Home / Product

Assessment for managing in complexity (and chaos)



Do you know how to approach leadership, strategy and direction-setting in the midst or aftermath of a disruptive crisis or major shift?

How clear are your leaders and people on your current state and the immediate possibilities, as you engage in your strategic planning?

How ready is your organisation for the next disruption, the next cycle or rapid change? How resilient and responsive are you?

In a complex system, you need to know where you are, what isn’t going to change and what possibilities exist – and you need to have a commonly understood intent and direction of travel. The Cynefin Company’s Assessment for Managing in Complexity (and Chaos) offers a structured, participative assessment and sense-making process, developed to address the increasing scale and shorter cycles of change and uncertainty faced by communities, systems and organisations all over the world. The Assessment provides insight into the past, current and immediate future, and helps organisations to decide on the next steps to build and strengthen dynamic capabilities that will enable organisations to better respond and adapt…because there will certainly be a “next time”.

The Managing in Complexity (and Chaos) Assessment is for:

  • Organisations who are transitioning beyond a major crisis or disruption and needing to re-evaluate their position and next steps
  • Organisations stuck with persistent problems
  • Organisations with a current need to assess and appraise its recent past and present before moving forward, or
  • Organisations at the start of a strategic planning or review cycle needing to establish a grounded, robust sense of the current landscape and strategic potentials .

What it is about

The outcome of this Assessment is a map of the current reality and disposition of the system, revealing constraints and possibilities for moving forward in the desired sense of direction, enabling the deployment of contextual nudges and next steps to continue and adapt what is sustainable and advantageous, what counter-productive activities to phase out, and where and when to start new activities.

The Assessment links to methods and tools to create a resilient and responsive organisation, based on the Field Guide for Managing Complexity (and chaos) in times of crises, a collaboration between the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, and the Cynefin Centre.

Assess. Appraise. Move forward.

The Assessment is about:

  • Exploring the recent past and present by asking “What?” questions. What actually happened? What did we miss? What did we do well, but we couldn’t do it that way again? What do we have to do differently? What new opportunities are presenting themselves?
  • Gaining insight into the forces and factors limiting the possibilities at the current time, including a map showing the counterfactuals or fixed constraints, the white-space voids, as well as the presence and need for constructors (things in the system that can produce replicable results).
  • Decide on the next steps to build the requisite dynamic capabilities to navigate shifts, leverage and repurpose available assets, to bring stability (whilst avoiding inertia) after periods of disruption, and to be better prepared for resilience in complexity and crises.

How it works

The Assessment process includes workshops (virtual, in-person or hybrid), and the use of SenseMaker® for distributed data gathering before and during workshops, as well as the Hexi Kit for Managing in Complexity.

Phase One – Sponsors’ Briefing
A workshop with key sponsors at the beginning of the project contextualises the Assessment and prepares key stakeholders for their and their team’s participation and engagement in the process.

Phase Two – Assessment
Use *SenseMaker® Genba or Pulses, and workshops to gather lessons learned, experiences, and attitudinal feedback from the workforce. This is an iterative process, and feedback on early patterns are used to ask new discovery questions. From this feedback we conduct appraisals of what worked well, what didn’t work that well, identify opportunities, and create a basic estuarine map showing three zones: the zone of counterfactuals (or fixed constraints that cannot change, metaphorically like granite cliffs), the zone of high volatility and the zone of constructors (things in the system that can produce replicable results).

Phase Three – Moving Forward
Executive Feedback and Engagement & Next Steps. Translate the analysis output into next steps and select methods from the EU Field Guide, including continuous monitoring and evaluation, and how to plan and prepare for the next disruption or crisis.

Phase Four – Final Executive Briefing
Engage with leadership on next steps and to cultivate the shared sense of intent and direction.
* MassSense & Pulses with SenseMaker® throughout the process engages the wider population/workforce for feedback and input, and to support and validate the process of sense-making with rapid, diverse and distributed feedback loops at scale. This ensures that decisions are informed by rich and contextual sense-making.

What is included

Workshop facilitation and support: The Cynefin Company can co-facilitate workshops included in the standard Assessment flow. Contact us to discuss virtual and/or in-person options. Support includes preparation of SenseMaker engagements, extraction of data from SenseMaker engagements during, before and after workshops.

Workforce/population engagement. Up to three SenseMaker® Pulses to engage the wider workforce/community/ecosystem for input and rapid feedback.

Mentoring & co-design: Teams can book time with The Cynefin Company team for mentoring and co-design. Mentoring is building on the training and focuses on the specific assessment.

The Hexi Methods Kit for Managing in Complexity (and chaos), with a licence for virtual facilitation for the use for one Assessment in the organisation.

Customisation & Training

This offer is packaged in such a way that no additional training is required to implement. However, all options may be customised for your organisation, and in-house training in some of the associated tools and methods is available.  We also have packages available for consultants. Contact us to discuss.

Optional Add-ons

A series of optional add-ons are available to further enrich and capture the value of the Assessment data for your organisation or community….

Note: prices for these add-ons only valid with Assessment for Managing in Complexity (and Chaos) purchase.

An introduction to complexity and sense-making for executive teams and decision makers. Executive briefings offer a fresh perspective on leading and management in complexity and disruptive times and inspire organisational leadership to cultivate resilience and complexity fitness as they navigate uncertainty. View brochure.

The Covid-19 Sacred Story Book is a living memorial in a physical or digital format – a collection of the stories and lived experiences of your people during the pandemic, crafted into a symbol of remembrance. This artefact creates ritual and celebration around the transition, important after traumatic events, in the form of a beautiful, graphic designed commemorative book of archetypal stories and themes collated from your Covid in Transition data. Our designers can work with you to create a sacred storybook for publication, or we can provide material to your own design teams if preferred.



The Assessment provides the first phase of data gathering and collective sense-making for the formulation of strategic intent, future directions and plans with Estuarine Mapping and Cynefin Action Planning. including a portfolio of safe-to-fail initiatives to build the requisite dynamic capabilities to leverage capabilities and stabilise after disruption, and to be resilient in complexity and crises.

With Estuarine Mapping we gain a deeper understanding of where we are, and what we can do. These maps visualise the forces and factors limiting the possibilities at the current time, including the counterfactuals or fixed constraints (metaphorically like the granite cliffs), the white-space voids, highly volatile dynamics, and the presence and need for constructors (things in the system that can produce replicable results).

Action Planning is done with the collection of Action Forms for the various domains of Cynefin framework (complex, ordered and chaos). Forms are also set up for SenseMaker® capture during and prior to workshops. The SenseMaker® capture streamlines the data gathering and generation of clusters for use in workshops, supports hybrid participation, and can be used to invite wider evaluation of planning based on questions around risk, impact, and unintended consequences. It is important to gain a diversity of input and engage those who will be involved in implementation.

Contact Us

About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.

© COPYRIGHT 2022. 

Social Links: The Cynefin Company
Social Links: The Cynefin Centre
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram