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How to Use Cynefin Framework for Delivery Approach

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Agile has started transforming various businesses across the industry which is a critical role to play. But many times people question, do we need to be agile? The question they ask is not for agile but for the tools they use. The tool or framework we use in one project must not be applicable for others which can create some disturbance and not make work as easy and quick as required. So for every project, it becomes a necessity to choose the right delivery approach to fulfill the customer demand and effective solution in a timeline and budget. At such times, the question should be, is using Scrum as an agile approach right for the project?

In our previous articles, we have discussed many times that agile is not a methodology. As we know agile is a mindset and the frameworks used in it are tools to achieve our goal, it’s always wise to change the tool and not the goal. Like while driving through the road if a tree falls we change our route and not our destination.

“Single key cannot open every lock.”

Here, agile is a set of master keys so we must be sure which key of the set should be used for our lock. We must make sure which framework to be used for our problem. In this article, we will explain how the appropriate delivery approach can be achieved with help of the Cynefin framework for a specific use case.

Cynefin Framework

Even though Cynefin is developed to better understand the enabling connectivity within informal networks and systems as the formal network and systems. But it’s often used as a categorizer for problems, situations, and systems. Cynefin states that the problem which may be an individual's perception or a problem a software product could solve will come in any of the below four domains.


1. Chaotic

It’s a state of confusion. Where no person can clarify the situations. It can be defined as unknowable unknowns. In a chaotic situation, the main constrain is always about time. In this situation, the wise steps are

  • Act- As time is the main constrain we must act in this situation first to stabilize the situation. Try to make the situation calmer.

  • Sense- Then once the situation gets calm, try to sense the result of action whether it will be a success or failure.

  • Respond- Once we got a clear idea then respond to the situation. We must be sure to respond only when we are sure about our next step.

2. Complex

When the chaotic scenario is handled it leads us into a complex scenario. It can be defined as the unknown- unknowns situations. This is a situation of uncertainty where we are not sure what is needed and how to get to the point. But here we have time to probe the unknowns and figure out the condition you have to deal with. Steps to be used in this domain are

  • Probe- In this experiment or investigation the situation you are in.

  • Sense- Once you are clear with the situation move towards sensing its success and failure. This can be done by collecting feedback.

  • Respond- Once you are sure about the steps taken or the feedback achieved then respond regarding increasing or decreasing the action previously taken for experimenting. This is the situation that provides us with the most knowledge about the situation we are in.

3. Complicated

Complex domain once cleared we come into complicated domains. It can be defined as knowns- unknowns. In this, the challenge is solutions for the known question or situations. In this situation, we need to consult the experts or respective areas and try to find out the solution. Its step includes

  • Sense- Sense what’s involved in the situation.

  • Analyze- Analyze the situation with the expert’s knowledge.

  • Respond- Once analyzed and got various solutions to respond by using appropriate solutions among all the collected solutions.

4. Clear

Once cleared the entire three domains we come into a clear one. It can also be defined as known- knowns. The steps involved

  • Sense- Observe and sense the situation going on.

  • Categorize- Then further distribute it in predetermined categories.

  • Respond- For best results use the best practices or situations discussed. Better to use the previously used and resulting techniques.

Going with this, you will be able to provide faster and more exact approaches required. But Cynefin also mentions about fifth disorder domain. It is when we are unsure of the other four domains. It is harmful to be in this state for longer so it’s always better to get an idea about our domains and act accordingly. But as we know to see an opportunity we must be open to all thoughts is the must requirement.

About Advance Agility

We, at Advance Agility, are the new-age Agile Coaching, Consulting and IT services company. We enable end-to-end Digital Transformation. Agile execution is integral to our being. We are doing SAFe implementation with small, medium and large organization across the globe. Our vision is to be the leading Agile execution player globally. To keep adding value at every process stage. We are on a mission to empower our clients, move from concept to cash in the shortest sustainable lead time by adopting human centric approach to business agility. Embracing the change is in our DNA. Things that keep us apart are Quicker and Seamless execution with End-to-end gamut of services. Our Global presence and Stellar Track Record give us an edge over our competitor.

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