A Tour around the Latest Cynefin Iteration – Part 3: Options Now Available

By Chris Corrigan and all parts originally published at chriscorrigan.com as one article

Subtitles of parts added by Enlivening Edge Magazine. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. This part is to be read after both of those.

Here is the framework:

So now you have options:

For Clear aspects, just do them. Don’t put them off either, because failing to do so will drop you into chaos. WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN FOR 20 SECONDS WITH SOAP. That’s an order. Orders work well here.

For Complicated aspects make a plan. You might be able to find someone to help you learn the technical aspects of setting up a zoom meeting. You’ll definitely find videos and technical documentation to help you do it. You can learn that skill or find someone who knows it. This is what is meant by Sense-Analyse-Respond. Do a literature search, listen to the experts, and execute.

For Complex problems, get a sense of possibilities and then try something and watch what happens. Figuring out how to be at home with your kids is pure complexity: you can get advice from others, talk about with friends and strangers, read blog posts and tweets, but the bottom line is that you need to get to work and learn as you go, engaging in a rapid iterative cycle and see if helpful patterns emerge.

    • As you learn things, document practices and principles that help guide you in making decisions. If rules are too tight, loosen them. If the kids need more structure, apply it. Finding those sweet spots requires adaptive action, and learning as you go.
    • Here we talk about Probe-Sense-Respond. Don’t worry about collecting tons of information before acting: it won’t help you past a certain point. Act on a hunch first and monitor the results as you go.

Liminal complexity means that you are choosing to enter into proximity to either Complicated or Chaos. If you apply constraints (like enforcing rules on the kids) you are moving complexity towards the ordered domains. That might work, but too much rigidity will create problems.

    • On the other hand, if your constraints are too rigid you may find yourself unwittingly creating patterns that make it hard to flow with the changing times. And so you release the constraints until you can discover something new and helpful, and then apply constraints again to help you manage in complex times.
    • An example might be adopting the assumption that you are a carrier of the virus and letting that assumption guide your behaviours. That helps you to make choices that will probably benefit you and the people around you. (And here are some heuristics to practice with if you have kids at home during the pandemic)

For chaos, you are going to need to apply constraints quickly and maintain them until the situation stabilizes. That might mean self-quarantine if you are infected and sharing a house with others. It might mean relying on emergency services to impose those constraints for you.

For confusion, think of this as the top of the fountain and as new data enters your system, add it there until it trickles into the right domain. I like to revisit things that are in this domain from time to time, because as I get to work on stuff, sometimes my confusion about other things disappears, or sometimes I find a true paradox that can never be resolved and those are delightful in themselves.

So, to conclude:

In summary:

  • Cynefin is a five (expanding to seven) domain framework. Whatever you are doing probably has aspects of all the domains at play at any given time.
  • If you need to learn something, or discover new things, loosen constraints. If you need to stabilize a situation, tighten constraints.
  • In the Ordered domains, rules, laws, and experts are helpful and should be obeyed. In the unordered domains, principles and heuristics should be adopted that are coherent with goodness, safety, and care, to guide behaviour and learn new things.
  • In chaos, stabilizing the situation is most important. Act now to restrict your actions and once things are stable, make the next move.

Be careful, be aware, be connected, learn and share as you go. None of us have been here before, so offer grace and support. Try to look at what is happening and suspend your judgment. Don’t spread information unless you know it is reliable, and help each other out.

Block quoting, bolding Featured Image, and some paragraph spacing added by Enlivening Edge Magazine. Featured Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay