Framework to aid in#strategy and decision-making. Wikipedia

Pronounced “keNEVin” - Welsh, “habitat / familiar”

  • Complex: enabling constraints, loosely coupled. Probe-sense-respond. Emergent practice
  • Complicated (knowable): Governing constraints, tightly coupled. Sense-analyse-respond. Good practice
  • Chaotic: Lacking constraint, decoupled. Act-sense-respond. Novel practice
  • Clear (obvious/simple/known): Tightly constrained, no degrees of freedom. Sense-categorise-respond. Best practice


  • Ordered: clear and complicated. Cause and effect are known or knowable.
  • Unordered: complex and chaotic. Cause and effect unknowable or only deducible in hindsight.


  • known knowns
  • sense (establish facts), categorise, respond
  • complacency risks a shift into chaotic

Here, decision-making lies squarely in the realm of reason: Find the proper rule and apply it.


  • known unknowns
  • range of right answers
  • requires analysis or expertise
  • sense, analyse, respond


  • unknown unknowns
  • probe, sense, respond
    • can’t even establish the facts (sense) until you probe to get signals
  • “your very actions change the situation in unpredictable ways”

instructive patterns … can emerge if the leader conducts experiments that are safe to fail


  • “too confusing to wait for a knowledge-based response”
  • act, sense, respond
    • “Action - any action - is the first and only way to respond appropriately”
    • act to establish order
    • sense where stability lies
    • respond to turn the chaotic into the complex

a leader’s immediate job is not to discover patterns but to staunch the bleeding … communication of the most direct top-down or broadcast kind is imperative; there’s simply no time to ask for input.

Disorder / confusion

  • no clarity which other domain applies
  • “multiple perspectives”
  • “break down the situation into constituent parts and assign each to one of the other four realms”

Movement tendencies

  • “clockwise drift” as knowledge increases
  • “Buildup of biases” / complacency / entropy can cause “catastrophic failure” from simple to chaotic
  • converses to both can occur (knowledge rot, sudden imposition of rules)