Chapter Communications Blog

Carlos Martinez Arteaga 100x100

Author: Carlos Martinez, PMP

Event Report –Understand complexity and how to navigate it: playing the Cynefin playing cards 


On the 24th of August, Bernhard Sterchi presented at the Stücki Hotel in Basel “Understand Complexity. Playing the Cynefin Playing Cards”.

Bernhard is a Management and Leadership expert at As trainer, consultant and coach he has been working with family businesses, corporations and government organizations. For over 13 years he has been accompanying leaders from middle managers to CEOs and owners in essential transformations of their personal and institutional maturity.

To start, he put the example of avocados and how this fruit (yes, avocados are classified as a fruit) came from being an unknown to the world, to becoming and highly desired fruit, with a sudden increase demand that affected the supply chain in ways never seen before, along with environmental issues such as the amount of water required to grow this fruit. The complexity related to this “discovery” could have been approached using the Cynefin framework.

Cynefin enables managers to identify how they perceive situations, and to make sense of their own and other people's behaviour.

We as humans can solve very complex situations, but to become more effective in dealing with these we have to learn how to manage them, Cynefin, pronounced kun-EV-in, is a methodology developed by Dave Snowden in 1999, when he worked at IBM, that enables managers to identify how they perceive situations, and to make sense of their own and other people's behaviour.

Cynefin offers five contexts or "domains" of decision-making: complex, complicated, chaotic, obvious and disorder (the center).


The obvious domain represents the "known knowns". With tight constraints, no degree of freedom whatsoever and solved with best practices. Obvious problems are first sensed, the categorized and finally responded. You typically do that when you apply a standard solution to a standard problem.

The complicated domain consists of the "known unknowns". With governing constraints tightly coupled, and with good practice. Complicated subjects are first sensed, then analyzed and finally responded. This is typically done when a project includes analysis, concept, and implementation.

The complex domain represents the "unknown unknowns". With enabling constraints loosely coupled and with an emergent practice. In complex situations you have to start by probing, or experimenting, then sensing what works and what doesn’t and finally responded to by amplifying what works, and dampening what doesn’t, until you meet the next shift of pattern.

In the chaotic domain, cause and effect are unclear, here the events are too confusing to wait for a knowledge based response. These lack any constraint, are de-coupled and require a novel practice. In chaotic situations you are forced to act immediately, then you may sense how successful you are, and hopefully respond by improving your action.

The dark disorder domain in the center represents situations where there is no clarity about which of the other domains apply.

The presentation was set up as a workshop, to get the full flavor of what Cynefin really was all about.

The attendants were grouped in tables, with a set of cards and a dashboard to work with, the dashboard is called “Complexity Manager’s Compass”

As it is usual in the PMI events, the pace was fast, very fast, as the groups rallied to the set of cards, discussing within the groups the answers to later write down in the compass the agreed answer/s.

The cards took the attendants through questions about common and day to day situations.

The cards were grouped into chapters, starting very simple, and becoming more complex over time.

The first chapter was about exploring the difference between complex and ordered environments.

Then we moved to understanding the need to keep order within an industrial production context, and different ways to bridge the gap towards the customer’s expectations, which are most often complex.

From there, we started exploring different concepts with which to describe complex systems, some of which were little familiar to most of us. But since we did so discussing a situation which each of us could imagine, we were able to apply the concepts quickly.

Next, we explored the use of the Cynefin framework, and its application, in this case, to shopping experiences.

To conclude our learning journey, we explored several principles of how to behave in complex environments, and applied them to all the situations we had discussed in the previous chapters.

The key take ways from the workshop were:

-We cannot control everything and should focus on what is really important to solve.

-When dealing with complexity we should try to see the complete picture

-Solutions should be thought through

-Understand and verify pre-assumptions

I must say I really enjoyed the event, and I think most of the attendants did. I found it very eye opening, and would strongly recommend others to try it and to dig deeper into the application of this framework in solving complex situations.




Carlos Martinez





Irina Petkova

Author: Irina Petkova

Dear Members and Newsletter Subscribers,


I have once again the privilege to share with you my thoughts and I will continue with the theme on volunteering.

