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The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world

Author(s): Kurz, C.F. & Snowden, D.J.
Publication Date: 2003

This paper of Kurz and Snowden outlines a new approach to strategy, which is relevant for both policy formation and operational decision-making. It builds on the experience that decision makers are increasingly confronted with situations where assumptions of order, rational choice and intent are not true while the available tools and techniques assume they are.

Based on several years of action research, Kurz and Snowden present the Cynefin framework, as a sense making device. The Cynefin framework reminds people that these three popular assumptions can not be taken for granted since all human interactions are strongly influenced by the patterns of our multiple experiences.

Central in the Cynefin framework is the differentiation between situations of order and un-order, where un-order refers to a different kind of order, which is as legitimate but often not considered. In the ordered domain, causes and effect can be known or knowable. In the un-ordered domain, relations are complex or there is chaos. In these different domains, perception and sense-making are also different. As a result, the value of this framework is not so much in finding logical arguments or empirical verification but in helping people to make sense of the complexities made visible by the relaxation of these three assumptions.