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The Cynefin framework Essay


The Next framework we chose to look at is the “Cun nev in” Frame work!! The Cynefin framework was originally developed in 1999 in the context of knowledge management and organisational strategy by Dave Snowden. Cynefin mean the place of multiple belongings. This frame work allows people to see decision making from a different view point, assimilating complex concepts and addressing real work issues. Using this framework allows leader to define and analyse there own business problems and scenarios for the future, increasing communication throughout the business and rapidly enhancing there ability to respond to real work problems.

The Cynefin model is a sense making model rather than a categorisation model like the ……. which nikki reviewed. The difference here is key, a categorisation model is a classic 2 by 2 model which we see often and in these models the framework proceeds the data. As a result of this we will be able to drop the data very fast into the appropriate boxes, however we wont be able to see little differences until it is too late.. So this is why i decided to use this framework as a categorisation model is good for quick exploitation of the data but extremely poor in times of change. Whereas a sense making model we see the data proceeding the framework as the framework emerges from the data with is often required in making decisions, embracing the theory that one size does not fit all.

All too often, managers rely on common leadership approaches that work well in one set of circumstances but fall short in others. So….. the question we have to ask is 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.


So we can now look at the breakdown of the frame work…. The framework sorts the issues facing leaders into five contexts defined by the nature of the relationship between cause and effect. The Main four are —simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic , These require leaders to diagnose situations and to act in contextually appropriate ways. The fifth—disorder—applies when it is unclear which of the other four contexts is predominant.

– For simple systems the relationship between cause and effect exists and is predictable. The decision making model is therefore Sense, Categorize, Respond and we tend to apply best practice. – For Example when applying this framework at the company i work this was a routine mundane task such as approving an employees annual leave. – In complicated systems the relationship between cause and effect exists but is not self evident. Our decision making model is thus Sense, Analyze, Respond and we apply Good Practice. This is because we might need to employ expert advice and there may be several possibilities open to us not a single correct course of action. For Example we have had to recently recruit an expert in excel after attempting to complete complicated tasks using our own basic knowledge of the system with limited success.

– In complex systems the relationship between cause and effect is only obvious with hindsight. The way forward is to conduct a series of experiments, to probe our system. Depending on their success or failure we will probe further and we will then develop emergent practice. We can see this in my company when recently reviewing our frameworks and making them liner. We have therefore reduced the time taken to complete a task however without putting this into general practise we can not see whether these changes will be positive or negative. – Chaotic systems are usually where we wish to be when we are innovating.

There is no relationship between cause and effect. We are normally in control of these systems but such a system can be entered accidentally and we need to know how to tackle such an issue. Because we must act quickly in this unstable state our decision making model is Act, Sense, Respond. A notable example of this framework in action is the 911 Terrorist attacks… Rudy Guiliani and his handling of the horrible events. Without ever having to deal with such events Rudy Guilani had to act quickly and try and stabilise the situation. Thus Acting first!

The fifth—disorder—applies when it is unclear which domain we belong to. The theory states is that, depending on which type of system we are in we should think and make decisions in different ways. One size does not fit all and it should be obvious that such an approach is disastrous. Often we start off in the central ‘disorder’ region i.e. not actually knowing which state we are in. This often means we do not conduct any form of analysis and will act according to personal experience and preference.

The framework also suggests that we can move around between states. This is true as boundaries are mostly smooth transitions except for the Simple/Chaos boundary. People working in simple (often bureaucratic) systems can become complacent and when their world becomes chaotic they suffer a rough ride as they change states. This transition has been likened to falling off a cliff.



Other Notable example. – The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has applied the framework to counterterrorism. – is currently a key component of Singapore’s Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning program. – assisting a Canadian provincial government in its efforts to engage employees in policy making PB Example

Positive: Anything that gets us out of thinking that everything is a collection of simple systems and we just have to figure out how they are put together is basically a good idea at this stage however a Negative is that There are many systems that try it and get right back into the same paradoxes because they haven’t really escaped. Its like putting new paint on an old car (and its surprising how much better an old car seems to run after being cleaned up, but it is basically the same.

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