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A sense-making framework for organisations that focuses on the degree to which you can understand, predict and control a situation. 

It brings together the concepts of Complexity and Chaos (disordered) and Simple and Complicated (ordered) as four quadrants of a handy 2×2 grid. 

Where Cynefin comes into its own is that it helps you gain awareness of which of the 4 sectors you are operating in. This gives you protocol as to what you should do next. 

Simple situations require little novel management. You know everything you need to know – so you deploy best practice and move on. 

Complicated situations are ones where you can still be confident that someone will have an answer, everything is ultimately knowable. You hire an expert who will draw on a range of good practice.

Complex situations are those where you can understand what is going on but have no reliable way to predict the outcome. You use safe-to-fail experiments and remain agile. 

Chaotic situations are times when it’s very hard to even identify what you need to know to move forward. Decisive leadership is needed to try to move into other spaces where better decisions may be possible.  

I’ve written more about using Cynefin to support Decision-making in Times of Uncertainty.

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