Terminology[ edit ] The idea of the Cynefin framework is that it offers decision-makers a "sense of place" from which to view their perceptions. Snowden uses the term to refer to the idea that we all have connections, such as tribal, religious and geographical, of which we may not be aware. Boone described the Cynefin framework in the Harvard Business Review. Kurtz and Snowden called them known, knowable, complex, and chaotic. The domains on the left, complex and chaotic, are "unordered": cause and effect can be deduced only with hindsight or not at all. This means that there are rules in place or best practice , the situation is stable, and the relationship between cause and effect is clear: if you do X, expect Y.

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The first thing you might be wondering is how the heck you pronounce Cynefin. I know that was my first question. The word is Welsh in origin and was coined by Dave Snowden in What is it for? In simplest terms, the Cynefin framework exists to help us realize that all situations are not created equal and to help us understand that different situations require different responses to successfully navigate them.

Different problems warrant different solutions How often have you seen someone try to handle a difficult situation in an overly-simplistic way and then be really confused when it failed? If so, they could really benefit from an introduction to the Cynefin framework. You only see four? Solving problems requires minimal expertise. Many issues addressed by help desks fall into this category.

They are handled via pre-written scripts. The correct approach is to sense the situation, categorize it into a known bucket, and apply a well-known, and potentially scripted, solution. Assessing the situation requires expert knowledge to determine the appropriate course of action. Given enough time, you could reasonably identify known risk and devise a relatively accurate plan.

Expertise is required, but the work is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Apply expert knowledge to assess the situation and determine a course of action. Execute the plan. Even beginning to understand the problem requires experimentation. The final solution is only apparent once discovered. In hindsight it seems obvious, but it was not apparent at the outset.

No matter how much time you spend in analysis, it is not possible to identify the risks or accurately predict the solution or effort required to solve the problem. Execute and evaluate.

As you gather more knowledge, determine your next steps. Things have gone off the rails and the immediate priority is containment. Your initial focus is to correct the problem and contain the issue. Once you have a measure of control, assess the situation and determine next steps. Take action to remediate or move your problem to another domain. Get enough info to move to a more defined domain. The boundaries of these domains are not hard. Based on activity, situations can bounce between domains or live on the borderlands between two domains.

Summary So, the framework not only tells us how to approach a set of different situations, but the characteristics also explain enough to help us recognize the situation in which we currently reside. You can have great solutions, but if they are applied in the incorrect context, they will be worthless or worse, harmful.

This can be applied to many different vectors of life experiences. More reading.


Cynefin framework

In his dual roles as an administrative executive and spokesperson for the police department, Deputy Chief Walter Gasior suddenly had to cope with several different situations at once. He had to deal with the grieving families and a frightened community, help direct the operations of an extremely busy police department, and take questions from the media, which inundated the town with reporters and film crews. All too often, managers rely on common leadership approaches that work well in one set of circumstances but fall short in others. Why do these approaches fail even when logic indicates they should prevail? The answer lies in a fundamental assumption of organizational theory and practice: that a certain level of predictability and order exists in the world.


Cynefin® framework introduction

The most effective leaders understand that problem solving is not a "one-size-fits-all" process. They know that their actions depend on the situation, and they make better decisions by adapting their approach to changing circumstances. But how do you know which approach you should use in a particular situation? And how can you avoid making the wrong decision?


A Leader's Framework for Decision Making

Mary E Boone Abstract Many executives are surprised when previously successful leadership approaches fail in new situations, but different contexts call for different kinds of responses. Before addressing a situation, leaders need to recognize which context governs it -and tailor their actions accordingly. The result is the Cynefin framework, which helps executives sort issues into five contexts: Simple contexts are characterized by stability and cause-and-effect relationships that are clear to everyone. Often, the right answer is self-evident. In this realm of "known knowns," leaders must first assess the facts of a situation -that is, "sense" it -then categorize and respond to it.

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