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Dilts pyramid and organizational harmonization

Previously and around Kanban I was talking to you about corporate culture, organization, and the need to adapt to it to support the organization. I would like to complete this reading by adding the need for this culture to be aligned, in harmony, “at all levels”. For this reason and in my ongoing reflections at beNext, I would like to tell you about the pyramid of Dilts (that Dilts draws from Bateson).

In this reading of the pyramid of Dilts I allow myself freedoms, I adapt, I appropriate myself, it is my way of being more coherent with the world around me1. So this is how I talk about it, how I use it. The objective of the Dilts pyramid is to harmonize, to align the organization, so that it can move forward, breathe, blossom, potentially expand. Line up? Harmonize? That is, there is a link, a coherence, between why the organization exists, who it is, what it believes in, what it implements, etc. Each of its levels feeds the level below.

Dilts Pyramid

My reading of the levels

  • Sense. What is our mission? Why does this organization exist? What is its purpose?
  • Identity. Who is she? Who is she? What defines his identity?
  • Convictions. What are his convictions? His beliefs? What does she believe in?
  • Capacity. What are our levers? What do we rely on to achieve what we achieve?
  • Behaviour. What are we actually doing? How do we act?
  • Environment. What surrounds us? Implied: what have we built around us, and what have we inherited?

Sense nourishes identity or vice versa. “I am that, therefore my mission is” or “my mission is therefore I am”. Identity nourishes convictions or vice versa. “I am that so I believe in” or “I believe in… so I am that”. Beliefs nurture capacity, or vice versa. But here it is not so simple, we feel that we are moving from a cultural level to an operational level (we will come back to this later). “I believe in this, so I give myself the means to” or “I have the means to… I should be convinced”. Capacities feed behaviour, or vice versa. “I do this so I will have the means to…” or “I have the means to…in order to do this”. Behaviours feed the environment, or vice versa. “I do this and it creates around me this” or “With this around me I can do this”.

How is reading the pyramid useful?

So you understand that each level nourishes the other, and if you can align, harmonize, all these levels, if there is no dissonance, you give your full power, you free your organization. Everything is more fluid, obvious. Otherwise, if the levels are dissonant, exchanges do not work well, misunderstandings or blockages flourish, the organization is seized.

It is therefore important to ask: which levels are dissonant? Which levels are not sufficiently clarified? What levels are influencing the organization? And generally to work on it or on the level that overhangs it, the level above it, because it is often the upper level that poorly feeds the lower level. I will give you some examples of what I mean.

Example for organizations

Large groups that do “agile to scale”

You know these large groups that are currently relying heavily on agile “framework” to become agile. The problem is that they give themselves the means to develop a capacity (massive hiring), behaviours (massive support), and often the environment that results from it. But the convictions and beliefs of managers and leaders are not at all in line with this capacity and its behaviour. Their convictions are often not – for example – self-organization, autonomy, technical excellence, the right to make mistakes, etc., which should be agile principles, agile convictions. We obtain a clear division between these levels. It results in all kinds of excesses, absurd behaviour and suffering.

This is why SAFe is very often a failure, for example. Because he’s the most dissonant! It implements supposedly agile behaviours (”feature teams, synchronization points (quarterly planning), etc.) but supports by the communication and culture it propagates, an identity and convictions in opposition to the practices it partially describes.

How do we fix this? If you massively implement an agile ability, and agile behaviors (massive hiring, coaching), it is imperative to question yourself on the level above so that it happens in harmony: are your convictions also close to agile principles? It’s often no. The level of problem is therefore that of convictions. To solve it, like Russian dolls, we must therefore question its identity (and perhaps its meaning, its mission). Who are we? Who are we? What do we want? If this becomes clear, it will be easier to see how your (clarified) beliefs will (or will not) be compatible with the agile culture and approach. If this is the case, everything will become more fluid. If this is not the case, there is no need to seek to have an ability or behaviour that is inappropriate to your convictions.

Personal development coaches who use this reading grid will tell you that coaching is done with a small “c” when dealing with the environment, behaviours, capacity, and that coaching is done with a large “C” when dealing with convictions, identity and meaning. You could say to yourself that you are agile with a small “a” when you deal with the environment, behaviours and capacity (practical), or that you are agile with a large “A” when you deal with convictions, identity and meaning (principles and values).

The startup in “spontaneous emergence”

Imagine I observe a behaviour and all of a sudden it makes “tilt” in my head. I implement this behavior, this service, and it works with the fire of God. I impact my environment. But over time, if I want to grow, or if I want to last, I will have to give myself a capacity. And so I wonder about my convictions, and my identity and meaning.

And you?

Think about your organization? Is everything fluid? No ? The implementation of your actions is not working? Are your behaviours in line with your identity, or your beliefs? The premises that host you are not at all in adequacy with the behaviours you want? Do you know what your organization’s mission is and whether the environment in which you operate is consistent with that mission? Could you tell me if your actions are related to your identity? Etc.

Dilts Pyramid

Example for beNext

At beNext we asked ourselves questions.

Our sense, our mission? Growing and growing, evolving and evolving is what is beyond us. “Be your potential”, our mojo, carries this mission.

Who are we ? What defines us ? Our 4 values: humility, pursuit of excellence, fun, nobullshit. To grow and make people grow, you need a great deal of humility and the search for excellence, fun and nobullshit.

I would like to come back to our convictions. Let’s say right now that we think that without passion and responsibility we are going nowhere. We want to be in motion. “Hack your future” is another one of our leitmotiv.

Our capacity? A strong and central team of coaches, a young and dynamic population, geeks, agilists, and many other things. But, there is one but, we would like to develop leadership we do not have enough today as we continue to grow. I will come back to this point.

Our behaviours? Some examples: we operate in Gothamocracy(french). We have a slack full of energy. We do becom, wecom, http, meetups, dojos, agile toaster, talks, conferences (becomX, school of po). All places to grow and make grow. We do stopovers, triads, O3, coach corners, annual reviews. We have compasses, sometimes godparents, sometimes tritons. That’s our jargon, it’s still things to grow and make grow.

Our environment? We have premises of which we are proud and which represent us, but we will have to leave them, because we want to be in motion (and we have found our new premises!). We have benexters, customers, offers & brands, an emerging reputation that corresponds to our identity (our values), and financial independence. Benexters in projects are most of their time in their clients’ environment.

What should we be working on? We are at a crossroads and it is time to make another big leap: new premises, much larger, new horizons, new offers. But to achieve this, we must adapt our capacity. That’s where the levers are. And for that we need more leadership. Today this one is paradoxical: it is scattered, everyone can take it, have it, but at the same time it is very personalized through David, Dragos and myself.

To continue to have all these behaviours in line with our who and why, we need a broader capacity, more “leadership”. But to have this capacity, we have to work on the upper floor. What are our convictions on this leadership? The reflection is ongoing, I have no answer to provide you, just leads and questions by way of example. We believe in the power of collective intelligence, self-organization and autonomy, but we also believe in assertive leadership. Is there a paradox between the community and the leader? How to live with a group dynamic, but also with assumed leadership? Are leaders permanent or contextual? What do we believe in about this? How to live it? How to detect them? How can all this be combined? And so what should we know about ourselves before we do to implement this capability?

This is what a reading of the Dilts pyramid is for our organization. Ask yourself about your organization.

Dilts Pyramid


  1. I let the orthodox militiamen sue me, and set up a pyre.
    [return]

pyramid dilts alignement harmonization organisation