To be Agile people must be willing to open their minds to truly gain the benefits. In this section we share our knowledge and tools with you to help you help others grow.
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The Cynefin framework (developed by David J. Snowden in 1999) helps people to understand that not every situation is the same and each requires a different approach to decision making. The aim of the framework is to help people think about different situations and how to respond to each one.
The framework highlights five different domains that are defined by cause-and-effect relationships for different situations. The five domains are:
Each of these domains has a specific decision-making approach with the aim to help make better sense of a situation, and choose the most appropriate way forward. Using this approach helps with the understanding that not all situations can be handled in the same way each time.
The obvious domain is simple and easy to understand, with a step by step process leading to predictable results which are clear to understand by everyone. Thinking in this space is simple, sense the problem, categorise the best business practice to apply and respond with the result.
The support desk have a call from a user who cannot remember their password to login:
Caller - I have forgotten my password to login.
Support Desk - listens and takes notes (Sense - understanding the issue).
Support Desk - Reviews the knowledge articles for instructions (Categorise -identifies best practice).
Support Desk - I can help you with this, please follow this process (Respond - give step by step guidance).
Caller - Thanks I have now reset my password and can login.
The complicated domain requires more judgment as problems in this domain might have several solutions. This aligns to good practice not best practice, meaning its knowable as it has been done many times before however it has known unknowns which requires expertise to get the correct desired result. Thinking in this space is more complicated, sense the situation, analyse the data, respond by applying the appropriate good practice.
The engine area of a car is making funny noises under the bonnet.
Owner - My car is making a funny noise.
Support Desk - Listens to the issues (Sense - assess the situation).
Support Desk - Takes the car, runs checks, opens the bonnet to check parts and discusses with other experts colleagues . (Analysis - what is known with experts).
Support Desk - Tries a number of fixes and solutions, repeats until successful.
Support Desk - Finds the issue and fixes it (Respond applying appropriate good practice).
User - Thanks my car is working again.
The complex domain is often unpredictable with no best or good practice due to unknown unknowns and anything done in this space can change the space. Probing in this areas to look for patterns and sensing using experiments to help a solution to emerge.
Karl is playing a game of poker with friends.
Watching other players body movements as they play (Probe - look for patterns).
Calls a player he thinks is bluffing when they make a certain body movement to see if its true. (Sense - Run Experiments).
Reviews the result and decides to probe further with other players (Respond - to a result form an experiment and see if you need to probe further).
Karl get some results with the patterns he has found but as poker can largely be luck its an unpredictable situation.
The chaotic domain has no order, knowledge is less important and decisions have to be made quickly. People come together to act quickly to establish order and stability to move out of chaos and into the complex domain.
A decease is killing people all around the world (COVID).
Prime Minister - Lock people in their homes, make people wear masks - (Act - Address the most pressing issue, don't spread the decease).
Prime Minister - who is the most vulnerable and who isn't. What are the most vulnerable ages groups (Sense - where these is stability and where there isn't).
Prime Minister - Establish a jab rollover plan to vaccinate people (Respond - to move from chaos to complexity).
*note many best and good practice emerge from the chaotic domain.
This is the hardest domain to identify, if you cannot relate your situation to one of the above domains you are in disorder. Stop and gather more information to help you move to one of the 4 domains above to take the correct action.
We have created an example for you to download and use when facilitating the session.
All we ask is that you please provide feedback to us on how your session went and if we can improve this to help others.
How does Cynefin help me at work?
Understanding which domain any situation is in can help you think about it better and help to move it to a better domain to deal with.
A user phones up the support desk (they are in chaos as nothing is working), the desk take the call and have no details to answer it, they are in chaos. It goes to second tier support, a developer says I introduced a change it will be that – in obvious. Change is fixed but the problem still exists, back to chaos. Back to tier 2, into complex. Eventually they work out the problem and create steps to resolve it for the future, into complicated. If an end user gets this again its complicated to fix but fixable.
Lego Cynefin game (This is game was design by Aigile42.com who hold the licence to the game and allow anyone to use it for free)
This is a fun exercise using Lego to understand how people work in each of the domain. Please see the slide view below for more detail or download the PDF document.
Session takes 45 minutes to complete.
Be able to identify problems and the domain.