The Cynefin framework identifies five domains within which systems and environments can co-exist. In summary the five domains are:
- The ‘Simple‘ Domain – characterized by clear cause-and-effect relationships, with well-defined rules of engagement that call for the use of best practice approaches.
- The ‘Complicated’ domain – where the relationships between cause-and-effect are not straight forward but are discernible subject to some level of analysis or investigation with the application of expert knowledge.
- The ‘Complex‘ domain – where the relationship between cause-and-effect can only be perceived in retrospect
- The ‘Chaos‘ domain – where uncertainty is abound and no discernible cause-and-effect relationship are known to exist.
- ‘Disorder‘ – when no clear realization exists regarding the state at which the situation is and where no clear action can be taken due to conflicting views and complete lack of leadership.
When tying the concept of software development estimation with the Cynefin framework one has to consider (or rather ‘sense’) in which domain the system and the environment are and, based on that assessment, tailor the estimation process to account to that situation. The situations most likely to be present at the outset of the estimation process are as follows: Some of the objections to carrying out estimates touch on the variability (or rather uncertainty) associated with the state of either the System or the Environment. The Cynefin Framework recognizes the difficulty associated with managing complex situations and suggests an approach to effectively get them managed. Tackling complexity requires resident knowledge about the system and its environment and, more importantly, requires adaptation and openness to learn about them. Experimentation management is the key to overcome the fear of tackling the unknown. Rather than adopting an attitude of ‘it cannot be done’ I would suggest that an attitude of ‘let’s put in a place a process of experimentation so we can tackle the unknown’ would better serve the needs of both those delivering the estimates and those requiring them for business decision-making. Think about it! aaa