NOTE: CYNEFIN Framework is to be pronounced as kuh-NEV-in
Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)
- Effectiveness of decision-making and problem-solving.
Corresponding explanation is as follows:
- The main dependent construct/factor when using the Cynefin Framework in the context of Information Systems would be the effectiveness of decision-making and problem-solving. The framework is designed to help individuals and organizations make sense of complex and uncertain situations and to tailor their approach to decision-making based on the nature of the problem at hand.
- In the context of Information Systems, effective decision-making and problem-solving can have a significant impact on an organization's ability to manage its technology infrastructure, maintain data security, and adapt to changing technology trends. By using the Cynefin Framework, organizations can improve their ability to navigate complex and uncertain situations, identify potential solutions, and make informed decisions that support their overall goals and objectives.
- Therefore, the effectiveness of decision-making and problem-solving would be the main dependent construct/factor when using the Cynefin Framework in the context of Information Systems.
Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)
- Nature of the problem or situation being addressed.
Corresponding explanation is as follows:
- The main independent construct/factor when using the Cynefin Framework in the context of Information Systems would be the nature of the problem or situation being addressed. The Cynefin Framework is designed to help individuals and organizations make sense of complex and uncertain situations by categorizing them into one of five domains: Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic, and Disorder.
- The nature of the problem or situation being addressed determines which domain it falls into and therefore how it should be approached. For example, a technical issue that has a clear cause-and-effect relationship and a straightforward solution would fall into the Simple domain, while a cybersecurity threat that is unpredictable and has multiple possible outcomes would fall into the Complex domain.
- Therefore, the nature of the problem or situation being addressed is the main independent construct/factor when using the Cynefin Framework in the context of Information Systems.
Concise description of theory
The Cynefin Framework was created in 1999 by Dave Snowden when he worked for IBM Global Services. Cynefin framework is a decision-making approach which draws its strength from:
- Systems theory: is a multidisciplinary field that studies how systems interact with their environment and with other systems
- Complexity theory: is a branch of systems theory that focuses on how complex systems emerge from simple interactions among agents
- Network theory: is a mathematical field that analyses how networks are structured and function
- Learning theory: this theory could be any about one or more psychological theories that explain how humans acquire and process knowledge. The primary five categories in learning from which any learning theory is drawn upon are: Cognitive Learning, Behaviorism Learning, Constructivism Learning, Humanism Learning, Connectivism Learning
Above four theories (system, complexity, network, learning theory) help explain how systems behave and evolve under different conditions of order and disorder.
The Cynefin framework uses these theories to categorize situations into different domains based on their level of complexity and predictability.
Each domain has different implications for decision-making and problem-solving.
The phrase "one-size-fits-all" is well known adage among ‘problem solving’ circles in any industry. And most effective leaders understand that their actions are influenced by the prevailing situation. However, the actual challenge is in knowing, which approach should one use in a given situation? And are there any professional tips to avoid making the wrong decision?
Cynefin (pronounced as kuh-NEV-in) is a Welsh word meaning habitat, haunt, acquainted, familiar. Cynefin framework has been described as a "sense-making device". So, the idea of the Cynefin framework is that, it offers decision-makers a "sense of place" from which the leaders can view their perceptions. The Cynefin Framework consists of five domains:
- Clear (earlier term used was ‘Simple’, until it got changed)
‘Information Systems’ context
The Cynefin Framework is a decision-making model that helps individuals and organizations make sense of complex and uncertain situations. In the context of information systems, the framework can be used to understand the nature of the problems faced by organizations in managing information and technology.
- Clear/Simple: This domain is characterized by clear cause-and-effect relationships, and the solution is obvious and straightforward. In the context of information systems, examples might include routine IT maintenance or troubleshooting basic hardware or software issues.
- Complicated: This domain is characterized by a high level of expertise required to understand the problem and identify potential solutions. In the context of information systems, examples might include diagnosing and fixing more complex technical issues or designing and implementing a new software system.
- Complex: This domain is characterized by a lack of clear cause-and-effect relationships and unpredictable outcomes. In the context of information systems, examples might include addressing cybersecurity threats, managing large-scale data migrations, or adapting to rapidly changing technology trends.
- Chaotic: This domain is characterized by complete disorder and unpredictability. In the context of information systems, examples might include responding to a major system outage or cybersecurity breach.
