It is noticeable at company level: order books may be full, but components are missing due to cut supply chains. Sometimes staff is not there to work them off. Or demand collapses, hopefully not forever, but drastically. Margins cannot be maintained this way. The Cynefin model allows a more thorough analysis.
In the background loom problems on a completely different level. The war against Ukraine, gas and electricity are scarce or expensive or both, inflation remeins as highs as 10 percent, CORONA and long COVID have not been overcome, and all are only temporarily pushing the climate crisis into the back seat.
The situation is, in short, VUCA! Volatile, uncertain, complex (more on this below), ambivalent. But effective down to the shop floor level.
The Cynefin model suggests a creative, fresh approach that points outside of proven patterns. Possibly these might contribute to the aggravation of the situation! The hoarding of scarce parts, raw materials and fuel leads to further shortages! Broadening the base of suppliers, especially globally, is perhaps more sustainable. More control of presence (“No more home office!”), and adding fifty cents to retain employees possibly makes them want more, just somewhere else. Larger batches as a result of a reduction in the variety of variants suddenly lead to a drop in demand …
Cynefin (Gaelic, pronounced Gnawin), or author Dave Snowden respectively, distinguishes between obvious, complicated, complex, and chaotic conditions. A condition is clear when it is simple, when cause and effect are obvious and can be addressed using valid best practices. Allow me a funny analogy: the board game mill, clear rules and simple procedure – whoever starts will win. A situation is complicated when it appears difficult and requires study and expertise, but good practice can be trusted to produce results. Appropriate analogy: Sudoku very difficult – the rules are clear and strict logic finally leads to the result, where possible after several attempts.
Complex is a condition that is unknown, but one is aware of. Especially when different factors don’t just add up, but interact in a interwoven manner. And if own actions do not lead to clear consequences, but to perhaps unimagined ones. This distinction is particularly important! Snowden describes simply that cause and effect can only be grasped in hindsight and that the approach must be in probe – sense – respond. Another board game as an example: chess! The difference over the previously mentioned games: there is an opponent who follows his tactics. And who, on top of that, definitely reacts to his own moves.
Eventually it becomes chaotic: the situation becomes unknown in a way that cannot be experienced. And certainly not controllable with known methods. Completely new practices are necessary here.
In particular, the author warns that confusion arises when condition and approach do not match! Especially in complex or even chaotic situations, well-known methods for solving problems do not lead to the goal, but there is a risk of retreating to the comfort zone and resorting to routine!
Conversely, it is not worth mixing up mastered routines using unusual, e.g. agile, methods. There it is not a matter of a completely misunderstood error culture, but of further reducing the ppm or dpm – that is exhausting enough.
After all, in complex and chaotic situations it is important to vary approach and procedure. Here the concept of agility regains its original meaning beyond the sphere of software development – or is expanded. It’s about, even if it sounds cynical, to raise the creative potential of crises.