Cynefin for designers

A 45 minute Tutorial by:

James O'Brien


Slides from session

The slides used for this session are available to download from here.

About this Tutorial

One of the biggest challenges for design in agile teams is fitting design work into the sprint. The need to estimate design effort clashes with the creative, uncertain nature of discovery through design. But there is a tool that can help us understand the nature of the requirements we face, guide our problem-solving and give confident, consistent estimates to the team. This session is an introduction to Cynefin - what it is, how to use it, and why it's not pronounced the way you think it is.

Cynefin is a powerful framework for identifying and addressing complexity, and by understanding it, designers (and specifically UXers) can gain confidence in the way they approach design challenges and communicate them to the team.

I'll introduce the 5 domains of Cynefin one by one, explaining how to identify which design scenarios fit into each, and then introducing techniques for approaching each domain. I'll also show you language from Cynefin that you can use to seed into your teams to share understanding of design complexity.

By the end of the session, you'll have learnt practical skills for breaking down, assessing and estimating the complexity of design tasks and feeding them into the sprint according to t-shirt sizing. You'll also learn which design tasks should never be fed into the sprint and how to make the case for keeping them out. This will also help you establish the holy grail of agile product design, the dual-track sprint process (which I'll talk about towards the end of the session).

As an introductory session to a largely abstract framework, the tutorial will give you the chance to participate. Having explained a domain, I'll ask people to provide examples of requirements that fit into it, and then we'll discuss those suggestions.

About the Speaker

James has spent much of his career as a freelancer, working with over 30 teams to produce new products and services for clients such as Disney, Channel 4, Aardman Animations, ThoughtWorks, AutoTrader and Royal Mail. He has spent the last 6 years of his career specifically working on UX enablement and organisational change and has particular awareness of the importance of communication and the need to bring non-creative colleagues along on the journey. He regularly speaks about UX and related topics.