Leading with Complexity talk & workshop


When organisations are often too ponderous to innovate, what proven approaches exist to bridge the internal divide between the opposing needs of entrepreneurialism and operationalism?

We’ll explore emerging approaches that utilise the internal tensions between innovators and conservative communities. These techniques create an adaptive space that can enable greater agility and market competitiveness.


  • The rate of organisational adaptability must be greater than the market
  • The barriers to innovation, such as operational culture stifling the emergence of entrepreneurialism
  • The myths and mistakes organisations make to create innovation and alignment
  • Utilising the natural tension between traditionalists and entrepreneurs to create lasting innovation
  • Research and personal stories of how organisations have overcome scepticism and have achieved innovation and better competitiveness

Talk or workshop

As a talk: 45 to 60 minutes

As a talk and workshop: 60 to 90 minutes


RUDE – Estimate more than team effort

RUDE is a handy mnemonic for estimating the work needed to deliver its intended outcome(s).

It stands for Risks, Uncertainties, Dependencies, Effort.

It reminds teams that when estimating work, they need to consider more than the effort needed to deliver the work.

Risks Consider the likelihood and impact of known aspects that, if they come true, will threaten the work or its outcome(s). Such aspects can be managed.
Uncertainties What unknowns could there be?
How unfamiliar is this work?
Amongst stakeholders, how acceptable is the work and its outcome(s)?
Early in the project, such factors are likely to be unpredictable.
Dependencies Who, and what, is the team depend upon to deliver the outcome(s). The greater the dependencies the greater the complexity.
Effort Estimated time and energy needed by the team to deliver the outcome(s).

This is separate from the effort of other parties who are needed to deliver the outcome(s), but should include the team’s effort to liaise with those parties.

Sizing work items

Teams may want to use Fibonacci estimation to size work items relevant to each other.

Note that two work items may be of the same size for different reasons.

For example, a work item may need little team effort but have high dependencies, whereas another work item – of the same size – may need lots of team effort but have no dependencies beyond the team.

Example – Project to build a house extension

The Goal

Your family would like a house extension built. Consider the family as the project team.


There could be known aspects which threaten the extension. For example, it may be known that it needs to be built on land prone to subsidence.


This might be the first time the family is having a house extension built. So, for them, there are many unknowns.

The extension’s design will be subject to the agreement of local authorities, building regulations and your neighbours’ consent. Consider these parties as stakeholders.

Regarding the work itself, you may need to gain permission to access your neighbour’s land.

At the start of the project, stakeholders’ responses are likely to be unpredictable.


What specialists are needed to build a house extension? Has your team and the various specialists worked together before?


How much time and energy do you and your family estimate will be needed to manage the house extension project?

Related reading

Risk vs Uncertainty in Project Management

Cynefin A&E game workshop

The Cynefin framework

Cynefin is a sense-making framework created by Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge. The framework allows people to make sense of a situation, to understand its context, and determine the appropriate 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 environment, 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 emerges 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 to the players’ reality. The workshop introduces complexity theory, practice and application to help individuals gain better situational awareness and make more prudent decisions.

Some practical applications

  • Competitive awareness and response
  • Appropriate leadership & management styles
  • Understand the nature of today’s management challenges
  • Governance, policy and practice creation
  • Planning, risk management & product development
  • When to, and when not to, provide estimates
  • Refining the backlog and testing assumptions
  • Avoiding groupthink
  • Incident response

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. Here are the slides from a workshop run in 2019.

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