What does seeing the different worlds that make up an organisation show you?

Benjamin P. Taylor
3 min readFeb 23, 2022


It can unlock #innovation, #creativity, and improve #customerrelations and #productivity.

Today I’m talking to sensemaking.rs about my ‘five worlds’ model.

1) In customer or citizen world, we live our lives and try to achieve our purposes

2) In service world, we try to deal with the complexity of all the customer demands (which never *quite* seem to fit our services — the job would be a good ‘un if not for those pesky customers), and of management (why do they want all these useless reports, again?)

3) In #management world, we try to maintain coherence of the whole thing as an organisation.

We try to meet all the pesky needs of service world (always after more budget and asking corporate services to be doers when we’re trying to be Business Partners!)

And of leadership world (not another cultural transformation programme!),

While trying to understand the situation ourselves (if only the services would return their management information on time!)

4) In #leadership world, we struggle with the crushing weight of responsibility for the whole thing, while trying to come up with and implement long-term vision, culture, and strategy.

5) And then there’s the world of learning and change, where occasionally a few emissaries from different worlds gather and try not to learn anything which is going to complement their lives still more.

It’s valuable to think of organisation as different ‘sensemaking worlds’ in which the incentives, demands, information, and interactions are fundamentally different.

This sheds light on many things:

- The way information doesn’t cross systems borders unscathed — it’s called transduction — the information gets translated into what makes sense in the new world.

So customer demand ABCD gets translated into service world delivering one triangle and two circle services (even if they’re not a good fit), and once ‘computer says no’ to demand B, it’s forgotten and lost.

And then that gets translated to management world as three ticked boxes of service delivered. And so on.

- The way that worlds tend to drift apart more and more into their own universe, with leaders looking at their flawed data and pulling levers that send signals that make no sense to the organisation.

And this can create full-on schismogenesis — as the worlds (or their ‘sensemaking’) float apart, it turns into Othering ‘those idiots in operations’ or ‘those psychopaths in management’, and sometimes low-level warfare.

- Even between individuals, knowing that you’re interacting with someone in a completely different world, with different pressures and expectations, helps you see that it’s systemic and not personal, and be more tactical and strategic in trying to interact with them productively.

If you apply the ‘different worlds’ to a system you are a part of, what interesting things can you see?

For those interested in the background details, this formulation is inspired by the viable systems model, though it grew from a ‘three worlds’ model I developed back in about 2003, partly inspired by the standard Vanguard Consulting speech. It was then informed by Barry Oshry’s power+systems model and the Viable Systems Model itself, and came together in a prototype form in early slides for the Cabinet Office Commissioning Academy, and was significantly advanced by collaboration with these good folks on a RedQuadrant bid in 2016: Jane Searles, Rob Worth, Arthur Battram, Philip Hellyer, Pauline Roberts, and Russell Gundry.

Oh, and if you’d like to see me talk about this and talk it over, join us at 5:30pm GMT:
https://www.meetup.com/sensemaking-rs/events/283626716/ with host Novi Milenkovic