Dave Snowden

Cynefin St David’s Day (5 of 5)

Dave Snowden

I don’t know if I displaying a keen anticipatory capability in focusing on Disorder, the all too often ignored fifth domain of Cynefin, in this annual update series; if so it was unconscious.

Cynefin St David’s Day 2020 (1 of n)

Dave Snowden

On St David’s Day last year, I started a five-part series of posts to update the Cynefin Framework, all illustrated by pictures of the mountains of Eryri, or Snowdonia if you want to use the Saxon which derives from Snow Dun, or snow hill.

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Consulting in the Time of Corona (virus)

Dave Snowden

In the past 2 weeks, I have been called into a few urgent conference calls with partners and clients. As a response to the Corona virus, and it’s spread, many of them (and ourselves) included have had their projects impacted. .

Aporetic Meditations

Dave Snowden

These have been trying times. Yesterday, I watched our National Development Minister tear up at a national address as he thanked frontline workers who are doing their part against COVID-19. Singapore released its second stimulus package yesterday, drawing a landmark $48bn from its reserves.

Wherefore, part the first

Dave Snowden

We tend to read ‘ wherefore ’ as a question asking where something is, but the meaning is actually for what , or why as in “ Wherefore was I born” (Shakespeare, Richard III Act 2 scene 3) and Juliet’s more famous rendering which is attempting to locate her love but to ask why does he have to be a Montague; remember it is followed by “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” In this two-part post, my first since the Christmas series, I want to take a look at the three-part question What? So What? Now What? which is deceptively simple and can easily tend to the simplistic. It appears in Liberating Structures without (as is all too common in that otherwise useful tool) without attribution. It is more commonly attributed to Glenda Eoyang’s Adaptive Action but its first formulation goes back to Terry Borton in 1970 and it was then developed by John Driscoll in the context of clinical practice which is where I suspect Glenda got it, but I could be wrong there. I’ve put the three representations in rough date order to the right of the text below. Basically I want to ask the wherefore question as to its use and (tomorrow) map it to all five domains of Cynefin. Just to give you a taster, my argument is that the linear use of the three-part question effectively sits in the confused or unordered domain of Cynefin. It is probably worth starting with the Driscoll sequence in the context of clinical care. He links it to a learning cycle which is represented in the following stages: Having an Experience. WHAT? describe event, then … Purposefully reflect on the selected aspects of the experience. SO WHAT? conduct an analysis of the event … Discover the learning arising from this process of reflection. NOW WHAT? Determine proposed actions following the event. Enact the new learning from that experience in clinical practice. Then loop back to the start. Adaptive action (Eoyang) aims to conduct multiple connected iterations of the three questions in allow coherence over the system to emerge as “the parts use simple rules to guide their work toward shared goals (my emphasis). The process focuses on the identification of patterns and use of the CDE (Containers, Differences, Exchanges) to understand what is generating those patterns and the link to Plan-Do-Check-Act is made although it is not named as the Deming cycle. Amplification and dampening of those patterns, shaping new patterns are all up there as actions. The process is based on workshops, discussions and (I assume) learned individual behaviour. While the process is linear it does have multiple interconnections and the Now What? stage can trigger other stages and so on. Coherence for Glenda is all about “internal fitness” and adaptive means “external fitness’. Defining terms in complexity work is key as, at the moment, everyone is using the language in different ways. Once you are at the Now What? stage, the process becomes a familiar set of project management questions and task assignment: who is doing what, how long will it take with what resource, who has to be involved, what will it mean to complete and (importantly) how will this trigger a new What? the whole idea is that nothing ever ends. Finally, the Liberating structures guys revert to the linear, overlaying a systems dynamics model on to W³. I tend to put this into the mostly harmless category as they are focused on workshop experiences. That said having recently watched some Liberating Structures facilitators tear the heart out of Future Backwards by conforming it to the goal-based idealism of systems dynamics was depressing. Given that they attributed it to me and asked for my endorsement I think I was fairly restrained in my response. Now there may be other uses – if so please post them. I can be positive and negative about the three that I have listed. Tomorrow I ended to map W³ to Cynefin using (for the first time) the five Cs namely Clear, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic and Confused. I will argue that all the above – given that they are universal and in part linear – while useful are not energy efficient. But that is for tomorrow. My apologies for the absence of blog posts but I have been busy on various things including design of next generation of SenseMaker® which has me more excited than I’ve been for a long time. A complete shift away from a survey like platform to a radical new approach to distributed decision support; current SenseMaker® will simply be one instance of something more sophisticated. We expect to open up for participation in a couple of months. Otherwise, I am going to try and get back to posting here at least once a week, ideally more. Acknowledgments. The Letter W in the text is by Leo Reynolds discovered in Flickr as is the banner picture , both and used under the terms a creative commons license. The post Wherefore, part the first appeared first on Cognitive Edge. musing Polemic

Separated by a common language?

