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Using Cynefin Framework for Complex HC Projects

So far in this blog series I have discussed using the Cynefin framework for providing guidance in determining the best SDLC methodology to use for a particular type of project defined by the framework as well as delving into the chaotic type of project.

This month I will focus on the Complex type of projects defined using the Cynefin framework.


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As you can see from looking at the picture above, the complex is the category where solutions are discovered by developing a safe environment for experimentation. This experimentation allows you to discover important information that leads to the creation of new emergent solutions.

These problems are always more unpredictable than they are predictable. Hindsight can only tell us if there is a right answer as we explore the problem. Only with detailed experiments, inspections and results will you be able to base your decisions.

The current results are then used to define the next step toward a solution. In such situations, the ability to probe (explore), sense (inspect) and respond (adapt) is critical. There are several key characteristics which assist in identifying a complex project.

Characteristics of the Complex category:

  • There are unknown unknowns
  • Even the starting point requires experimentation
  • The right questions to ask need exploration
  • The solution is only apparent once discovered
  • The sector of emergence ideas
  • Routine solutions don’t apply
  • Higher levels of interaction and communication are essential

If you find yourself managing a complex project the approaches defined below will help you better define the complex problems.

Approach for Complex problems:

  • Explore to learn about the problem, as they require more creativity and innovative thinking skills
  • Develop a theory and experiment to gather more knowledge
  • Experimentation to discover patterns and gain more knowledge
  • Repeat as necessary, with the goal of moving your problem into the another category
  • Execute and evaluate, following the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle

As the picture above indicates, Agile is the desired methodology to use as theory. Experimentation can be defined in predetermined amounts of time with predefined goals.


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John Ideler

John Ideler is a delivery director within Perficient's national healthcare practice. John has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry, including more than five years in life sciences and healthcare. Over the past several years, John has focused in providing clients BI analytics and value-based care capability using Epic's Cogito data warehouse as a centralized source.

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