How Agile can help during COVID-19 Pandemic

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Have you ever heard about the Cynefin framework?

It is a tool, very well known in Agile, where you can frame situations into “5 Domains” defined by cause-effect relationships.

The power of this framework is that it allows you to analyze your current work/personal life issues, and helps you with a lot of insights on how to act and respond in case of crisis or emergency, like the one we are living in due to COVID-19 Pandemic.

The 5 Domains:

Cynefin framework

Obvious — The “Plan-do” domain

This domain doesn’t require a lot of analytical thinking, because you simply need to individualize what you need to do, categorize it and finally respond.

Imagine you need to prepare a recipe. What do you usually do?

You look for the ingredients, you buy them and then you follow automatically the tips given to make the best meal possible.

Complicated — The “Ask the experts” domain

Complicated issues can have multiple solutions.

Let’s say you are starting to feel sick, but you don’t know what the root cause is and how to fix the problem.

In this case, you are going to contact your doctor as he is the “field expert” and will find the right cure for your symptoms.

What if the doctor doesn’t know what the cure is? He will need to bring the problem to a “team of experts” and brainstorm on what the appropriate solution will be.

This domain is based on the “Sense | Analyze (with the help of experts) | Respond” approach.

Chaotic — The “need for order” domain

When you live in a chaotic environment, the first thing you want to do is to reinstate the order.

Imagine being a school teacher and having to deal with the undisciplined kids of the class. The first thing you do is to restore stability and give them orders to follow. You will need to act fast and take a decisive side in order to be effective. This will bring things back to normal and you will be allowed to perform your primary role: education.

Disorder — Where “Confusion is the King”

There isn’t a predominant domain, in this case, therefore it’s extremely hard to make decisions.

The only thing that you could do is to gather more information and understand better the context you are in.

Example: you don’t know which university you want to pick or which career you want to pursue, therefore the most logical thing to do is to start researching and find some inspirations that can drive your decisions.

Complex — The “Experimental” domain

In complex environments, there can’t be an immediate right solution. In this domain, there is a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It seems that what we are experiencing now due to COVID-19 is a complex context where we don’t have all the answers and we will need to experiment a lot until we find some patterns and a solution will emerge, whether it will be a cure, a vaccine or a coexistence situation.

Patienceexperimentation, and lessons learned are all keys to success.

This is the situation where most businesses fall at the moment and this is where Agile comes into play!

What is the best methodology to “inspect and adapt”, that uses “safe-to-fail-experiments” and short iterations to pivot temporarysolutions and learn from past mistakes?

Agile experimentation!

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Whether you are a company that it’s going through tough times or you are a group of highly skilled doctorspoliticians or statistics experts, the answer is to apply validated learning and go step by step to find out if the planned solution worked, if not you will need to go back with a new iteration and new challenges to solve.


How you act today will have a knock-on effect on your futurereputation, and long term plans, as a person as well as a company.

Thinking that this is just a temporary situation and things will get back to normal once the pandemic is over, which can take several months, is not the correct solution.

This is the time where “innovation and experimentation” should take the lead, where everybody should have a voice and the wisdom of the crowd should prevail.

priceless value should be given to people who think outside the box, who are resilient and resourceful, who are not afraid to fail and will do anything in their power to adjust and course-correct.

It’s time to find new processestools, and methodologies to help us make our work and personal life easier.

Maybe, this is the moment where a new human specie will flourish. A specie that will quickly adapt to the changes and to a new world that will never be the same.

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