# Cynefin > "The framework sorts the issues facing leaders into five contexts defined by the nature of the relationship between cause and effect." David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone, [*Harvard Business Review*](https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making), November 2007 RELATED FUNCTIONS: [[Governance]], [[People Operations]], [[Spaces & Systems]] To act effectively in the world, we need to make sense of it. And different contexts call for different actions and reactions. The [Cynefin Framework](https://cynefin.io/wiki/Cynefin), developed by Dave Snowden over two decades, offers five decision contexts along with the types of inquiry and action that they demand. > *Cynefin*, pronounced ku-*nev*-in, is a Welsh word that signifies the multiple factors in our habitat that shape our understanding, action, and impact. In essence, the framework helps you and your team discuss and describe the dynamics of the work, problem, challenge, or opportunity you're engaging. At its most basic, the Cynefin Framework suggests three kinds of systems or contexts for decision making:  - Ordered: in which cause and effect relationships are either clear or discoverable through analysis; - Complex: in which there is no discernable causality, but rather patterns that emerge through interaction; - Chaotic: in which there is no order or pattern, only unpredictable turbulence. The full framework divides the ordered domain into "clear" (where cause, effect, and action are obvious) and "complicated" (where cause and effect can be determined, but only by expert analysis), and adds a fifth domain, "aporatic/confused," where you don't know which context you're facing. These five domains are presented in a curving sketch depicted below, with boundary areas suggesting overlaps or liminal stages [described in greater detail elsewhere](https://cynefin.io/wiki/Cynefin_Domains#The_central_domain_of_confusion_&_aporia). ![[cynefin_2020.png]] In each of these five domains, you and your team have different kinds of work to do. The common emphasis on "best practice" suits only one domain (clear), where cause and effect are obvious and a single, correct path will reliably lead to success. In every other domain, you need to bring different energy, inquiry, and effort. - When working in a "clear" domain, you simply need to sense the issue, categorize it correctly, and respond according to best practice. Think here of how you approach a door with the intention to open it. You observe and categorize what kind of doorknob or latch or pushbar the door uses, and you act accordingly. Sense-Categorize-Respond. - When working in a "complicated" domain, there are still cause and effect relationships, but you need expert analysis to reveal them. Think here of the heating and air conditioning system in a new building, which required expert analysis and design to construct, and which will take on-going expert analysis to "tune" appropriately over time. Here, there may be multiple "correct" answers offered by different experts, so you focus on "good practice" rather than "best practice." Sense-Analyze-Respond. - When working in a "complex" domain, no amount of expert analysis will reveal cause and effect. The system is dynamic and changing, showing patterns in response to action or circumstance. Think here of groups of people navigating a busy crosswalk – each responding to the movement of those approaching and those around them. Here, you can only discover the dynamics of the system through action. Probe-Sense-Respond. - When you find yourself in a "chaotic" domain, you need to take immediate action to escape the chaos. There is no cause or effect. There are no patterns. The system is unpredictable. So you your only option is to move until you find more solid ground. Think here of any natural disaster or sudden storm. Act-Sense-Respond. - And finally, if you can't find your bearings and can't determine your context, you're in the "aporatic/confused" domain. Your best action is to lean into open inquiry and dynamic discovery (aporia) and avoid getting locked in uncertainty (confusion). Any enterprise of size and scale will have aspects of its work (and members of its team) in all five domains. A single management style will not help them all. But rather, you and your team need a portfolio of management approaches to make sense of the specific context, engage that context appropriately, and take positive action that moves you forward. ## Sources - [Cynefin.io Wiki](https://cynefin.io/wiki/Main_Page) - Snowden, David J., and Mary E. Boone. “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making.” *Harvard Business Review*, November 2007. - Snowden, Dave, Sonja Blignaut, and Zhen Goh. *Cynefin: Weaving Sense-Making into the Fabric of Our World*. Edited by Riva Greenberg and Boudewijn Bertsch. Cognitive Edge - The Cynefin Co, 2020. --- ## Tags (click to view related pages) #frameworks #sapling