Where Does Complexity Fit?


Short answer: deploy complexity-science based methods to address seemingly intractable problems. 

In their 2020 book: The Flow System: The Evolution of Agile and Lean Thinking in an Age of Complexity, Brian Rivera, John W. Turner, and Nigel Thurlow layer complexity science, along with distributed leadership, and the science of teams as a triple helix above their previous model, The Toyota Way. The Toyota Way itself is built on an earlier version of systems thinking called The Toyota Production System. The Toyota Production System, under the name of LEAN, has now spread widely, first was to other car manufacturers, then to other manufactured goods, and now to services including healthcare operations.

  David Snowden, a pioneering thinker in human complex adaptive systems, is most famous for creating the Cynefin Framework which explains that fundamentally different methods are needed for leading in the ordered context, where cause and effect are either Clear (to everyone) or Complicated (requiring specialists to understand), compared to the Complex context (on which this blog will focus further), and the Chaotic (think COVID starting in March 2020). 


Snowden offers the heuristic: “if the evidence supports conflicting hypotheses about what to do and you can’t resolve those conflicts in the time available, then it’s complex.”

Lots more to follow. For a very nice 1-hour presentation introduction, please see Gary Wong's June 2023 webinar for the Society of Decision Professionals entitled Applying Cynefin To Decision Making.

As always, let me know if we can help!

Best regards,



Dr. Shayne Taback is a pediatric subspecialist, PGME CIP Director, and Executive Coach for physicians across the continuum from new graduate to C-Suite Chief Medical Officer. To learn more about him and our other coaches, please click here. Or to contact Shayne, please email shayne.taback@physiciansupport.ca or click here. To receive curated blog posts, please sign up to our newsletter below.