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Logical Levels model

The concept of logical levels of learning and change was initially formulated as a mechanism in the behavioural sciences by anthropologist Gregory Bateson, based on the work of Bertrand Russell in logic and mathematics.  Robert Dilts first became acquainted with the notion of different logical types and levels of learning, change and communication whilst attending Gregory Bateson's ecology of mind class at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1976. Reflecting back, Robert says of attending Bateson's classes, “These were one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I was sitting in his class, listening to his deep voice and distinctive Cambridge accent, which sounded to me like the voice of wisdom."
The term logical levels, was adapted by Dilts from Bateson's work and refers to a hierarchy of levels of processes within an individual or group. The function in each level is to synthesise, organise and direct the interactions on the levels below it. Something on an upper level could "radiate" downward, facilitating change on the lower levels.Something on a low-level could, but would not necessarily, effect the upper levels.

The life of people in any system, and indeed the life of the system itself, can be described and understood on a number of different levels: environment, behaviour, capabilities, values and beliefs, identity and purpose.

Environment

At the most basic level, managing the process of change must address the environment in which a system and its members act and interact. The environment refers to everything outside yourself: the place in which you work, the economy, people around you: your business, your friends and family, your customers. It's about finding the right time and the right place. Environmental factors determine the context and constraints under which people operate. An organisation’s environment, for instance, is made up of such things as the geographical locations of its operations, the building and facilities which define the ‘workplace’, office and factory design, etc. In addition to the influence these environmental factors may have on people within the organisation, one can also examine the influence and impact the people within an organisation have upon their environment, and what products or creations they bring to their environment.

Behaviour

At another level, we can examine the specific behaviours and actions of a group or individual i.e. what the person or organisation does within the environment. Behaviour is all about what you actually say and do, what you consciously get up to. It is part of what can be seen and heard by other people. What are the particular patterns of work, interaction and communication? On an organisational level, behaviours may be defined in terms of general procedures. On the individual level, behaviours take the form of specific work routines, working habits or job related activities.

Capabilities

Another level of process involves the strategies, skills and capabilities by which the organisation or individual selects and directs actions within their environment i.e. how they generate and guide their behaviours within a particular context. Capabilities are your talents and skills and are increasingly becoming known as competencies. They are the resources that you have available to you. These range from behaviours that you do without any seemingly conscious effort e.g. walking and talking, to skills that you've learned more consciously, e.g. riding a bike or working a computer. Capabilities include cognitive strategies and skills such as learning, memory, decision-making and creativity, which facilitate the performance of a particular behaviour or task. At an organisational level, capabilities relate to the infrastructure that is available to support communication, innovation, planning and decision-making between members of the organisation.

Beliefs and values

Our beliefs and values provide the reinforcement that support or inhibit particular capabilities and behaviour. Beliefs determine how events are given meaning and are at the core of judgement and culture. These are the fundamental principles that shape our actions. This level contains statements about yourself, other people and situations that you hold to be true. They are emotionally held views not based on facts. We all hold numerous beliefs and values, some of which are known to us and others which sit outside of our consciousness. Sometimes our beliefs reveal themselves to us when we talk to someone who holds a different belief and we find ourselves drawn to defend our beliefs.

Values are the criteria against which you make decisions. These are qualities that you hold to be important to you in the way you live your life. They are also the rules that keep us on the socially acceptable road.
Beliefs and values are unique to each individual. We may also place a different priority on a belief or a value to our friends, family or work colleagues. Organisations also have beliefs and values, and seek to win over employees to share these beliefs and values.

Identity

Values and beliefs support the individual's or organisation's sense of identity i.e. the who behind the why, how, what, where and when. Identity describes your sense of who you are and contains statements that describe how you think of yourself as a person. Our identity is like the trunk of the tree – it is the core of our being. Internally our identities are supported by personal values, beliefs and capabilities as well as our physical being and our environment. Externally, our identity is expressed through our participation in the larger systems in which we participate: our family, professional relationships, community and a global system of which we are a member. A person's identity is separate from their behaviour, you are more than what you do. For a company the mission statement seeks to define the identity of the organisation.

Purpose

This is the final level that is sometimes referred to as a spiritual level. This term can have a religious connotation but this is not the only meaning here. This level has to do with people's perceptions of the larger systems to which they belong and within which they participate. These perceptions relate to a person's sense of, for whom and for what, their actions are directed, providing a sense of meaning and purpose for their actions, capabilities, beliefs and identity.

This level leads organisations to define their vision and ambition; their raison d'être.

In summary, the process of managing change must address several levels or factors:

  • Environmental factors determine the external opportunities or constraints that individuals and organisations must recognise and react to. They   involve considering where and when the change is occurring.
  • Behavioural factors are the specific action steps taken in order to meet the desired state. They involve what, specifically, must be done or accomplished in order to appropriately manage change.
  • Capabilities relates to the mental maps, plans or strategies necessary for managing change. They direct how actions are selected and monitored.
  • Beliefs and values provide the reinforcement that supports or inhibits particular capabilities and actions. They relate to why a particular path is taken and the deeper motivations that drive people to act or persevere.
  • Identity factors relate to people's sense of their role or mission. These factors are a function of who a person or group perceives themselves to be.
  • Purpose relates to people's view of the larger system of which they are part. These factors involve for whom and for what a particular action step or path has been taken.

It is often easier to make change at the lower levels on the diagram than at higher levels. The value of the model is that it provides a structured approach to help understand what is happening to an individual, a team or an organisation. A key aspect of the model is it looks at the level of congruence an individual, team or organisation have across all the logical levels. When an individual is aligned, they are more likely to be described as comfortable in their own skin, charismatic, powerful and are true to themselves. Organisations are more likely to be described as authentic, cohesive and consistent. Knowing which levels are out of alignment provides an individual or an organisation with the best way forward for change.