- Disorder: This domain represents a state of uncertainty where it is unclear which of the other domains the problem belongs to. In the context of information systems, examples might include situations where the organization is facing a new and unfamiliar problem or where there is disagreement among stakeholders about the nature of the problem.
By understanding which domain, a problem falls into, IS organizations can tailor their approach to decision-making and problem-solving. For example, in the Simple domain, an organization might use standard operating procedures or checklists to address the issue, whereas in the Complex domain, it might use experimentation and iterative problem-solving to explore potential solutions. The Cynefin Framework can therefore help organizations to navigate the challenges of managing information systems in an increasingly complex and unpredictable environment.
Diagram/schematic of theory
- Figure 1: Cynefin Framework (Source: Wikipedia)
- Image credits: By Tom@thomasbcox.com - Own work - a re-drawing of the prior artwork found here (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cynefin_as_of_1st_June_2014.png) that incorporates more recent changes, such as renaming "Simple" to "Clear"., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=123271932
It was developed and published in the Harvard Business Review in 2007 by:
- David J. Snowden
- Mary e. Boone
- Snowden, D. (2005), "Strategy in the context of uncertainty", Handbook of Business Strategy, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 47-54. https://doi.org/10.1108/08944310510556955
- Snowden, D. J., & Boone, M. E. (2007). A leader’s framework for decision making. Harvard business review, 85(11), 68. Link to original HBR article: https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making
- Erik Puik, Darek Ceglarek, (2015), The Quality of a Design will not Exceed the Knowledge of its Designer; an Analysis Based on Axiomatic Information and the Cynefin Framework, Procedia CIRP, Volume 34, Pages 19-24, ISSN 2212-8271, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procir.2015.07.040
Strategy – Leadership Decision Making
Level of analysis
Group or System
Links from this theory to other theories
As explained in the earlier section, this framework derives its amalgamated strengths from below frameworks:
- Systems Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory
- Complexity Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity_theory_and_organizations
- Network Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_theory
- Learning Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_theory_(education)
Key References Outside IS Research Area
- Elford, W. (2012). A multi-ontology view of ergonomics: applying the Cynefin Framework to improve theory and practice. Work, 41, 812–817. https://doi.org/10.3233/wor-2012-0246-812
- VAN BEURDEN, E. K., KIA, A. M., ZASK, A., DIETRICH, U., & ROSE, L. (2013). Making sense in a complex landscape: how the Cynefin Framework from Complex Adaptive Systems Theory can inform health promotion practice. Health Promotion International, 28(1), 73–83. https://doi.org/10.2307/45153410
- Childs, S. and McLeod, J. (2013), Tackling the wicked problem of ERM: using the Cynefin framework as a lens, Records Management Journal, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 191-227. https://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-07-2013-0016
- French, S. (2013). Cynefin, statistics and decision analysis. The Journal of the Operational Research Society, 64(4), 547–561. https://doi.org/10.1057/jors.2012.2
- French, S. (2015). Cynefin: uncertainty, small worlds and scenarios. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 66(10), 1635–1645. https://doi.org/10.1057/jors.2015.21
- Walker, D. H. T., Davis, P. R., & Stevenson, A. (2017). Coping with uncertainty and ambiguity through team collaboration in infrastructure projects. International Journal of Project Management, 35(2), 180–190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.11.001
- Nachbagauer A. (2021), Managing complexity in projects: Extending the Cynefin framework, Project Leadership and Society, 2, art. no. 100017, https://doi/10.1016/j.plas.2021.100017
- Lane, P. J., Clay-Williams, R., Johnson, A., Garde, V., & Barrett-Beck, L. (2021). Creating a healthcare variant CYNEFIN framework to improve leadership and urgent decision-making in times of crisis. Leadership in Health Services, 34(4), 454–461. https://doi.org/10.1108/LHS-03-2021-0013
- Shao, Peng, Runhua Tan, Qingjin Peng, Lulu Zhang, Kang Wang, and Yafan Dong (2022). Problem-Solving in Product Innovation Based on the Cynefin Framework-Aided TRIZ, Applied Sciences 12, no. 9: 4157. https://doi.org/10.3390/app12094157
- Caldera, S., Desha, C., & Dawes, L. (2022). Applying Cynefin framework to explore the experiences of engineering educators undertaking ‘emergency remote teaching’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, 27(1), 3–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/22054952.2021.2020958
