Navigating Chaos to Complexity: Everything is not an emergency

I had the joy of presenting the webinar Navigating Chaos to Complexity: Everything is Not an Emergency. When everything changes and you have not experienced this change before, how do you lead and plan?  – for the ATD of Buffalo Niagara.

We spoke about how using the cynefin framework can support you, your team and organization to better navigate chaos to complexity by finding what decision and actions are clear, complicated, complex, chaotic, confusing. 

Some processes mentioned in this webinar: 
  1. Sensemaking and Change
  2. Distinctive, Working Well, Small Improvements – used to debrief and gather what is working well and you wish to get rid of or stop doing. 
  3. Nine Windows for Innovation Thinking – in the webinar, I share how we used this process to focus on work from home, and what happened in the past, present, and may happen in the future. 
  4. Current Method Better Way Process – in the webinar, I share how we used this process to look at how a client call center that took only incoming calls, changes 1/2 of their team to outgoing sales and check-in on customer calls. This change led to a significant increase in revenue and customer connections. 

The images below are two examples of different teams gathering info and moving the ideas in the domains. Using the cynefin to make decisions on what ideas & tasks are clear, complicated, complex, chaotic, confused.

  • One is from a non-profit team – I asked each person (they had a week) to document during this time what is distinctive, working well, and small improvements. I took all their responses and moved them onto sticky-notes in Mural. We met virtually as a team, and we placed the small improvement ideas into the domains … each person developed a What, When, How process for an idea they chose.
  • The 2nd photo is with an Executive team that completed a process called Nine Windows, looking at how work from home effects the organization. We moved the market options into cynefin.
using cynefin to frame complexity and decision making with nonprofits Mike Cardus
using cynefin to frame complexity and decision making with executive teams Mike Cardus
Ideas on making sense of where you are and what to do: 
  1. Identify what decision or challenge you are facing. 
  2. Determine where you might be in the framework:: Obvious, Complicated, Complex, Chaos. 
  3. Ask other people and gather feedback. 

Based on where you feel you are, ask yourself, your team, or other people: 

  • Confused – what do we want to have happen? How will we notice a difference? 
  • Clear – is there an obvious, written, tried and true best practice for our decision our challenge? 
  • Complicated – does someone outside our immediate team have the expertise and expert knowledge of this type of challenge or decision? 
  • Complex – based on our time pressure and multiple right/wrong options, how many experiments or tries can we make to understand our decision or challenge better? 
  • Chaos – When in chaos What immediate action can we take to stop this chaos? Before or planning chaos When this happens, how will we best respond? 

Everything is not an emergency, or complex, or in chaos. Many areas are clear and complicated that you and your team decide and make progress. 

One way of showing leadership is changing the approach to solve problems and add value to match what is needed. Being extrospective and making sense of your environment will support you as you navigate any challenge. 

Here are the slides and notes that I shared with the group.