In 2007, David Snowden and Mary Boone published an article in Harvard Business Review called “A Leader's Framework for Decision Making.” In it, they describe a way of looking at different classes of problems, and how the methods used to solve those problems will be different depending upon in which context you are operating. They called this framework “Cynefin,” which is a Welsh word that describes the often-unforeseen factors that influence our decisions.
When learning about this framework, I could not help but think of their descriptions in the context of many problems that I’ve had to solve over the course of my career in Production Operations and Engineering. The authors even describe Cynefin in a context that will look very familiar to those who have been in this same role:
“Leaders who understand that the world is often irrational and unpredictable will find the Cynefin framework particularly useful.”
–David Snowden and Mary Boone, "A Leader's Framework for Decision Making" (Harvard Business Review, 2007)
Irrational and unpredictable? How many production outages have I been involved with that appeared irrational and unpredictable? Most of them! I began to think about how Cynefin could be applied in a DevOps context.