A leaders framework for decision making
Publication Year: 2007
Journal: Harvard Business Review
All too often, managers rely on common leadership approached that work well in one set of circumstances but fall short in others. The answer can be found in a fundamental assumption of organizational theory and practice that a certain level of predictability exists in the world. Theory and practice give a simplified view of the real world whereas the real world may be too complex and simplifications fail. As a result leaders might take ‘wrong’ decisions. The Cynefin framework allows leader to see things from new viewpoints and assimilate complex concepts. This helps leaders understand the context in which they are operating. The framework sorts the issues facing leaders into five contexts defined by the nature of the relationship between cause and effect. Four of these: simple, complicated, complex and chaotic require leaders to diagnose situations and to act in contextually appropriate ways. The fifth,disorder, applies when it is unclear which of the other four contexts is predominant. Simple contexts can be properly assessed and require straightforward management and monitoring. Here, leaders should sense, categorize and respond. Complicated contexts may contain multiple right answers, and though there is clear relationship between cause and effect, not everyone can see it. Leaders in a complicated context should sense, analyze and respond. This approach often requires an expert. In a complex context, at least one right answer exists. Leaders must patiently allow the path forward to reveal itself. They need to probe first, then sense and then respond. In a chaotic context searching for answers would be pointless. Leaders should act, sense and respond. The disorder context is difficult to determine, the way out of this context is to break down the situation into manageable parts and assign each part to one of the four other contexts.