The Cynefin Framework
Are you able to approach every situation that you face in the same manner? Of course not. Some problems require complex solutions, while others can be handled with the most basic of steps. Often, the problems that you face in business will fall somewhere between those two extremes. No matter what the problems look like that you are facing in your organization today, the Cynefin Framework can help you work toward a satisfactory conclusion.
Rather than provide you with a problem solving plan as is the case with other tools, the Cynefin Framework instead helps you figure out how you should be thinking about a problem in the first place. In many ways, this framework is a level ‘above’ other problem solving processes. You could theoretically use the Cynefin Framework to figure out how you should be dealing with a problem, and then you could move into another problem solving method if you so choose to get down to the business of finding a solution.
The core of this framework is the way that it breaks down problems into one of five contexts. The idea is to place the problem that you are facing into one of these specific contexts, which will then help you decide how that problem needs to be approached. These five contexts, along with information related to each, are listed below.
The name speaks for itself in this first context, where the problems are basically self-explanatory and the cause and effect relationships that you need to uncover are right there for you to see. This is the content that most business owners and managers would like to see their problems fall into, as it is going to take the least amount of work to solve problems in this portion of the framework. Many times, you will have a ‘go-to’ solution for problems in this category, since you will have likely solved similar problems previously.
One point that needs to be made with regard to the Obvious Context is the fact that you will need to be careful to take these kinds of problems for granted. Since the solution is relatively simple and straightforward, it is easy to get lulled to sleep when this kind of issue comes up. It is still important to carefully analyze what is going on in order to make a smart decision. While these problems might not be complicated or hard to fix, they are still important in the long run.
Complicated problems are no stranger to organizations of all shapes and sizes, and these are problems that are usually fixed by experts in the specific field in question. For instance, if you have a technical problem with your website, it is most likely that the solution is going to come from someone within your IT team. Even if you have plenty of experienced managers and decision makers outside of IT, those individuals will not usually have the knowledge of the subject at hand that is necessary to make a smart move.
However, it would be a mistake to totally disregard the rest of your team in favor of leaning on an expert in this situation. Instead, the best approach is frequently to use a team of people – including the experts – who can come together in order to find a solution. When you fold in experts to a team of other problem solvers, you get the best of both worlds. The experts bring the technical knowledge necessary, and the others offer an objective opinion on how the problem should be resolved.
Complex might seem like the same thing as complicated, but these are actually two very different areas. When you move into the Complex Context part of the framework, you are dealing with problems that might not have a clear solution at the present time. You don’t necessarily need an expert in order to solve this problem – you may just need more time and information. Often, these problems need to be monitored for a period of time until a decisive course of action can be taken.
Again in this case, assembling a team is going to work to your advantage. With a team of talented people working on the issue, you should be able to address the problem as soon as a solution starts to emerge from the confusion.
Speaking of confusion, it is usually confusion that reigns when you are dealing in the Chaotic Context. Problems that find themselves in this part of the framework have no obvious connection between cause and effect, and you might not have time to work through the information thoroughly in order to find a good solution.
When a chaotic problem arises, you will likely need to take quick action to prevent any further damage from being done. Once action has been taken and the problem has been mitigated as thoroughly as possible, you can then work toward removing the chaos and gaining a better understanding of what is going on.
The last group of problems within the Cynefin Framework are in the category of Disorder. One of the challenges that is associated with this part of the system is the fact that you might not even know when you are at this point. It might not even be clear what the problem is, or if there is even a problem in the first place. Therefore, it is the gathering of information that should be prioritized when disorder is taking hold.
Get more information about the problem or problems that you are facing, and you should then be able to move those problems into one of the other four areas of the framework.
Using the Cynefin Framework is often a great way to get started on the process of problem solving. This process isn’t going to solve your problems all the way from start to finish – instead, it is going to help you get moving in the right direction. Once you identify where in this framework your problems are found, you can then start to solve them using a variety of other means and methods.
You can read more about the Cynefin Framework in our free eBook ‘Top 5 Problem Solving Tools’. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.
- The Cynefin Framework helps you figure out how you should be thinking about a problem rather than providing a method for solving it.
- The core of this framework is the way that it breaks down problems into one of five contexts.
- The idea is to place the problem that you are facing into one of these specific contexts, which will then help you decide how that problem needs to be approached.
- The five contexts are: Obvious, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic and Disorder.
- Obvious: Are self-explanatory and the cause and effect relationships that you need to uncover are right there for you to see.
- Complicated: Are those that are usually best left to experts in the specific field in question.
- Complex: Might not have a clear solution at the present time. You don’t necessarily need an expert in order to solve this problem, you may just need more time and information.
- Chaotic: There is no obvious connection between cause and effect. Once action has been taken and the problem has been mitigated as thoroughly as possible, you can then work toward removing the chaos and gaining a better understanding of what is going on.
- Disorder: The state of not knowing what type of causality exists, in which state people will revert to their own comfort zone in making a decision.
- Once you identify where in this framework your problems are found, you can then start to solve them using a variety of other means and methods.