Cynefin framework and Johari window synergy with Risk Management

Cynefin framework and Johari window synergy with Risk Management

Feb 28th, 2018

We recently attended a talk at CIM-MES Vancouver which brought us to think about Cynefin framework and Johari window synergy with Risk Management.

What we will do in this blogpost is show that despite an apparent significant different language there are ideas and concepts that correspond between the approaches. Furthermore this leads to Cynefin framework and Johari window synergy with Risk Management.

As you will read it will become immediately apparent that “Known-knowns” of the Johari window correspond to the “Obvious” of the Cynefin. In addition the other extreme of the range, i.e. “Unknown-unknowns” and “Chaotic” also display significant similarities. Because of these two extremes similarities, can we find equivalences in the “mid-categories”? Finally do these correspondences mean anything with respect to the development of a sensible risk management approach?

Johari window and risk management

You may recall our blogpost on Johari windows and risk management in June last year.

It showed the typical Johari window before “risk management therapy” as displayed in the picture below.

Cynefin framework and Johari window synergy with Risk Management

and then the after “risk management therapy” new insight:

Johari window application in risk management

The idea was that rational risk assessment and the ensuing “risk management therapy” helps reducing the areas we hide to others, we hide to ourselves and we really do not know, finally avoiding many blunders and silly mistakes.

In a further blogpost we discussed the limbic reactions, hence the ever present conflict between acting intuitively or planning with a 360 view of upward and downward tactical and strategic risks.

We stated that we all know it exists, we can see it (no pun intended), we know when others fall for ill guided intuition, yet we often do it. (e.g. bias blind spot is the cognitive bias of recognizing the impact of biases on the judgement of others, while failing to see the impact of biases on one’s own judgment).

Cynefin framework and Johari window synergy with Risk Management

Developed in the early 2000s within IBM, Cynefin has been described as a “sense-making device”.

The idea behind Cynefin framework a 2×2 matrix as follows:

source: Snowded 

The first box in the Cynefin framework is “Obvious”. Thus Cynefin framework starts from “Obvious” and proceeds counterclockwise all the way to chaotic. Furthermore, the border between Simple and Chaotic is actually a cliff, contrary to the other borders that are “smooth transitions”.

Now, let’s try to discuss correspondence between Johari window, Cynefin framework’s categories and show the synergy with rational risk management.



Risk Management


Best practice


Situation under control, risks are well controlled and controllable with reasonable uncertainties. Risk assessment senses, prioritizes hence categorizes, and generates a roadmap to respond.


Good practice


Situation may slide in a crisis because events are complicated by lack of transparency, poor internal and external communication. Typical case for the mining industry, but by far not the only one. Risk assessment senses, helps analyzing various potential outcomes, and generates a roadmap to respond.




Situations are in crisis mode due to hazards and risks that were censored and biased. There is a sense of surprise, the need to invoke “black swans”. “User” need to activate probabilistic scenarios to probe, Risk assessment senses, and generates a roadmap to respond.




New sudden risks emerge that were beyond the understanding of the latest risk register updates. Action is required for those new risks, with rational response. Similarly, the soundness of the risk assessment practice will limit the number of the novel risks and the surprise to a minimum simplifying the “sense” function. Panic and limbic reactions reduce to a minimum allowing to respond sensibly.

Closing remarks

By widening the “Obvious”/Arena box any “user” can and will reduce the “disorder” and the difficult boxes.

Simultaneously the “user” will reduce the chances of falling from the cliff between “Simple” and “Chaotic” we mentioned above!

Call us to learn more.

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Category: Crisis management, Risk analysis, Risk management

One response to “Cynefin framework and Johari window synergy with Risk Management”

  1. Dave Snowden says:

    I’d tend to map each aspect of Johari into each Cynefin domain, their nature varying in each

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