At the beginning of the year I was confessing to you my personal experience and why I was volunteering for PMI-CH Chapter. This time I will go broader and will try to urge you to truly see the reason why we as human beings should consider really seriously “giving back” to the society we live, in any forms we find it relevant to us.

You may ask why I am using the PMI-CH Message from the Board platform to talk about this and the answer is very simple. Before being members to anything we are individuals on this earth who now unfortunately observe every single day tragedies conducted by other individuals happening just next to us. The main objective of any organization is to stay relevant and to try to contribute positively to the surrounding environment. As you know we are volunteers driven association and as I firmly believe that serving to others voluntary makes us better people that can strive to make the world a greater place, I feel I have the responsibility and should use this opportunity to persuade you even more in the volunteering challenge.

I am sure many can find excuses of too much work or other duties whenever someone asks them would you be interested in volunteering. Or those that agree are triggered mainly by personal aspirations for growth, which was my initial reason as well by the way.

But my message to you today is do not look for excuses or self-driven ambitions, just think that we are all here for limited amount of time and how our lives and those of our children will be depend mainly on our joint efforts to serve compassionately and passionately to each other. So whether you decide to volunteer to our Chapter that will help our Project Managers community to flourish and like that be beneficial to all of us, or to volunteer in a completely different area where you feel you can contribute and make a difference for good, be sure that all matter and every single simple effort brings us closer to the world we want to live in.

And last but not least it is good to remind ourselves that  “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” – Sherry Anderson. J


I wish you all the best and good luck in your journeys!


Irina Petkova

VP Professional Development




Daniel Rodellar

Managing Newsletter content during Summer period

Author: Daniel Rodellar, PMP 


Summer period is a challenging period for the Newsletter team because PMI events are paused during summer, so it means less articles are available, and the team takes some days off, which decreases availability. We are missing content and resources, so it creates a very complicated situation to publish, on the usual first Monday of the month.

This is what happened to our August newsletter, and it is like what happens in almost all organizations during summer period. In our case, we are not obliged to deliver on a specific date, so we could just delay it to get enough content and the right people on board. We have this flexibility and that has saved us.


Summer is a less stressful period, if it is well planned. Everybody knows that during this period most of us are scheduling holidays, so it would not be realistic to think we can things done like when everyone is available. So, everything slows down. It may be a good period to get things done, these tasks that are only depending on us can be done now more efficiently and get less interruptions.

I have personally also that there is also a good opportunity to review the different newsletters that I received. I usually filter newsletters on a special folder. When I have some free time or while commuting I try to read them, to be updated on the products, shops and services I like. During summer period is a great opportunity to read them all, in a fast reading spirit, and if something catches my eyes, I'll search or click forward. Recently I have subscribed to a Beta Tester trial because I learnt it via the product newsletter. I will be happy to help customize the future products based on my feedback and usage.

Probably you have some other habits during summer (apart from relaxing and enjoying vacations!) and I would be curious to know what else do you do specially during summer period? (this article is also going to be posted on Linkedin PMI Switzerland page, so that we can get your feedback).

Best regards, and enjoy the summer!

Daniel Rodellar
PMI Switzerland Publications Director

Serge biz

Author: Serge Garazzi

Dear Project Managers,

Hope that you are enjoying your holiday and, should you not be in the position at this time, that you are ... getting ready to grab one in September!

A short note from the Department Operations, the Department that I am heading at PMI Switzerland.

Shortly before the holiday, we migrated email hosting to Gmail. Some of you may say "so, what?". Our Volunteers will value this migration, as we now have a state-of-the-art hosting, which ensures reliable email delivery. Which was unfortunately not the case with the previous hosting provider.

The migration went well, thanks to the Technology Team at PMI Switzerland!

Another innovation which will concern all, Volunteers or not: Email push lists. We will shortly turn on the possibility to receive notifications of upcoming events when they are published. Like this, you can be proactively informed and can secure your seat early. An email list for job opportunities will also be provided, for Chapter Members only, though. A(nother) good reason to join the Chapter, if you haven't yet done so.

