Introducing Grumplexity Theory

In close relation to Prof. Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework I found out this week, that the model also fits very good to describe the states of grumpiness.

Being grumpy is a state of mind that I – and also other fellow testers, like my partner in grump, Del Dewar – have internalized. The reason for the grumpiness though is highly context-dependent and should at no time be underrated. The grumplexity model provides you a tool, to understand your own and others’ grumpiness a bit better.

When you enter a situation, you know the person is grumpy, but you have no idea why. You don’t know yet, how to deal with the situation, and if you should at all.

Bildschirmfoto 2018-02-23 um 15.41.06

Sometimes the reason is quite obvious. The train didn’t come, it’s raining and there’s no cover. After the trigger has been removed, solved or vanished into thin air, the chances are good, that a piece of chocolate might help.
I call this the grumpvious mood. The half life is usually not very long, once the trigger and most consequences are gone or solved. The train finally came, you found shelter, your clothes start to dry again. A piece of chocolate could help.

Then we come to the situation where it’s not that simple. The trigger might be a bit in the past, the initial situation is already forgotten, so it seems. But real grumpsters don’t forget.
Let’s take a work example. Someone broke the build process, because they forgot to build it locally before checking in; for like the hundredth time. Then a few days after the last time that person broke the build chain, you see them check in again, without building it locally. You get grumpy, because you know of the apparent risk, and can’t believe that this person still hasn’t learnt from the past hundred times.
Nothing happened – yet – but you are grumpy already. I call this a grumplicated situation. Not directly apparent, but easy to explain. A whole bar of chocolate might help in that situation.

Now it get’s tricky. It’s for example about triggers that don’t seem to be qualified to make you grumpy in the first place or multiple triggers that seem independent and suddenly become dependent. For observers it’s even harder to understand what has happened to trigger that mood.
Let me give you two examples. When I come home tonight, I’ll have to help my wife bake some cake. Nothing bad about that, but actually I have to do the baking, because she broke her hand a few weeks back, and the reason for baking the cake is not for self-consumption, but for a promise my wife gave before her accident. And I’d rather go into my workshop to continue the reconstruction I started weeks ago, before my wife had her accident, and that didn’t make much progress. Yet, I’ll of course help her with the cake and get up early on a Saturday to deliver it. That is a grumplex situation, as multiple triggers come together. And it might leave the colleagues in wonder, why I’m going home grumpy on a Friday afternoon.
The other example for a grumplex situation, and the trigger that started this whole grumplexity idea, was an email I received recently with an actual positive content. The problem was the way that lead to the situation and my involvement in the process, and all the strings attached to this, that instantly made me heavily grumpy and brought up the urge to reply in a very unpolite manner. Grumpsters don’t forget easily. Now imagine the perplexity of the sender of the email, if they would have received the unpolite reply.
You better bring some more chocolate and a nice bottle (or two) of Spezi (my favorite drink), if you want to have a proper conversation with me in that situation.

And last but not least, there are the days where you are just batshit angry, just because. It takes some energy and lots of chocolate and Spezi to calm down and find the energy to analyze the situation to unscramble everything that goes wrong at the same time. That is when a bunch of triggers made an appointment to come up on the same day. Individually it might be able to handle them, but coming at you all together. Holy shit, you better duck.

Update: David Högberg sent me this link that describes how easy it is to reach batshit angry mode. hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.se/2010/05/sneaky…

And then there is special situation that I call the cliff of fake happiness. You try to keep your grumpiness to a minimum, and it seems nearly like you are smiling. But you should better wear a helmet near a grumpster, when they smile. Never feel safe in such a situation, the next moment, you don’t even know what hit you; an empty bottle of Spezi, a wrong meowing of the cat, push message on the smart phone. Boom!!!

This article is supposed to be fun to read in the first place, but it also could help you a bit with understanding the different domains of the original Cynefin model, and it helps you to understand why a grumpster is grumpy and that often a piece of chocolate is not enough and might not last long.

I want to thank Zeger Van Hese for adding the term grumplicated and giving me the spark to this.

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