: Introduce Doctrine slowly starting from things that are most behind, do not use phases. Being good at ten doctrine element is better than being exceptional at 5.