The PMI Switzerland bylaws have been ported to the new format and have been approved by the Members. Thanks to Martin Vesely and Sumon Vangchuay for making it happen and to all of you who voted.

Last point: have you already attended a PM Lunch or PM Afterwork drinks event? If not, why not give it a try during the Summer? Please check the Events calendar for the next occurrence in your location!

Enjoy Summer and see you at an event soon!

Kind regards,

Serge Garazi

VP Operations

Carlos Martinez Arteaga 100x100

Author: Carlos Martinez, PMP

Are you curious about Design Thinking?

Dear Readers,

On Thursday 18th of May, PMI Switzerland brought to Basel, in Building 67 of Roche, a great event, facilitated by three speakers from Roche that really knew what they were talking about. I was truly impressed by the event and the subject, and I think all of the attendants were as well.

I must say that the event was sold out, given the interest in the subject,  and once again PMI Switzerland managed to impress the audience with a subject that many were not familiar with.

As said, all speakers work for Roche. These were Larisa Aragon Castro who works as Organizational Change Management Lead, Cihan Gedik, who is a Customer Experience Expert with a Chemical Engineering background, and Alain Bindels, who is Patient Centric Design Expert.

The subject of the event was related to Design Thinking, a proven problem-solving protocol that can be easily used by any business and profession to discover new opportunities. Design Thinking is often referred to as ‘outside the box thinking’, as designers are attempting to develop new ways of thinking that do not abide by the dominant or more common problem-solving methods.

1a Crop

Many companies from different industries make use of this tool to develop new products; even most probably many of the products we use on a daily basis were “born” thanks to design thinking.

The process essentially consists of 5 looping steps, Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

Once completed the team decides if the idea is mature enough to present it – Storytelling – to those involved in the company’s decision-making, so called upper management.

Essential these 5 steps are:

  • Empathize with your users
  • Define the users’ needs, their problem and what you know
  • Ideate by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
  • Prototype and start creating possible solutions
  • Test the solutions



Also in this link there is a short introduction to design thinking, what is it.


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The event was addressed as a 5 act workshop, where each attendant tried and experienced the process, once they were presented with the actual process to be carried out in groups.

The workshop was very very fast paced, as the facilitators wanted the invitees to feel and understand the complete protocol.

For this each group was presented with a posters with pictures of the Project Manager they were going to work with by identifying her/his needs and therefore come up with a solution to these.

Act 1. Empathize with the Project Manager. Teams were asked to complete information regarding the Project Manager they were given, although some of the information may seem irrelevant, in Design Thinking all the available data can be used at some point of time.

3a Crop

Act 2. Define the Project Manager needs. Each group had to identify the 3 biggest challenges the Project Manager faced at work, this would be the focus of the actual exercise, as we would later have to find a solution to this.

Act 3. Ideate how to solve the challenges just identified. At this stage Larisa, Cihan and Alain indicated that at this point, when thinking of solutions it was important to understand that all solutions should be thought of, no matter how expensive they may seem, or how unrealistic ,as ideas can later be polished and optimized.

That is when the attendants really became creative :) and started to brainstorm ideas that could possibly solve the Project Manager’s challenges.

Act 4. Prototype the solutions, each group member was asked for a couple of ways to carry out the solutions recently identified. The ideas suddenly had to become more tangible, realistic and logical as later during the act they were going to be presented and defended within each group.

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Act 5. Test the solutions. In this final stage of the protocol, groups were asked to decide which of the prototypes would be taken a step forward and proposed as the solution to the problem. Once chosen, the solution was optimized and improved within the team.

The last part of the workshop was the Storytelling, here a representative of each group was asked to present the group’s solution to another group, and this could be considered as selling the idea.

Obviously depending on how mature the idea is, there will be more or less questions that can trigger the loop to start again, or maybe to go onto development of the idea as it is...

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At the end, as it was a nice day, the event was taken to the terrace of the building, were Cihan wrapped up the workshop and gave start to the traditional Apero that follows every PMI Switzerland Event.

Here is the link to the presentation of the event.

See you at the next PMI Switezerland evet.



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