The Cynefin domains and the management functions

October 6, 2010

The four classical management functions are: planning, organizing, directing/leading, and controlling. They are in a rather linear sequence, along with continuous communication and decision making. An interesting idea (and exercise) could be matching these functions with the four Cynefin domains and reflecting on the emerged combinations, which would possibly be very revealing of the specific context. For example, what would you think of a place / system / organization where:

Planning employs complex methods trying to respond to different needs; the organization structure is flexible and complicated to adapt to changes; leadership is emergent and inspirational; and control is performed through a small number of simple and commonly accepted rules?

Planning tries to respond to continuous shifts of global economy; the organization is more or less given, with a lot of outsourcing; leadership very understands the employees’ subtle needs; and control is performed through complicated systems?

Planning is made by experts; the organization structure is rigid; leadership is chaotic; and control is ambiguous and exercised by networks?

Well, I don’t know where the first place is; if someone does, please let me know. The second I think is virtual; it exists in the vision-mission statement of a “supernova” of the new economy. As for the third, I know it perfectly well; it is the “black hole” of the Greek public administration.

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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.

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