Investing with Cynefin: Disorder

Disorder is the fifth quadrant in the Cynefin model. Disorder is where there is no clarity about which of the other domains should apply.

“Here, multiple perspectives jostle for prominence, factional leaders argue with one another, and cacophony rules”.


The solution is “obvious”, bring the leaders together to perform a “complicated” ritual that reveals the “complex” nature of the problem and hope that the personalities involved do not turn the conversation into something “chaotic”.

A technique like four corners contextualisation can be used to facilitate a conversation between decision makers. The discussion will normally reveal that the problem is one of granularity. Decision making is a classic example of something that is often in the domain of disorder. However, when we break it down into a lower level of granularity, we discover that it falls in the other four domains.

  • The output, an ordered list is obvious.
  • The process such as cost of delay is complicated.
  • The interaction between the investment options, the available resources and the participants are complex.
  • The behaviour of warring factions is chaotic.

By moving to a lower level of granulation, the domains become apparent.

Investments that remain in the disorder quadrant indicate a dysfunctional decision making group. Often a hippo will force these items into one of the other domains. Disorder is often a symptom of a group stuck in “storming” that is not coming together to communicate.

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

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