Using Cynefin to determine when to map?

theory

#1

When I was delivering my last mapping workshop, I got asked an excellent question:

When should you not use maps?

Immediately, I remembered Simon mentioning that if there are no user needs, maps are of little value as they cannot be properly anchored. That is substantially true, but today I am thinking about extending that statement a little bit, as mapping requires not only user needs, but also identifiable components, their dependencies and at least some cause-and-effect relationships.

Those preexisting structures are essential for building situational awareness. Without them, a map carries on no message, as it does not contain any transferable knowledge, apart from what the author hopes the situation is.

And, after this observation comes the next one - Cynefin Chaotic domains seems to be precisely where maps should not be used. If you can create a map and identify components, then there is a structure and it’s no longer a Chaotic space. It is either Complex or Complicated.

Thoughts?


#2

Cynefin Chaotic domain is a temporary state as the energy required (think earthquake, riot) dissipates. Hence you ACT in the chaotic domain in whatever way you need to escape before it resolves itself not in your favour.

So if you’re in a building and it’s on fire you have a user need (survive) but mapping isn’t something you have time for. Hopefully you were listening during fire drills and know where the exits are.

Mapping optimal for other domains though — especially the domain of disorder, where you think you know what’s going on due to bias.


#3

Sorry if it looks like I’m hijacking the thread and not answering the question. I don’t know much about Cynefin, so I’ll not go into it. What I’d like to add is about:

I can’t imagine there not being a user need. I may be biased of course :slight_smile: And so I’d always need a Wardley Map. So far, I’ve been using the CIN model as a simplified mental model (compared to Maslow’s hierarhcy of needs) that’s at the root ancenstor of most user needs that I’ve seen on Wardley Maps (mine as well as others’ maps). Even though the user needs I draw on my Wardley Maps are the “usual” needs, I don’t draw these CIN needs on my Wardley Maps explicitly.

P.S. For the curious, I have the CIN model as a Wardley Map :slight_smile:

For the chaotic part, I wouldn’t draw a map at the moment of the earthquake. But wouldn’t there be maps where the drills are components ?


#4

@julius.gb, indeed, in the Maslov’s sense, there are always user needs. Even in the case of earthquakes or violent riots, certain people have certain needs.

The point is, however, that in the Chaotic domain those needs are very disorchestrated. Violent riots are almost never a homogenous environments - they are so dangerous because multiple and separate groups show their dissatisfaction. Sometimes, they do ‘synchronise’, but most of the time it is spontaneous.

It is very difficult a priori to say which groups will join and why. Same with earthquakes. Plenty of people will need help, but who, where and what kind of help is difficult to anticipate.

I can imagine similar scenarios happening in some business environments - a good example would be Poland after communism went away in 90’, when old rules of entrepreneurship ceased to exist, and new fortunes were built after a period of total chaos.


#5

@krzysztof.daniel

Yes, that makes sense to me.

About this second one,

there’s another side - if the Chaotic situation is happening for the first time in an area/context, then I can imagine being bewildered - e.g., living on land ‘x’ that’s never experienced these (riots, earthquakes, etc) when all of a sudden, one hits.

But if it’s been happening again and again, then learning from past encounters would help prepare for the next one - the way firefighters/ambulance/etc practice - while taking into account the randomness of what might happen. These practices, the knowledge one needs before going into such situations, getting others to cooperate (e.g., drivers clearing the way for emergency vehicles that are sounding their sirens), would go onto the map. Then continue the mapping/strategy circle.

I think that the “preexisting structures” you mentioned emerge from the first encounter and get refined.

As for business environments, I’ve read[1,2] one (i’m sure i’ll come across many others) that seems to fit the chaotic part - imagine being responsible for a healthcare company selling painkillers. Someone puts poison in one of batches that ends up killing people in multiple areas. The longer the problem remains, the probabiliy of others dying increases. How to respond as the responsible one ? The story had a happy ending: the one principle guiding their actions was “what’s good for those that depend on us (customers, employees, regulators+government, families of the victims, non-customers, and other families)” - they had it printed out and referred to it again and again.