Dave Snowden

From time to time in social media I resist the temptation to respond when people talk about the Stacy Matrix; if they conflate the two I generally put up something mild along the lines of They are very different you know and Stacy himself deprecates its use.

Cynefin St David’s Day (4 of 5)

Dave Snowden

In this penultimate post in the current series, I want to look at what you can manage in the complex domain of Cynefin and return to the which domain is X in debate.

Wherefore, part the second

Dave Snowden

In the first of these articles, I looked at Borton’s W³ question from the 1970s and more recent adaptations (with varying degrees of acknowledgment of their source) by Driscoll, Eoyang and Liberating Structures.

… from little acorns grow

Dave Snowden

Last week I was in Nairobi ase the keynote at a panel discussion on Behavioural Insights for Environment Impact for UNEP sandwiched between two pretty hellish flights. Jules was also on the panel and had done the work to set the event up.

Complexity in Human Systems

Dave Snowden

Many of the readers of this blog will know that one of the drivers behind the creation of the Cynefin framework was a desire to break the fad cycle.

Twelvetide 19:10 The MIT Bookstore

Dave Snowden

The first nine posts in this series have been largely personal although I started to explore some of the formative management influences which carried over into the current body of theory and practice which is Cynefin in my sixth post.

Cynefin St David’s Day 2020 (2 of n)

Dave Snowden

In my first post in this series, I talked about the renaming of the disorder domain into A/C (for short) standing for Aporetic or Confused for what used to be called authentic or inauthentic disorder.

Twelvetide 19:03 and so to the land of the eagles

Dave Snowden

While my the first hill was Moel Fammau, my first mountain was Yr Wyddfa, the name being a reference to a legend of it being a cairn thrown over the giant Rhitta Gawr after his defeat by Arthur. It’s English name Snowdon means snow hill in Old English.

Twelvetide 19:6 Goredale Scar & Gynefin

Dave Snowden

By coincidence today is Gynefin day (we thin Beth Smith coined that name) an annual ritual in which UK based staff and any friends get together at my house at Lockeridge with the intention of reducing my stocks of gin.

Culture: the subject

Dave Snowden

The Oxford English Dictionary defines culture as “The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively” and “The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society”.

Going on a journey

Dave Snowden

With the odd exception, I always enjoy a long train journey. In the past month, I’ve done trips from Berlin and London to Amsterdam and got a lot more work done than I would ever have managed with flights. Every now and then I get a chance to make a journey that carries with it many memories.

Cynefin St David’s Day (3 of 5)

Dave Snowden

In my prior post in this series, I said I wanted to explore the idea of aporia in more depth but a week of reflection says that should be the content of the final post in this series which will now have five parts.

Liminal Cynefin & ‘control’

Dave Snowden

I was searching for my original known-unknown-unknowable matrix for today’s post and, as you do, came across a variation of Liminal Cynefin I used at and event to talk about the whole issue of control within organisations.

Cynefin St Davids Day 2019 (2 of 5)

Dave Snowden

It’s taken longer than I hoped but I now have the time to complete my series of five update posts on Cynefin. In my last post I explained the change from ‘Simple’ to ‘Obvious’ in the ordered domain.

Breaking the forest cycle

Dave Snowden

I’ve been meaning to write about the “forest cycle” or the supposed necessity of chaos for some time. Yesterday’s post on the different between the Cynefin framework and the Stacy Matrix reminded me of the need.

Linkages matter

Dave Snowden

Working in complexity you soon get a sense of which ideas and concepts are causing (sic) people problems. One is the whole dispositional v causal aspect on which I have written several times, most recently at the end of 2017.

Cynefin & perception

Dave Snowden

Various social media feeds link me daily to discussions about the use of the Cynefin Framework. Sometimes I take part, more frequently not. The last thing I want is to be too precious about its use and to a degree abuse.

The landscape of narrative

Dave Snowden

Back in 2014 I wrote the entry on organisational story telling for the Sage Handbook on Action Research. I wasn’t wild about the title at the time as I felt that was only one aspect of the field.

Cynefin & Theory of Constraints – Webinar II

Dave Snowden

This week CE hosted an open webinar on the topic of Cynefin & Theory of Constraints. This webinar featured CE practitioners and TOC experts, Steve Holt, Jabe Bloom, Greg Brougham, and Hilbert Robinson.

