Not All Agile is Created Equal: Choosing the Right Approach for Your Team

“We are going agile!” This seems to be a statement often used in an effort to streamline existing business practices in favor of more efficient and customer focused processes. As we shift the paradigm of our day to day business activities, it is important to make sure that the new paradigm we is a fit for our current situation and needs. You can have great solutions, but if they are not applied in the right context, they will be worthless or worse, harmful. Dave Snowden’s Cynefin (pronounced Kih-neh-vihn) Framework, a welsh word, loosely meaning “habitat” and helps us visualize and understand that not all situations and/or challenges are created equal. Therefore, different agile solutions are warranted depending on the context of the scenario. It let’s us place ourselves in the right scenarios or “habitats”, so that we can pair the right agile approach with our corresponding situation to achieve optimal outcomes.


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

In this workshop, Mary Little and Anita Sagar will:

  • Provide an overview of the Cynefin Framework
  • Discuss different agile models and use cases for each approach
  • Demonstrate how to use this model to choose an agile approach that best suits your team, department, or organizational needs.

The format of this presentation will take on an "I do", "We do", "You do" structure which encourages attendee participation and interaction throughout the session. After a brief overview of agile and the Cynefin framework, as well as the presentation of case studies pulled directly from the experience of both instructors ("I do"), attendees will participate through:

  • Developing their own use case and discussing them in small groups ("We Do")
  • Taking a project assessment to understand where their project falls within the Cynefin Framework ("You do")


  • (5 mins) Introduction + A brief refresher regarding the agile mindset, practices, and tools
  • (10 mins) Cynefin Framework + Agile Applicability
  • (5 mins) Specific Examples of Enterprise Knowledge's Projects and Applications of the Cynefin Framework
  • (10 mins) Instructor-led exercise on developing use case and applying the Cynefin Framework by using the EK project assessment
  • (10 mins) Discuss in small groups, then report out
  • (5 mins) Q and A

As agile spreads beyond the IT department of your organizations, it is important to know when and how to apply the right kind of agile to increase efficiency and success. Applying the appropriate methodology to your situation allows you to truly be agile, rather than just using it as a buzzword.

Learning Outcome

Participants will learn facilitation tools and techniques necessary to guide a conversation that leverages this framework for effective decision making

Target Audience

New agilist looking to be agile.

schedule Submitted 1 year ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker
  • George Dinwiddie
    By George Dinwiddie  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply

    Mary, Anita,

    Could you expand a bit on the outline/structure of this session? I have a passing understanding of Cynefin, but see all social systems as belonging to the complex domain, unless outside uncertainty puts them into chaotic. So I'm curious how you apply this model to choose an Agile approach.

    The outline/structure is the place where you sell your session to the reviewers. Help them recognize that you'll deliver on your abstract. Give them details about the content and the way that you'll present it to convince them that you'll do a good job.

    See also for an independent description of submitting a successful proposal.

    - George, AgileDC Program Chair

    • Anita Sagar
      By Anita Sagar  ~  1 year ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks for the feedback, George! Mary and I have expanded on our outline/structure of the session