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A Leader’s Guide to Decision Making with Cynefin

Situational leadership involves adjusting one’s leadership style to fit with an employee’s needs.  It is a fundamental concept for people managers and leaders alike. Using a situational approach in decision making is of equal importance. The Cynefin framework describes a situation-based approach for making decisions at all levels of leadership.

Every day we make important decisions about our work and business. In order to improve our chances for success, we need to understand the nature of the systems we are working with in order to take appropriate action. Failing to recognize the nature of the situation at hand results in misinformed decisions with potentially catastrophic consequences.

This workshop introduces the Cynefin framework, which enables a better understanding of systems, how they differ, and how to correctly approach actions depending on the context of the situation. Cynefin is a sense-making framework that focuses on how people perceive and make sense of situations in order to make decisions. The framework has five domains to characterize the situation and advise leaders on acting in ways appropriate to the context. This workshop also demonstrates practical exercises that can be used at work to enable better decision making.



This course is relevant for anyone involved in making decisions or developing solutions for problems. Leaders who understand that the world is often dynamic and unpredictable will find the Cynefin framework and associated methods for particularly useful.  It will be of particular interest to individuals who are challenged with increasingly tough and intractable problems that are resistant to traditional methods.

This course is frequently attended by leaders and managers, program managers, operations, product and project planners, product owners, lead engineers, and decision makers at all levels.






Six hours, single day or multi-days

Instructor Led, Online or Onsite

By the end of this course, participants should:

  • Describe the Cynefin framework

  • Understand how causal relationships can be used to characterize different kinds of systems: obvious, complicated, complex, and chaotic

  • Describe the appropriate approach to manage and make decisions in each of the Cynefin domains

  • Learn how to facilitate alignment on what kinds of decisions are needed and how to appropriately respond

  • Know where to go for more information


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