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The Logical Levels of Organisations

(Exploring and expanding Dilts Logical Levels model in an organisational context)

By Joe Cheal

NLP has its roots in therapy and personal development. It has obvious applications in the realms of
coaching and much has been written about this. What becomes interesting is in applying NLP to
organisations. Can we use the analogy of an organisation being like a person and then use NLP
models and tools accordingly?

Background to the Logical Levels

The Logical Levels of Change framework was developed by Robert Dilts and originally
published in Changing Belief Systems with NLP (1990). A true hierarchy of logical
types is where the level above is a category and the level below is the collection of items
that fit into that category. For example, the category of transport contains: cars, vans,
bicycles, trains etc. The concept of logical types was developed originally to prevent the
paradox of a category containing itself.

Dilts Logical Levels of Change model has been criticised for not representing true logical
type levels, however, it can be extremely useful when used as a tool for exploration and
problem resolution.

The model consists of six hierarchical levels

comprising of Spirit (bigger picture purpose
beyond the individual organisation) which is
supported by Identity supported by Beliefs
and Values supported by Capability
supported by Behaviour supported by
Environment (see Fig 1). The key principles
of the framework are that each level
organises/contains/ categorises information
from the level below it and that a higher
order change will necessarily affect the
contents of the lower levels.

The Logical Levels of Organisations 2008 GWiz Learning Partnership

Organisational Logical Levels

The Logical Level framework creates a systemic hierarchy of the organisation, where
higher levels have greater influence on lower levels, but lower levels can influence higher

Dilts originally called his model the Neurological Levels, as it was related to an
individual and their internal processing. It has, over time, become known as the Logical
Levels and this label works more neatly when applying the framework to an
organisation. Perhaps an even better label would be Levels of Intervention. The
framework can actually be applied to a team, a department, a project, and to concepts
such as leadership (eg. Dilts 1996), learning and development (eg. see our article entitled
Logical Levels and the Learning organisation).

When working with organisations, it is useful to be able to identify the levels and to
establish where potential issues may sit. Table 1 (below) should help in such diagnosis.

Table 1: Identifying the Levels of Logical Levels

Level Language Indicators If not supported by level
directly above
Spirit Vision, purpose in bigger picture, community, ?
For Whom? transmission, beyond self, global systems,
interconnectedness, unconditional regard,
transpersonal, spirituality, social responsibility
Identity Mission, roles, self, sum of parts, personality, purpose Individual, Independent,
Who? I am, existential verbs, me, ego Alone, isolated, egoic, selfish,
Complex equivalence (me=), x means y, x Is like y lack of connection
Beliefs/Values Motivation, Permission, meanings, willingness, desire, Its not really me!
Why? important, reinforcement I really should/ought to
Should, ought, must, judgements, evaluations, Split parts
comparisons Conflicting priorities/values
Generalisations, rules, attitudes, confidence
Cause effect if then
Capability Mental models/maps, plans, strategies, states, I can but dont want to
How? memory, imagination, innovation, adaptation, skills, Demotivated, bored, lack of
abilities, knowledge, thoughts, direction, self talk, drive
power, authority, tools, equipment, objectives
Behaviour Actions, reactions, responses, interactions, Random behaviours, habits,
What? movements Repeating old behaviours even
Do, activate, use, utilise, activate, implement. though they dont work.
Active verbs Paralysis/freeze.
Knee jerk reaction rather than
Environment Location, place, space, time, external conditions, Empty environment
Where/When? surroundings Nothing happens or gets done.
Here, now, opportunities, constraints
See, hear, feel, taste, smell, sense

The Logical Levels of Organisations 2008 GWiz Learning Partnership

Using Logical Levels in Organisational Development Interventions

When considering an organisational development (OD) intervention, the following set of

questions (based on the logical level hierarchy) may help to set a context for your work:

, What is the trans-mission of the organisation?

, What is the mission that supports this trans-mission?
, What core values, beliefs & permission support this mission?
, What capabilities support each of these core values?
, What behaviours support each capability?
, What environment supports these behaviours?

