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Beyond Bureaucracy

Globalisation, digitalisation and the fourth industrial revolution are just some of the key drivers of ever increasing complexity at the workplace. The variety of customer demands is unintelligible. Products and services are ever more interdependent. The next turn of the market is impossible to foresee.

If you look at the foundations these same workplaces are built on, you almost inevitably find a basic operating model that imposes some kind of order on this complex world. Standards, processes and definitions allow for a predictable and  manageable environment. More than that, they are the foothold for efficiency, scalability and industrialisation. And those in turn are the source of a profitable business.

In the complex domain, nothing happens the same way twice except by accident.

(Dave Snowden,

At first, that sounds quite convincing. But with increasing complexity it becomes more and more difficult to connect the ordered and the complex domain. The result are the exponential increase of bureaucracy, unrealistic forecasts and objectives, and over-rigid constraints that make it impossible for people to get their job done. You are supposed to explain a product to customers, but the information you have constantly lags behind what customers need to know. You are supposed to hand in your annual budget, but it depends on so many decisions that other people have yet to take. And some of those decisions, in turn, might depend on the kind of budget you hand in. As performance goes down, cynicism spreads amongst staff.

We believe that the appropriate way of working in a complex enviroment, the appropriate tools, and the appropriate mindset, are further away from the present mainstream than many of us think they are. But no worry, it is something you can learn! On the basis of Cognitive Edge’s Cynefin Framework, we have developed the Amber Compass, a collection of focus areas and activities to help people at all levels of the organisation master this onslaught of complexity. Have a look at the Amber Compass!

We have also developed a host of didactical material for teaching and coaching complexity savvyness. Games, worksheets, case studies and discussion papers can be used to build the right approach to the right focus. Some recent examples are the Cynefin Cards, and Enigma – a free online game. You can get a taste in our public training – but we’re offering customised versions for inhouse programs as well.
You may also want to look at our interactive (yes!) video which explains the Cynefin Framework with the help of something as ordinary as shopping experiences. The method in the video is taken out of the Cynefin Playing Cards, so the video gives you a taste of one of our didactical approaches, too. Enjoy!

  • What We Do

    Palladio Trusted Advisers are a small group of professionals dedicated to developing organisations and their leaders in complex and dynamic environments.


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    Trusted Advisers
    Bachlettenstrasse 66
    4054 Basel

    +41 78 783 72 44

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