[1] - Chapter 11 of the book “Denial” by Richard S. Tedlow
[2] - Wikipedia on the recall in 1982


#6

“if it’s been happening again and again, then learning from past encounters would help prepare for the next one - the way firefighters/ambulance/etc practice - while taking into account the randomness of what might happen. These practices, the knowledge one needs before going into such situations, getting others to cooperate (e.g., drivers clearing the way for emergency vehicles that are sounding their sirens), would go onto the map. Then continue the mapping/strategy circle”

This is an area that I think is under explored in Cynefin, though well explained by Liz Keogh in her talks. You can rehearse for chaotic events (think of the safety talk on airplanes) and professionals drill for this (while the rest of us ignore the same thing we’ve heard many times before). So some element of preparation can be made.

However, I go back to my original point above that chaotic events are very short-term in nature and what we are rehearsing are actions to get us out of danger (put the mask on so you can breathe). From there the situation is very fluid and options legion. The value of Maps might be limited.

What first responders do is respond to a chaotic event but in a post-chaotic environment (rescuers don’t go in when the earthquake is happening but afterwards) — in other words a largely complex environment (though with much that is known though it’ll need adapting).

I spend a lot of time thinking about links between Maps and Cynefin and am finding the linking of domains to be quite misleading. Maps show one big thing that I think most people miss when using Cynefin and that’s all domains exist at the same time, except chaos (due to its temporary nature). Therefore Mapping useful for all domains except chaos but as mentioned above some planning can be made, though I’d argue this is severely limited to just getting out of danger.

Hope that makes some sort of sense?


#7

Yes, that makes sense.

Big takeaway for me is this sentence [added emphasis]

Maps show one big thing that I think most people miss when using Cynefin and that’s all domains exist at the same time, except chaos (due to its temporary nature).


#8

I remember sharing this synthesis regarding Cynefin and mapping.

I can’t find the response thread, but Dave commented that my synthesis was invalid and to consider apex predator model in context of mapping instead.


#9

Hi Tristan. If you are on the Map Camp Slack group you’ll see a new channel that’s looking to explore Mapping and Cynefin from a few people versed in both. We’re looking to run a zoom session later this month to present some of the thinking and to see where we might take this.

For what it’s worth, I think Dave’s apex predator is a nice metaphor but is much more worked out in Simon’s Wonder, Peace & War climatic pattern. Also, I don’t believe the evolutionary phase of Utility has an equivalent in Cynefin (yet) so Mapping the four domains to the four stages of evolution may be mis-judged (though the addition of two more phases in Liminal Cynefin may provide some interesting areas to explore).

But these are the areas we want to explore a bit more through Slack.


#10

As Marcus said, Chaotic should only ever be a temporary situation.
So I don’t think that there is much point about mapping your way out of it. It requires action first.
We refer often to external chaos, cataclysms or being on the battlefield and under fire. But a much more close to home example is a Cat 1 incident in a bank for instance. Suddenly a crisis team is assembled to get out of the crisis. Priority is for action to move out of chaos.Much of this must have been going on at TSB / Sabadell recently.

To me Cynefin is more of a management framework and Wardley a strategy framework. As such they are complementary. It is also fair to say that Snowden focuses much on the complex domain whilst Wardley looks at the whole journey from uncharted to commodity (and to be honest I also see some correlation to the old BCG matrix here).

I do see how Wardley maps can work well with Product Thinking. Product Thinking, in a way comes from Lean thinking and alignment to Customers and value. Products should closely match to Client or User needs.
Lean goes deeper with Value Stream mapping which can inform the Value Chain.

For uncharted Cynefin can define elements of operating model there. SenseMaker for weak signals, experimentation, etc. As experimentation explores complexity and eventually makes sense of it, this drives the productisation and progress through the Wardley evolution (exploitation in Cynefin terms).