AGLX coaches use Cynefin (ku-nev-in), a sense-making and decision making framework, to help leaders understand their changing environments.


Business schools and organizations use principles of scientific management and systems dynamics to prepare managers how to operate in industrial-age ordered systems (simple and complicated domains). However, in today’s VUCA world, the majority of situations and decisions leaders face are complex, requiring a new set of leadership and cognitive skills. 


Using cause and effect relationships separated into five domains, the Cynefin framework allows leaders to identify the nature of their context and how they should respond.

The Five Domains of Cynefin

Obvious (known knowns) 

Nature — Familiar, certain, well worn pathways

Respond — Ensure sound process in place, monitor for noncompliance

Prepare — Automate but maintain capability through situational awareness


Complicated (known unknowns) 

Nature — Prediction or forecasting is possible 

Response — Determine experts or process 

Prepare — Right people and process, right time


Complex (unknown unknowns) 

Nature — Multiple hypotheses exist 

Response — Monitor crews safe-to-fail experiments 

Prepare — Crews and human sensor networks 



Chaos (unknowable unknowns)

Nature — Temporary state, high turbulence with no patterns

Response — Heavy command and control, use heuristics 

Prepare — Crews as crisis management teams, human sensor networks


Disorder (domain clarity does not exist)



Originally developed for the practice of knowledge management, Cynefin’s wide-range of applicability includes crisis management, counter intelligence (CI), organizational agility, Agile, Operational Excellence (OpEx), healthcare, warfare, product development, supply chain management, leadership, strategy, branding, marketing, and government policy-making. 

Contact AGLX

Probe. Sense. Respond. Contact AGLX to learn more about navigating complexity with Cynefin and  how it informs the most resilient and innovative organizations.

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