Cynefin is a welsh Word which for people like me, who don’t speak welsh is pronounced k-neven.
It is a model developed by Dave Snowden while he was working at IBM.
Cynefin framework is a sense-making model which is used as a basis (Kurt and Snowden, 2003), because it provides an specifically understanding of the attributes of complex systems in its non-deterministic definition, while it also gives a way to study such problems, managing the emerging patterns.
As told by O’Neill (2004), the Cynefin Framework "explores the relationship between man, experience and context" and proposes new approaches to communication, decision-making, policy-making and knowledge management in complex social environments.
The Cynefin framework can help managers to sense in which context they are. This helps them to make better decisions and also to avoid the problems that arise when their preferred management style causes them to make mistakes.
The framework is composed by 4 domains, the domains are separated into ordered and unordered systems (Snowden, 2005); ordered systems are those in which there is an identiﬁable link between cause and effect that when discovered allows us to control the future. The unordered systems are those where the relationship between cause and effect do not repeat except by accident, where too many agents interacting prevent predictive models, but where it is sometimes possible to control starting conditions and monitor emergent patterns.
The domains are: simple, complicated, chaotic and complex domain. They are well explained by Dave Snowden himself in the next video:
Many companies around the world have applied the Cynefin framework in order to enhance communication and help managers and leaders to understand the context in which they are operating. For example, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has used it to counterterrorism. Also pharmaceutical companies have applied it to develop a new product strategy. Another example is a Canadian provincial government which used it to assist in its efforts to engage employees in policy making (Snowden et al., 2007)
O’Neill, Louisa-Jayne (2004). "Faith and decision-making in the Bush presidency: The God elephant in the middle of America’s livingroom". Emergence: Complexity and Organisation 6 (1/2): 149-156.
Kurtz, C. F. and Snowden, D. J. (2003). “The new dynamics of strategy: Sense–making in a complex and complicated world,” IBM Systems Journal, ISSN 0018-8670, 42(3): 462-483.
Snowden, D. J. (2005). Multi-ontology sensemaking—a new simplicity in decision making. Informatics in Primary Care, 13, 45–54
Snowden, David J., Boone, Mary E.,. (2007). A Leader's Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review,. 85 (11)