Starting an Engagement

In this article I’ll explain my current approach to starting an engagement or initiative with the leadership team.

This approach will ensure the initiative gets off and continues on the right footing. It’s been inspired by Collis’ and Rukstad’s approach to articulating a strategy.

Let’s start with establishing and agreeing the initiative’s intent, what outcomes it’s trying to achieve, and the rules of engagement. Created collectively during a kick-off workshop, each of the following should have a statement written in a few clear sentences; the balanced scorecard will need something a little more elaborate.


Why the initiative exists. What’s the underlying motivation of the initiative; what’s its contribution to the wider organisation and whom it’s ultimately serving.


Establish what the engagement team will believe in, and how it will behave. This team is a partnership of the key stakeholders/leaders and the consultants/coaches.

The values govern how the team behave (“doing the right thing”), not necessarily what the team should do (“the right thing to do”).


What we want the initiative to deliver. It could be an indeterminate future goal.


What’s our game plan. Identify a number of coherent approaches that the team have reasonable confidence in. From these create an ordered backlog.

Ensure they’re SMART objectives. Know that certain approaches may fail, so ensure a plurality of strategies, and a flexible mindset.

To ensure understanding and alignment, use tools such as Karl Scotland’s Backbriefing A3.

Balanced Scorecard

Monitor and judge which approaches are working against success criteria.

To help with visibility and alignment, ensure the statements and balanced scorecard are shared across the organisation and with the relevant suppliers & partners.

Throughout the engagement judge buy-in and motivation, especially their appetite for uncertainty and the need to potentially change some established expectations. Establish how much genuine leadership commitment exists, especially when it comes to making some tough trade-offs.

The kick-off should be the start of an ongoing review to see if the initiative is on track; to check whether to continue with the current set of approaches or pivot with another set.

Importantly, if despite best efforts, the initiative isn’t providing value, exercise the option to end it early. There’s no point spending time and money flogging a dead horse.

I’m available if you’d like someone experienced to facilitate this as part of an engagement’s kick-off and to periodically review progress.


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