Cynefin A&E game workshop

The Cynefin framework

Cynefin is a complexity framework devised by Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge. The framework allows people to make sense of a situation, to understand the nature of its complexity, and determine the best course of action.

Its application is vast and profound. It offers teams, leaders and policy-makers a tool to determine the nature of a situation with guiding decision-making models.

The Cynefin A&E game

To help teams understand the Cynefin framework and consider how it can relate to their work, Dean Latchana has created the Cynefin A&E game workshop.

The workshop’s game is based on a fictitious Accident & Emergency ward (aka medical emergency room). The players are presented with different scenarios where patients arrive in different medical conditions.

The players use the Cynefin framework to decide how best to manage each situation; this is challenging because of the limited time and resources. Complexity arises from their decisions and from an interaction of events. Therefore players need to use the dynamics of the Cynefin framework to handle emerging scenarios.

Learning outcomes

Players work together and use the Cynefin framework to manage various scenarios in an unpredictable environment. The game is designed to show how the framework can help teams understand the nature of complexity so they can better handle known or unknown situations.

The game scenarios are designed to relate to situations common the players’ reality. The workshop introduces complexity theory, practice and application to help individuals gain better situational awareness and make more prudent decisions.

How to run the workshop

The workshop material is available in the Creative Commons, so you can run the workshop yourself. I’d ask that you acknowledge Dave Snowden, who developed the Cynefin framework, and give recognition to me (Dean Latchana) who created the workshop.

It’s advisable that you contact me to take you through the workshop and material, and consider whether you’d like me to facilitate the workshop and teach the theory.

Importantly to run the workshop for commercial purposes, you need to become a premium member of Cognitive Edge, the consultancy which owns the rights. I am a premium member of Cognitive Edge, so I have the rights to use their tools commercially.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
Cynefin A&E game workshop by Dean Latchana is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Photos from previous workshops

Circles of influence and control – A risk management technique

Circles of influence and control – A risk management technique

The problem

Teams often find it hard to capture and visualise risks in a way which allows the team, their stakeholders and leaders to clearly understand who needs to provide help.

The team’s goals will be threatened if captured risks and issues are inaccessible and hard to decipher.

The solution

To help teams communicate to stakeholders and leaders where the team needs specific help, I’ve created a technique called Circles of Influence & Control.

The technique uses visual management to show the degree of influence and control the team has over each risk or issue. Stakeholders and leaders can easily see where the team needs support.

It also encourages the team to understand what they have control over and immediately take steps to resolve the risk or issue.



  1. Draw three concentric circles
  2. Label the inner circle “In our control”
  3. Label the middle circle “Some influence”
  4. Label the outer circle “No, or very little, influence


Using post-it notes, the team should add risks, issues, blockers into the appropriate circles

actions and responsibilities

The team should plan how to resolve, own, accept, mitigate or escalate each item. This should be done with the appropriate stakeholders and leaders so they know how to help the team.

Once populated the team should focus energy on the inner circle of items since they have control of those items. The team should also focus attention on the middle circle of items since they have a degree of influence.

The stakeholders and the leadership team should pay particular focus on the outer circle since these are items the team have little or no influence to address.


  • Team members can update these circles at any time
  • The team can review, manage and escalate items on a regular basis
  • Different colour post-it notes can be used to denote how long items have been present


Red Team technique

Red Team technique

The problem

We sometimes find it hard to challenge and critique a concept or a way of working. Many of us are naturally polite and would rather not upset someone or undermine someone else’s work.

However, this avoidance misses opportunities to strengthen our colleague’s work before unquestioned commitments are made.

The solution

To address this I’ve created the Red Team technique. The Red Team technique gives people permission to criticise and pull-apart their colleague’s idea.

Red Team members are temporarily given this permission to act in this manner – typically for 10 to 15 minutes.

A Red Team is typically between 2 and 5 people.


1. How to respond to the Red Team

Those presenting their idea should state their proposal, answer any clarifying questions, listen to the criticism, but not respond in any other way.

The Red Team’s criticisms should be noted and later used to strengthen the proposal. The proposing team could then have their improved proposal challenged by a different Red Team.

2. Things the Red Team should consider when criticising

As well as using SMART criteria, the Red Team should consider criticising an idea based on the values of their team or organisation, such the value of action before perfection.

3. When to form a Red Team

The proposing team could schedule the Red Team exercise, or they can be more impromptu and seek volunteers to form a Red Team with little notice.

4. Who should be on the Red Team

Obviously, the Red Team shouldn’t include those working on the idea.
So the Red Team can have a degree of naivety and curiosity, I recommend they don’t know too much about the idea. Neither should the Red Team have the same understanding of the problem domain as those presenting the idea.

In summary

What is a Red Team

An independent group formed temporarily to challenge an idea, approach or an understanding.

Why use the Red Team technique

It helps to strengthen propositions by testing assumptions and exploring alternatives.

Training exercise

I have a training exercise that can be used to introduce the Red Team technique. Contact me if you’d like to learn about it.