(pronounced kun-ev'in) is the name of a decision making framework
which has been used in knowledge management
as well as other applications including conflict resolution. Its use in the context of leadership was the cover feature in the Harvard Business Review
in November 2007.
The framework has five domains, characterised by the relationship between cause and effect. The first four domains are:
- Simple, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious to all, the approach is to Sense - Categorise - Respond and we can apply best practice.
- Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense - Analyze - Respond and we can apply good practice.
- Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe - Sense - Respond and we can sense emergent practice.
- Chaotic, in which there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level, the approach is to Act - Sense - Respond and we can discover novel practice.
The fifth domain is Disorder, which is 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. In full use, the Cynefin framework has sub-domains, and the boundary between simple and chaotic is seen as a catastrophic one: complacency leads to failure.
The Cynefin framework was originally developed by Dave Snowden and co-workers when employed by IBM in its Institute of Knowledge Management.
The Welsh connection
The name Cynefin
is a Welsh
word which is commonly translated into English as 'habitat' or 'place', although that fails to convey the full meaning. A fuller translation would be that it conveys the sense that we all have multiple pasts of which we are only partly aware: cultural, religious, geographic, tribal etc. The multiple elements of this definition and the inherent uncertainty implied were the reasons for the selection of the name.
The name seeks to remind us that all human interactions are strongly influenced and frequently determined by our experiences, both through the direct influence of personal experience, and through collective experience, such as stories or music.
Use of the framework
Other than use by the original author the framework has been used in published articles to, among other things explain the role of religion in George W. Bush
's White House
, the nature of response to bioterrorism
and aspects of measurement in the British National Health Service
The Cynefin framework and related open source methods are in extensive use by a large and growing group of practitioners worldwide, BT, IBM, Oracle Corporation and Microsoft being the best-known examples.
- Lazaroff, M & Snowden, D “Anticipatory modes for Counter Terrorism” in Popp, R & Yen, J Emergent Information Technologies and Enabling Policies for Counter-Terrorism Wiley-IEEE Press 2006
- Mark, A & Snowden, D (2004) “Researching practice or practising research - innovating methods in healthcare the contribution of Cynefin” Presented paper at the Organisational Behaviour in Health Care Conference on the theme of Innovation held by the Centre for Health and Policy Studies (CHAPS) University of Calgary at the Banff Centre Alberta Canada
- Snowden, D (2000) "Cynefin: a sense of time and space, the social ecology of knowledge management", in Despres, C and Chauvel, D (Eds), Knowledge Horizons: The Present and the Promise of Knowledge Management, Butterworth-Heinemann: Oxford
- Simon French and Carmen Niculae," Believe in the Model: Mishandle the Emergency", Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 2, no. 1 (2005).
- Bellavita, Christopher, "Shape Patterns, Not Programs" HOMELAND SECURITY AFFAIRS, VOL. II, NO. 3 (OCTOBER 2006) (http://www.hsaj.org)
- Snowden, D & Boone, M "A Leader's Framework for Decision Making" Harvard Business Review November 2007
, Dave Snowden's consultancy