9 years, 4 months ago

SCCC: Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic

Link: http://weblog.tetradian.com/2011/10/09/sccc-simple-complicated-complex-chaotic/

Folks, we have an important issue on terminology that we need to address.

In two comments to my previous post, Dave Snowden has made it clear that he objects to any reference to the term ‘Cynefin‘ that does not conform exactly to his specification for that term.

This includes any usage of the term ‘Cynefin-categorization’, which I’ve been using in order to distinguish (and advise others to distinguish) the usage of the ‘Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic’ category-set, from Cynefin-proper. Snowden has made it clear that the term ‘Cynefin-categorization’ is not acceptable for this or any other purpose.

We are reminded that Cynefin-proper is a sensemaking-framework, and that in general the term ‘Cynefin’ should not be used in relation to any form of categorisation. If the term is used to describe categories, that usage must include all five Cynefin categories, including the central domain of ‘Disorder’. Under no circumstances may it be used to indicate the four-item category-set of Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic. We are also reminded that the Cynefin framework has a very specific graphic-format, and that the term ‘Cynefin’ should never be used in relation to a simple 2×2 matrix.

The practical problem is that the ‘Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic’ category-set and its variants are in common use throughout the enterprise-architecture discipline and many others, and have been so for many years. Although I seem once again to have taken the brunt of Snowden’s ire on this, the reality is that a lot of people are using that type of category-set and describing it as ‘Cynefin’ – usually as a result of (mis)-reading the Cynefin page on Wikipedia. A lot of people – as in Nigel Green’s example – are using that type of category-set with a 2×2 matrix and describing as ‘Cynefin’, or ‘based on Cynefin’. It’s clear that we cannot and must not do this any more.

Obviously the full category-set ‘Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic’ is too long for routine use, which is why many have used ‘Cynefin’ as a convenient shorthand. Again, we cannot and must not do this any more: hence we need an alternative shorthand term.

The obvious choice is the simple acronym: SCCC for Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic. (It could be shortened to SC3, but I’d prefer not… :-) )

Could we perhaps adopt this from now on?

Or does anyone have a better alternative? Suggestions, please?

— —

On a separate but related matter, Snowden’s comments to that post once again make clear his opinions on the (lack of) quality and value of my work, such as stating that the tools and techniques that I’ve developed for sensemaking and the like are inherently “invalid … in certain essential aspects”, and insinuating that the cross-map techniques for ‘context-space mapping’ described in my book Everyday Enterprise-Architecture and elsewhere should be dismissed as a ‘hash-up’.

Which, I’ll admit, does hurt: critique is important, and I do value genuine critique, but this feels more like wholesale destruction just for the dubious enjoyment of doing so… Oh well.

There’s no question Snowden is entitled to his opinion, of course. And I’d certainly agree that he’s forceful in asserting those opinions. But unlike some others, I do suffer from deep and persistent self-doubt, and I’ll admit that this has thrown me straight back into that space again, seriously doubting whether what I’ve been doing has any value to anyone at all…

So I’m asking for your honest advice in this: is Snowden’s opinion the right one here? Does my work have any value to you, or to any others that you know, in enterprise-architectures and elsewhere? Should I just accept his view that what I’m doing is valueless to everyone, and the implication that I really ought to give up and walk away from it all, to leave you and him and everyone else  in peace? Or if you consider that it does have any value, what can I do to make it better, and perhaps more resilient to the kind of dismissals and denigration that we see here and elsewhere?

Comments/suggestions? Over to you, if would?

Many thanks, anyway.