Exploring synergies and interaction between the Cynefin Framework and Theory of Constraints

Dave Snowden

As our business contexts become increasingly complex, the success rate of large scale transformation efforts and projects are rapidly decreasing. Many have been looking for answers to improve their performance and results, often jumping from one method to the next in search of “The Answer”.

Avoiding paralysis in major change

Dave Snowden

Over the last three weeks I’ve been engaged in a diverse set of projects. Firstly the Singapore foresight and horizon scanning event, then a steelworks in Australia followed by masterclasses and multiple government meetings in New Zealand.

Change 201

Cynefin as of St Davids Day 2019 (1 of 3)

Dave Snowden

An email came in yesterday from our new CEO Marion asking if I could explain why I had changed simple to obvious within the Cynefin framework, why I called it simple in the first place, had I thought of any other words and did it change anything to do with the dynamics.

Martin Burns RIP

Dave Snowden

On the 11th of March this year I sat down for a meal at the Bridge Inn in Ratho (top picture) near Edinburgh with Martin and Lucy Burns along with Simon Wardley. It was the end of an enjoyable three days. Wales had beaten Scotland (just) to stay on course for the Grand Slam and I was there.

Musings on Blake

Dave Snowden

One of the few good news items yesterday (don’t ask but it involves more tests) was my discovery that we have a major exhibition of the work of William Blake in London over the Christmas period, which means I can make it and daughter is also interested which is a bonus.

A Retreat on narrative – where better to meet than in Ireland

Dave Snowden

The location of the Cynefin Retreat about Narrative in Organisations (Ireland, 18-21 March 2019) is specially chosen for its unique landscape and naturally rugged beauty.

My/Our research …

Dave Snowden

I’ve long pointed out to over enthusiastic proponents of ‘story telling’ that the phrase has a double meaning in English and the most dominant one is to tell a story.

The liminal nature of narrative

Dave Snowden

I’ve been delayed in getting this second post in the series of the role and nature of narrative published. Many things going on in Cognitive Edge at the moment and I’ve had to make a couple of big decisions and I’m dealing with the aftermath of one and the promise of another.

Thinking about design ‘thinking’

Dave Snowden

I’ve been thinking about the whole approach we are adopting to design thinking as the Whistler retreat approaches. We started a journey on this at the same location last year and we are currently shifting into a formal method with associated tools and training.

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Bringing the human element and complexity thinking to rebuilding resilience in Puerto Rico

Dave Snowden

Cognitive Edge, through the Cynefin Centre, is part of an exciting project team funded by a United States National Science Foundation grant.

Coherent heterogeneity 1 of 2)

Dave Snowden

One of my discoveries this year was Dora’s Dairy just outside Swindon. It sells raw milk without the destruction of pasteurisation or homogenisation. Aside from the taste, there are multiple health benefits: natural enzymes to help digestion, useful bacteria and a whole bunch of vitamins.

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Cynefin St David’s Day 2019 (4 of 5)

Dave Snowden

The introduction of liminality to Cynefin necessitated a slight rethinking of the main dynamics within Cynefin. To be clear multiple dynamics are possible but over the years these have emerged as the dominant ones. As the name implies the dynamics in Cynefin are all about movement between domains.

Culture 2 of 7: the canvass

Dave Snowden

I’m using the metaphor of a painting to provide structure to this series and all paintings have to start somewhere. One of the reasons for this is the sense of doing something with intent.

