Ensure You Choose The Best Framework for Decision Making with Cynefin
Dr. Agus Setiawan

PhD Graduate and result-oriented Director with 25 years experience with involvement in all levels of Business Strategy, Sales and Marketing, Managing Project and Product Development. Aside of managing a company, he is also the best corporate trainer and public speaker in seminar and conference.

Ensure You Choose The Best Framework for Decision Making with Cynefin

In the complex environment of the current business world, you need to understand that problem solving is not a one-size-fits-all process. Actions must depend on the situation in order to make a better decision. The Cynefin framework is a tool that helps you make better decisions by assessing the situation you find yourself in. This helps you assess your situation more accurately and respond appropriately. Further, The Cynefin framework outlines five situational domains that are defined by cause-and-effect relationships, namely.

Simple Contexts – The Domain of Best Practice

The "obvious" context is used when the cause-and-effect relationships are apparent to everyone involved, here your options are clear. At this stage a situation goes through a process "Sense - Categorise – Respond". This simply means you assess the situation, categorise its type, and then respond using best practice. Often there is one established “correct” answer, usually based on previous experience with that type of problem and thus and existing process or procedure in-place

Complicated Contexts: The Domain of Experts

The "complicated" context is when there are multiple correct solutions. This context has a clear relationship between cause-and-effect, though this might not be visible to everyone due to the problem being complicated. The decision-making process to follow in this context is “Sense - Analyse – Respond”. This means assess the situation, analyse what is currently known usually with the help of experts, and decide the best course of action to take using good practice.

Complex – The Domain of Emergence

It might be impossible to identify one correct solution, or spot cause-and-effect relationships in complex situations. Complex contexts are often unpredictable, and the best approach here is to "Probe – Sense – Respond". Rather than trying to control the situation or insisting on a plan of action, it's often best to be patient, look for patterns, and encourage a solution to emerge. Agile is the best suited toward complex situations.

Chaotic Contexts – The Domain of Rapid Response

In chaotic situations, no relationship between cause and effect exists, so your primary goal is to establish order and stability. Crisis and emergency scenarios often fall into this domain. The decision-making approach here is to "Act – Sense – Respond". You need to act decisively to address the most pressing issues, sense where there is stability and where there isn’t, and then respond to move the situation from chaos to complexity.


It can be extremely difficult to identify when you’re in a disorder situation. Here, it isn't clear which of the other four domains is dominant, and people generally rely on decision-making techniques that are known and comfortable. Your primary goal in this situation is to gather more information, so that you can move into a known domain and then take the appropriate action.


To sum up, each domain in cynefin framework requires different actions. By understanding these methods of cynefin framework above, it will be beneficial to maximize your skills in decision making. This helps to determine the prevailing operative context to make appropriate choices, which also could improve organizational efficiency and productivity.

Kurtz, C., & Snowden, D. (2003). The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world. IBM Systems Journal, 42(3), 462-483. doi: 10.1147/sj.423.0462
Cynefin framework - Praxis Framework. (2021). Retrieved 17 September 2021, from
A Leader's Framework for Decision Making. (2021). Retrieved 17 September 2021, from

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