cynefin framework

8 min video from 2010 – the cynefin framework – via dave snowden

cynefin (welsh): habitat or place.. the place of your multiple belongings: cultural, religious, geographic, tribal etc (with graphic of: complex, complicated, simple, chaotic in 4 quads).. many things in past which profoundly influence what you are.. only partially aware.. the complex bubble.. the complex system

complexity et al

brown belonging law et al

it’s a sense-making model (data proceeds the framework) not a categorization model (framework proceeds data.. poor for exploration)

2 min – we take the 3 basic systems: ordered, complex, chaotic.. we create a new category called disorder.. and we divide ordered into 2.. simple and complicated

in simple: cause and effect relationships exist, are predictable and are repeatable.. so decision model is sense, categorize, respond.. apply best practice

in complicated: cause and effect relationships exist but not self evident, so require expertise.. so dm is sense, analyze, respond.. or call in experts to make right decision.. apply good (in complicated.. all are legit.. so trying to force one/best will backfire) practice

decision making is unmooring us law

in complex: cause and effect are only obvious in hindsight, w unpredictable, emergent outcomes.. w/o causality.. so dm is probe, sense, respond.. conduct safe/fail experiments.. emergent order.. new way of doing things.. unique

in chaotic: no cause and effect relationships can be determined.. if we enter it deliberately it’s renovation.. but if accidentally need to stabilize it quickly.. so dm is act, sense, respond.. move very quickly to stabilize.. any practice will be completely novel in terms of way things work

5 min – gives us an easy way of deciding how to work.. but give us a divergent .. sometimes call this requisite applicability.. basically says.. dependent on which space you’re in you should think/analyze differently rather than the one size fits all which has been the tradition of management theory

why are we not letting go of management?

the center space – disorder – is key – the space of not knowing which of the domains you’re in and that’s where we are most of the time

dang.. why the chart then.. maybe we just need to let go of all that hard won order

ie: carhart-harris entropy law et al

the trouble is then.. we will interpret the situation according to our personal preference/action

danger is ..

..if spend 2-3 yrs of your life in a purely bureaucratic process (simple quad) .. then you tend to see all problems as a failure of process

..if you’re a deep expert (complicated quad) then any problem is a failure to give you enough time/resource to do analysis

..natural complexity work (complex quad) is battlefield, commanders, politicians.. their reaction to a crisis is to get *lots of people/backgrounds together in desperate hope that somebody will come up w the right solution.. that’s **actually quite a good strategy

*so why not just do *that.. to the max.. and just listen to their itch-in-the-soul first thing everyday.. let that guide the day.. imagining we won’t have any of the problems/decisions we’re trying to solve here.. surely won’t have: battlefield, commanders, politicians, .. reactions to crises et al

.. the fascists love a crisis (chaotic quad) because they can be given absolute command of everybody.. who has to do what they’re told

6 min – so what you get in a normal decisioning environ

is a decisioning environ normal?

i don’t think it’s fitting w fittingness.. with an undisturbed ecosystem

is that people are in the disordered space accessing the situation according to their preference for action

that’s too responsive.. rather than alive.. we can/need to do better.. again.. thinking human being is about decision making is unmooring us

one of the main function of the cynefin framework is to allow people to say.. hang on a minute it’s complex.. therefore we probe.. or complicated.. which experts should we bring to bear

the simple/chaotic boundary

another key aspect of the cynefin framework which is frequently missed often by people who try and over simplify it.. is the boundary between simple and chaotic is different from the other boundaries.. it’s actually rep’d in the harvard business review article as a cliff.. or in other articles as a symbolic type of wave at the bottom..

7 min – the principle here is that if you start to believe that things are simple .. you start to believe that they’re ordered.. you start to believe in your own myths.. start to believe that past success means you’re invulnerable to future failure.. you effectively move to the complacent zone which is the boundary between simple and chaotic.. and you fall over the edge in a crisis.. all the other boundaries allow for transitions.. for this.. you fall over the edge and recovery is very very expensive

it therefore follows that you should manage in the complicated and complex spaces.. and only move a very small amount of material down into the simple.. because that’s highly vulnerable to rapid/accelerated change

again.. should we be managing ?

so the cynefin framework is a decision framework.. analytical framework.. it’s been used for: decision theory; knowledge management; it design; project management; .. because it recognizes the causal differences that exist between diff types of systems and gives people a very quick/easy way to flip between them.. so they can use the *appropriate method for the appropriate demand


telling people what to do ness.. is killing us

the cynefin framework: a dm framework that recognizes the causal difference that exist between system types and proposes new approaches to dm in complex social environments’


intro’d via this tweet from dave:

If anyone out there is working within both Warm Data and Cynefin/SenseMaker fields and is interested in their ‘entanglement’ would you get in touch with either @NoraBateson or myself before Monday – thanks

Original Tweet:

cynefin framework and warm data