Twelvetide 18:04 empathy through perspective

Dave Snowden

As you may have gathered over the first few posts in this series I’m not seeking to solve the meta issues surrounding ethics and aesthetics but I am trying to inch way way to a generic approach that avoids the Scylla and Charybdis of accepting the norms or creating rules; in my lexicon extreme moral relativism and absolutism have a lot in common. In this post I want to use a case to illustrate ways in which awareness of ethics can be achieved within leadership groups through a key Cynefin principle namely descriptive self-awareness. The project in question goes back to the final days of IBM when we were in the transition period between Lou Gernstner and Sam Palmisano and I was committed (with the support of Sharon Darwent) to run a one week training course for senior leaders. Lou had a top 300 and every six months 30 joined and 30 left. I was put in charge of one of the cohorts of 30 to both teach complexity and use a narrative approach. The event was notable for several reason not least was Lou’s introduction. I gave him the barest of introductions to complexity theory but he was able to communicate its importance in his opening lecture. He also gave a clear message that they had all got to this level in IBM by achieving their results, now the next and most difficult stage would be proving they could do that and act for the greater good. My instructions from Lou and the Head of Executive Development (my sponsor) was to provoke, which I did but half way through I was told that said Head of ED was handing in her resignation to join Microsoft that afternoon and didn’t expect to be around for long – she was escorted off the premises the same day and I lost my top cover! There are a lot more stories about that week but let me first describe how we set it up (and then what went wrong, in part). We asked each of the thirty attendees to nominate four groups of people: those they could order around and hardly knew, those whose expertises they respected, those who they deeply trusted and where then were confident the trust was reciprocated and finally people who were brilliant in a crisis. Readers may spot the main Cynefin domains here. We then contacted each of those groups and got them to tell stories about the leaders actual behaviour which they interpreted conventionally (this is before SenseMaker® we can do it so much better now) and which we anonymised manually. From that we build a database in which each leader could see how they were seen in each domain from other people’s perspective. They had the option to share the data with cohort colleagues and nearly all did – there were lots of conversations that arose from that process. Within several workshop sessions they used that over multiple HBR cases not to come up with the right answer but to see how they would be seen by people they had to work with. The goal was to show them that diverse leadership styles were necessary and that if they didn’t have them as a strength, they could build on small narratives to develop the skill. An indirect benefit was growing empathy and understanding that others in the cohort group had different strengths and weaknesses. Then in a wicked move we took stories of acknowledged good and bad leaders from history and presented them to each leader and asked all to interpret those stories onto semi-ambiguous likert scales and add some explanations. We then prepared a report which showed the match between how the leader perceived the great and good and how they were perceived by their own staff – from memory we’d added in a generic question with the same indexing structure on the initial capture but if Sharon reads this she can correct me. We then sent them to their rooms and released the report and gave the option of when they came back to the central room of the training centre and if they shared. One person took it very badly – the near one to one correspondence with Hitler and Stalin was blamed on me and I made a very senior enemy for life. Mind you we had fallen out earlier as he refused to accept that any system didn’t have linear cause and effect relationships so I was probably doomed. The level of self reflection and the subsequent discussions were, I gather, moving. As a facilitation team we stayed out of it. The big failure was the preparation. We’d had set up for them to spend a day doing menial work in community centres in Yonkers and elsewhere with the instruction to discover natural leaders who didn’t have their background and privilege. Its a technique I’ve used a lot and its very successful. When I briefed them the night before they were all excited but then IBM bureaucrats for in the way. They were scared of the idea so instead set up a series of interviews with local people they deemed ’safe’ and didn’t tell me as they knew I would get them overruled – net result thirty angry people disappointed and blaming us! I hadn’t checked the detail – trusting to the promises of Community Liaison and that was a mistake. Now note that at no time did the facilitation team interpret the material, challenge the leaders. We set up a process by which they saw themselves as others saw them, through the specific actions they had taken rather the values they espoused. They learnt in a peer group with light facilitation and some took on the idea for continuous checkpoints – something we can now do a lot better with the 360º capability in SenseMaker®. I’ve used a case in into days post – tomorrow back to Aesthetics and a little more theory. Banner picture is Snowdon from the south taken from the B4418 by Llyn y Dywarchen. The post Twelvetide 18:04 empathy through perspective appeared first on Cognitive Edge. Christmas Blogs

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Twelvetide 19:12 Hay-on-Wye

Dave Snowden

I spent a lot of time thinking about the last post in this series and there were a few candidates.

Mapping ….

Dave Snowden

Back in March 2018 I posted on the differences between models, frameworks, methods, manifestos and creeds; the first in a series of posts on Agile.

Twelvetide 19:11 Annapurna Sanctury

Dave Snowden

In this penultimate blog in the series, I’ve picked something to represent my journey back to health relayed in a series of posts over the last six years. 2013 was the big year and my first blog post in which I came out on having diabetes explains some of the feelings I had at the time.

Climate Change, Waste & Festivals: a collective fight needing a common understanding

Dave Snowden

Social media feeds in Summer 2018 here in the UK were, for those of us who work in the festival industry, awash with turtles trapped in plastic and discarded tents on no man’s land-esque muddy festival fields on a Monday morning. It was emotionally overwhelming and we were all fearful of how our own actions might be contributing, but not always sure how to help in a meaningful way, beyond giving a story a “like” or pleading with someone not to leave their tent behind. .

Change 193

The Xmas 12: 1 It all starts with sausages

Dave Snowden

I finally decided on the theme for my traditional (well I’ve done it more than once) Twelve Days of Christmas post. I got a myriad of good suggestions in so I am sorted out for a few years to come!

Types 141