How to screw up Cynefin

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If you're interested in building strong, healthy, adaptive organisations, there are many resources to help you.
You can find all sorts of information to make your organisation better.

This is not one of those resources.

This is a guide to:

  • Develop the tools and techniques to reduce your organisation to a smoking crater
  • Maximise the chances of catastrophic failure and personal unhappiness
  • Create hostile work environments guaranteed to make everyone unhappy


Some of the tools you’ll need as you start your journey into misery and mayhem are so simple that you may possess them already and not even know it.
In fact, these simple, intuitive techniques can be among the most powerful weapons in your arsenal for screwing things up.

Now it might be that you don’t actually want a dismal, unhappy organisation.
You may be one of those people who wants it all functionally adaptive, and who does everything in your power to make that happen.

Hey, it takes all kinds.

Even if your goal is effectiveness, and you work toward that end, you can still run off the rails by letting others screw things up for you.
Here are some tips to support you on your way with certain demise.

Methods for mayhem & misery

You've undoubtedly experienced many masters of mayhem in action.
Share the techniques you've witnessed here so we may all become as worthy as them.

  • Always focus on how things should be. Ignore how they came to be, how things are, and where we can act for change.
  • Ignore attitudes. Expect compliance especially when it goes against the dispositional direction.
  • Avoid conflict, controversy and disagreement. Build more and more tension through avoidance, resulting in greater conflict when it's least able to be managed. Watch chaos reign.
  • Never use metaphor. Be linear in everything you do.
  • Create rigid and confining rules. Only use best practice guidance. Especially use it when it's not working.
  • Create your ideal end goal, do not budge. Even if the world is burning around you, insist that envisioning your end state and moving in a linear direction towards it is the only way. [1]
  • Inspire everyone with the crafted platitudes of your mission, vision and purpose statements. Put them up on your walls and on all digital assets. Be shocked when they don't work. Rewrite them as a solution.
  • Force everything into domains - project manage your way to ultimate 'certainty'.
  • Do not allow any failure. Only positivity and perfection is allowed. [2]

"It's complex"

This technique is brilliant for absolving yourself and others of responsibility. [3]
You also get to infuriate your team members by refusing to help, because, of course, the complex can't be helped.
Say "it's complex" and throw your hands in the air like there's nothing you can do.
Now you can go back to focusing on the ordered domains.

Support the 83%

The invisible gorilla strikes again
What's great about this technique, is you don't have to do anything at all!
When you see something the 83% don't see - whatever you do, don't speak up.
If you're in the 17%, doubt yourself, stay quiet. Don't verify.
I mean, they're in the majority - what would you know?
Who wants to be the squeaky wheel anyway.
You're not up for civil disobedience, you know, like Dave.
Just stay quiet, support the 83% and you win.

Bonus move:
If someone questions the authority of the 83%, point out,

"there are so many of them saying the same thing, they must be right".

Make sure to say it with a shrug and a resigned tone as you walk away.
Persist with gently dismissing the voice of the 17% at every opportunity, and you have a real winner.

On the flip side, every time there's a dissenting voice, insist they must be right, because they're not the majority.
You get to choose which side you're on. Whatever you do though, don't look at the actual content.