Contextualizing Your Decision Framework


I want to unofficially nominate Harvard Business Review for writing one of last year’s most interesting articles on thought.

The article is called, “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making.” The article explains how some decision-makers tailor their approach to fit the dynamics affecting the challenges they face.

First, this article presents the reader with a very brief (half magazine page) introduction into yet another understanding of complexity:

“Complexity is more a way of thinking about the world than a new way of working with mathematical models.”(p71)

But the greatest value in this article is the table on page 73, where the authors breakdown challenges into:

  • Simple
  • Complicated
  • Complex
  • Chaotic

Each of these is correlated with the following table columns:

  • The context’s characteristics
  • The Leader’s Job
  • Danger Signals
  • Response to Danger Signals

This table becomes a type of “cheat sheet”, that the reader can use to reference their type of challenge and then use the framework suggested to address it.

I think this article is valuable because as a global society we may be in need of education about problem-solving skills. This article provides insights into problem solving models in an accessible way.

*At the same time, I’m trying to remain aware that the article is narrowly targeted to the business community. This reminds me that its scope and framework is limited and leaves a lot of opportunity for both, expansion and further contextualization to address other types of challenges.*

Perhaps more importantly, this article calls to the utility of using different “lenses” / “frameworks” as tools to understand and interact with our world.

(*Update: Mr. Snowden commented on my comment above. After re-reading the article I agree that the framework is ‘open’ enough to be applied in different situations.)

Snowden, David J. and Mary E. Boone. A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Review. November 1, 2007. (pp 69-76).

Strongly Related
The Cynefin model, as covered in Wikipedia

The Cynefin model described via video (via Narrative Lab)

What Kind of Decision is it? (via Harvard Business Review)

Related in this blog:

“Integrating Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Models” >>
Daniel Montano
Keyword: Daniel Montano, Dan Montano, user experience design, information architect


4 thoughts on “Contextualizing Your Decision Framework

  1. Thanks for the kind words. While the article is targeted at the HBR readership, it is not true to say that the scope is limited to the business community. It has been used extensively in Government, the NGO sector, Indigenous affairs and many other areas.

  2. Thank you for your comment. It’s great to see that you read blog postings in tiny blogs like this one. As for my comment, I always try to leave enough room for sketpticim towards any methodology, ideology, belief etc. – the purpose for me doing that is to always keep enough room for innovations, re-thinking, re-understanding, re-interpretation, re-contextualizations, repurposing etc. I think all of these are important degrees of freedom to encourage an innovative society. Once again, thanks for the comment. I’m looking forward to reading more about related topics.

  3. The challenge in any organization or group is to get the tools being used in proper way, put in mind that we have different level of physical, intellect, emotional and spiritual ability. These differences should be inculcated in any tool. Then it would be much more practical. Thanks to Mr Snowden and lushbooks on the commentary.

  4. Fazrul, I think you’re talking about contextualizing solution systems. If that’s the case then I absolutely agree. The tool, the process, the criteria for evaluating degrees of success all need to be contextualized to take into consideration the active factors.

    I like that you mentioned emotion and spirituality from the perspective that I think it’s important to acknowledge how each culture places different degrees of importance on these and many other factors.

    So the solution system needs to acknowledge this – both in the statement of the challenge and in the evaluation methodology.

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