logical levels

Logical Levels

The Logical Levels model was created by Robert Dilts and was largely based on the work of Gregory Bateson.

What questions the model helps us address

The model creates a powerful link between our sense of self (our identity) and the way in which we behave in a variety of situations. We use the model to answer the question: why do I do what I do? And why do others behave differently to me? And that frustrating one: why won’t they do as I want? The Logical Levels model is used globally to support individuals, teams and organisations as they seek to identify and then attain levels of alignment, coherence and congruence.

  • Environment (the where and the when)

The environment is the place where we are and the people we are with. Comfort and safety of an environment make a big difference to how people feel and how this impacts on their work and their levels of satisfaction. The environment can also be used as an expression of someone's identity. At work the small objects people bring from home to personalise their own piece of the environment can be very important to them and may also reflect their identity.

Co-workers are a very important part of the environment we work in. People often put up with very poor physical surroundings if they get on well and have a good time with their work colleagues.  If there is little or no rapport between work colleagues - the physical environment cannot compensate for this.

  • Behaviour (the what)

Behaviour is what we do and what we say. Anything which you see someone doing or hear someone saying is behaviour.  Behaviour is the level of single actions. At an individual level this could be decision making, interviewing, communicating information to the team or writing email. At an organisational level it is advertising campaigns, restructuring, takeovers and policies.

  • Capability/Skills/Knowledge (the how)

Capability implies skill and knowledge. At an individual level, capabilities are those behaviours that have been practised so often they have become consistent, automatic and often habitual. Management is a capability. Repeatable management processes are at the level of capability eg. appraising and mentoring.  A behaviour can only be evident if the individual has the capability to demonstrate it.

  • Beliefs and Values (the why)

This is the level of what we believe to be true and what is important.  Individuals hold beliefs that are right. Most of the beliefs people have were formed very early on in child hood and have gone on to create the persons 'map of the world'. Many of the beliefs people hold can be heard in statements of what people think they can or can’t do. Organisational beliefs are often expressed in the mission statement.

Values are what is important, why we act as we do. Individuals hold their own values which along with their beliefs influence behaviour. Value and beliefs are made real in action. Organisational values may also be expressed in the mission or vision statement or may be specifically articulated and written up for people to read.  It is the shared beliefs and values which become the glue that hold organisations together.

  • Identity (the who)

At an individual level a person's identity is their sense of self, their core values and beliefs who define who they are and their mission in life. A person’s identity is very resilient and it can be built on and developed and changed. Work can provide an important opportunity for people to develop their identity. Job titles are often linked to a person's identity. Organisations develop an identity given time which is often driven by the ethos and values of the founder(s).

The base principle in connection to the levels is about alignment. If a person is aligned then they feel less internal pressure, their behaviour is largely congruent, they operate with integrity and are unlikely to give off 'double-messages' in their behaviour, words and attitudes. The structure of an organisation emerges from these five levels - its offices and where they are situated, what it does, what it is capable of doing, what is important to it and its identity or culture.


The model is possibly best explained by the phrase, “I can’t do that here".

The phrase can be said in five ways, by stressing each word in each version, and each version relates to a different layer of the model.

Identity - I can't do that here.
How does the person see themselves? In what ways are they limiting their ability by holding outdated or inaccurate views of themselves?

Beliefs - I can't do that here. 
The person does not believe they are able to do it or they are not allowed to do it.

Capability - I can't do that here. 
The person does not know how to dowhat is being asked of them.

Behaviour - I can't do that here. 
The person can do other things here but not that!

Environment - I can't do that here. 
The person can do what is being asked of them but not in this particular environment.

The levels therefore offer a diagnostic framework to assess an individual's 'extent' of alignment.

Individuals who experience themselves as aligned are generally more at ease with themselves and are experienced by others as more true and often more 'powerful'.

When people experience themselves as unaligned they are often struggling with some internal debate or are at odds with themselves as they find themselves behaving in a way that is at odds with what they believe or who they think they are, eg. a person may believe that it is really important to spend time with their family and yet they spend so long in the office (behaviour) that they do not see their children awake on week days.

Logical Levels is also a series of tools that can be used as a diagnostic or planning framework for individual and organisational analysis.

Suppose you were reorganising your department or a number of departments. Logical levels will provide you with a framework to ask questions are organise information.


What needs to be done so the new department has an identity of its own and the people feel a sense of belonging


What is important about the new department and how should the principles of running it be identified, articulated and communicated to the people who work in it as well as others impacted by the change


The department should be clear about what are its special capabilities that differentiate it from other departments


What ought people to be doing in this new department? What has to happen on a day to day basis? What training is required


What office/plant space do we have? Who is working together? What technology do we have?

Every intervention at any Logical Level can also affect what goes on at the other levels.  It is possible to begin anywhere to have an impact.

We use the Logical Levels model extensively when working with teams, leaders and organisations attempting to merge and transform; and individuals wishing to develop both personally and professionally.