To further aid an OD intervention, Dilts (1996) suggests that in the context of the logical
levels, there are five criteria for a functional organisation:

1. The relationship between the members of the system needs to support the task to
be accomplished.
2. There is a shared perception of the levels.
3. There is an alignment of the various logical levels related to the task.
4. There is a congruence and alignment of the outcomes of the relevant actors
involved in the system.
5. The actions of individuals are aligned with the mission associated with their role.

It is important to consider what is happening at the various levels and also the potential
conflicts between the levels (for example: the organisation expects people to answer the
phone within three rings, but the staff are unable to accomplish this due to high

The Two Sides of Organisational Logical Levels

The Logical Levels framework works well when

applied to individuals and to concepts. However,
when applying logical levels to an organisation,
there is confusion that arises, possibly depending on
ones definition of an organisation. For example, is
the Environment level the marketplace outside of
the organisation or is it the dcor and atmosphere
within the organisation?

This led us to propose an advance to the model

(Cheal 2007) which resolves this dilemma and adds

The Logical Levels of Organisations 2008 GWiz Learning Partnership

a new dimension for application. When considering an organisation, it is clear that there
is a an external face (how the organisation presents itself to the outside world, eg. to its
customers) and an internal face (how the organisation presents itself internally, eg. to its
employees). Perhaps, for each level there is an in side and an out side as demonstrated
in Fig 2.

This helps to resolve such confusions as to whether the environment of an organisation is

the dcor, appearance of reception and restaurant etc. or whether it is the market place
and/or the geographical site. Obviously, the internal described the inner environment and
the external described the outside world.

For an organisation, examples of the inside/outside adaptation would look something like

Level In Side Out Side

(Internal eyes) (External Eyes)
Spirit Common vision between staff Published Company Vision
For Whom? Internal partnerships Corporate Social Responsibility
True dialogue (open and without rank) Partnerships
Identity Collective of people Company name, brand, logos, image,
Who? Culture: paradigm what is true of this mission statement.
organisation? eg We are competitive. Generalised public experience of individual
Purpose staff members/representatives of the
The face of the organisation (eg. Branson
= Virgin)
Beliefs/Values Culture, rules, policies Published value statements, policies
Why? Motivation Advertising/promotional material,
Staff satisfaction (eg surveys) brochures.
Strap-lines, slogans
Customer satisfaction (eg surveys)
Capability States, memory, imagination, innovation, Customer service
How? skills, abilities, knowledge, thinking. Effectiveness in marketplace
Systems, procedures, training, induction Published/written procedures
Performance, competency framework, What is offered: product, service.
objectives, plans, goals
Resources, workforce, time, money,
power, authority, tools, technology, IT
Behaviour How people treat each other Publicly visible actions, reactions,
What? What people talk about responses, interactions.
What people do to try to get what they Takeovers, buyouts.
want Reducing/increasing prices.
Implementing action points/plans Releasing new product
Carrying out the service.
Environment Dcor, reception, canteen, physical Marketplace, competitors, suppliers,
Where/When? surroundings, buildings customers, potential customers, partners
and potential partners.

The Logical Levels of Organisations 2008 GWiz Learning Partnership


This article was written to help those interested in developing people and organisations,
by exploring and expanding the Logical Levels framework as a tool. As well as helping to
apply Dilts model, it is hoped that the reader will have some new understandings of how
and where the model can be used and adapted.

About the Author

Joe Cheal has been working with NLP since 1993. As well as being a licensed trainer of
NLP, he holds an MSc in Organisational Development and NLT, a degree in Philosophy
and Psychology, and diplomas in Coaching and in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy,
Psychotherapy and NLP. He is also a licensed EI practitioner.

Joe is a partner in the GWiz Learning Partnership (, working as a

Management & Organisational Development Specialist, focusing over 14 years training,
coaching and consultancy experience into the business environment.


Cheal J. (2007) Who am I? What is me? Rapport Magazine, Summer, Issue 8

Dilts, R. (1990) Changing Belief Systems with NLP, Meta Publications.
Dilts, R. (1996) Visionary Leadership Skills, Meta Publications.

The Logical Levels of Organisations 2008 GWiz Learning Partnership