IS articles that use the theory
- McLeod J., Childs S. (2013), The Cynefin framework: A tool for analysing qualitative data in information science?, Library and Information Science Research, 35 (4), pp. 299 - 309, https://doi/10.1016/j.lisr.2013.05.004
- Derindere, M. S. & Göçer, Ö. (2016). Cynefin Framework for Decision Makers for Information Systems Security in the face of Information Asymmetry. Istanbul Journal of Innovation in Education, Special Issue No 1 "Future Learning 2014”, 1-13. Retrieved from https://dergipark.org.tr/en/pub/ieyd/issue/7914/402933
- Fengwei, Y. (2016). Managing Trust in Financial Services Information Systems (Doctoral dissertation, National University of Singapore, Singapore). Link: https://www.proquest.com/openview/bee451180886b63a7746d8a3021dc031/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2026366
- Moore, J. (2017). Data visualization in support of executive decision making. Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management, 12, 125. Retrieved from: http://www.informingscience.org/Publications/3687
- Peter, G., Festo, A. G., & KG, C. (2018). The role of context in employing and evaluating enterprise social media. In European conference on knowledge management (pp. 1158-1165). Academic Conferences International Limited. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gerhard-Peter/publication/332410251_The_role_of_context_in_employing_and_evaluating_enterprise_social_media/links/5cb3881a4585156cd7992012/The-role-of-context-in-employing-and-evaluating-enterprise-social-media.pdf.
- Ilieva R., Anguelov K., Nikolov M. (2018), A Cynefin Framework for Agile Decision Making of AI BOTS, International Conference on High Technology for Sustainable Development, HiTech 2018 - Proceedings, art. no. 8566411, https://doi/10.1109/HiTech.2018.8566411
- Radhakrishnan, B., Jaurez, J., & Altamirano, N. (2022). Application of Artificial Intelligence and the Cynefin Framework to establish a Statistical System Prediction and Control (SSPC) in Engineering Education. Presented in 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition. Corresponding Google Scholar link: https://peer.asee.org/application-of-artificial-intelligence-and-the-cynefin-framework-to-establish-a-statistical-system-prediction-and-control-sspc-in-engineering-education.pdf
- Selgert, F. (2020). Cynefin Framework, DevOps and Secure IoT: Understanding the Nature of IoT Systems and Exploring Where in the DevOps Cycle Easy Gains Can Be Made to Increase Their Security (Vol. 12235). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55583-2_19
- S. De (2021), A Study on Chaos Engineering for improving Cloud Software Quality and Reliability, International Conference on Disruptive Technologies for Multi-Disciplinary Research and Applications (CENTCON), Bengaluru, India, 2021, pp. 289-294, https://doi/10.1109/CENTCON52345.2021.9688292
- Hanafizadeh, P., & Bahadornia, S. M. M. (2022). On the Nature of Problematical Situations: Developing Cynefin from an Information Processing Perspective. Philosophy of Management, 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40926-022-00206-3
- Braverman, Andrew (2022), "Redesigning the Information Technology Infrastructure Sales Engineering Process" (2022). Theses & Dissertations. 31. https://jdc.jefferson.edu/diss_masters/31
- Nobari, N., Mobini Dehkordi, A., Akbari, M. and Padash, H. (2022), Innovation intelligence and its role in environmental uncertainty management: a conceptual framework, VINE Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems, Vol. 52 No. 4, pp. 594-611. https://doi.org/10.1108/VJIKMS-06-2020-0109
- Mulder, P. (2018). What is the Cynefin Framework? Including example. Retrieved [14-MAR-2023] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/decision-making/cynefin-framework-dave-snowden/
- https://accedia.com/blog/when-to-apply-agile-in-software-development-explained-through-cynefin/ -- website ‘Accedia’ which explains about when to apply agile using Cynefin framework
- https://www.mindtools.com/atddimk/the-cynefin-framework -- website on Cynefin Framework – that has content on using the most appropriate ‘Problem Solving Process’
- https://ev0lve.medium.com/problems-with-cynefin-b153fd56df57 -- a blog critique of Cynefin
- https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/how-to-improve-lt-and-e-learning-at-universities/ - a blog by David Jones on use of Cynefin framework in education & learning.
Mukesh Chaware - scholar at Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India
Date last updated
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- By Tom@thomasbcox.com - Own work - a re-drawing of the prior artwork found here (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cynefin_as_of_1st_June_2014.png) that incorporates more recent changes, such as renaming "Simple" to "Clear"., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=123271932