The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team

Introduction to The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team- Creating a Congruent Peak Performance Company

"Alignment is a necessary condition before empowering individuals..." Peter M. Senge

It's nice to be near the ocean, but Charleston is flat as a pancake so I have to escape to the mountains regularly. Looking down on vast misty valleys and shimmering lakes from a Pisgah National Forest trail awakens a certain feeling of inspiration. Maybe it's my Scottish Highlands blood.

It's more fun to get out of the comfort zone of the trails I know and explore the unfamiliar, so I might get a trail map from the outdoor shop in Brevard.

A hiking guide shows where to find good trails and the general nature of each hike, but it's nothing like smelling the trees, hearing the wind whistling through the trees and wondering if it's a bear with those heavy footsteps in the bushes.

Regardless, it helps create a great trip, whether for an overview of a general area to explore or to plan more specific point-to-point experiences.

A map can also help motivate a team to grow a company by leading customers to great experiences. The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team (6LAT) model is such a model. it isn't a substitute for direct experience any more than the hiking guide is but can similarly help create a great journey by charting a course.

“Experience by itself teaches nothing... Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning.” ― W. Edwards Deming




The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team model (6LAT) is a hierarchical model of creating congruent high level results in a business. The levels, from top to bottom, are

  1. Timeless Principles
  2. Mission
  3. Mental Models
  4. Capabilities
  5. Practices
  6. Results

Distinct strategies address each level to bring an organization into alignment . A misaligned level will affect all the levels beneath it. If the conductor of a symphony has a seizure, it doesn't matter whether or not the second seat violin is out of tune. And positive changes at a higher level can wash down the levels below like a waterfall after a heavy rain.

An aligned team in a business works together more congruently with a common mission and values that answer the "why" behind the goals. Energy that could have been wasted on internal friction like an engine running with no oil can be recovered and focused on serving customers at a higher level.

Tony Robbins speaks of how congruent people naturally radiate because they are living in accordance with their values and dreams. Similarly, companies that are congruent through alignment radiate specialness. An aligned team works together with not only shared goals, but also the deeper rapport and congruence that comes from shared mission, values, and beliefs.


"Integrity is congruence between what you know, what you profess, and what you do." Nathaniel Branden


To get an overview of the 6LAT map, let's take a brief journey through the levels, starting at the top:


Timeless Principles

Timeless principles are expressions of immutable archetypal forces. They can be variations on this set of nine:

            1)  Empathy
            2)  Innovation
            3)  Discipline
            4)  Abundance
            5)  Competitiveness
            6)  Leadership
            7)  Harmony
            8)  Communication
            9)  Imagination

Aligning an organization with values like these chosen collaboratively with the team helps the organization flow with the river of life instead of swimming upstream. Which principles are behind your ideal of excellent service to your customers? Do your people see how their highest internal values align with those of the company?


The mission tells how the organization distinctively expresses timeless principles through enriching the lives of its customers. Making money itself is not a compelling mission because it is inwardly directed as opposed to outwardly directed. Just focus on that and you'll make less money because people can smell they are being used for another's end. On the other hand, people are likely to willingly give the energy exchange of money to a business that is focused on helping them. What's the highest calling behind what your company does?

Mental Models- from Unexamined to Conscious

Mental Models can also be known as "belief systems" but in this context I prefer the more malleable connotations of the term "Mental Models". What are the assumptions, the presuppositions behind how your company does things? Shifting a mental model can be a powerful leverage point for breakthrough growth. The challenge is uprooting these and bringing them to light so you and your team can ask questions like "how else can we think about this?"


What skill sets do your people need to fulfill the mission? What digital resources does your company need to stretch the mission fulfillment? Should there not be ongoing training and education programs? Where will stretching capabilities in any of these areas enhance the special benefits offered to your customers? Is continuous improvement a guiding principle for your organization?


What are the processes that drive the business? Are they documented so they can serve as a baseline for ongoing improvement? How do shifts in principle orientation, mission, mental models, and capabilities suggest the need to evolve these practices or replace them with new ones entirely?

"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." W. Edwards Deming


The natural outcome of getting alignment through these levels is measurably improved and more harmoniously obtained results. Instead of pulling and pushing people with the carrot and stick, this flow helps evolve performance driven by the intrinsic motivation stemming from your peoples' personal values and mission aligning with that of the company.


A performance by a great jazz combo can illustrate the levels. Their common mission of deeply moving creative expression is guided by principles like creativity, excellence, and spontaneity. The musicians share common mental models like the 12 note scale and various rhythmic patterns. They have refined their capabilities of utilizing those models with dedicated practice on the instruments. They apply the capabilities in the process of creating great music in the moment. One result is likely to be an appreciative audience.

Peak performance in such a system comes from the harmony and collaboration between the high-performing players so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The music is enriched by how they listen and respond to each other.


Defining these things sets up a roadmap that becomes alive with an ongoing implementation strategy. What feedback loops best reinforce the values and mission of the organization? How can leadership align with these visibly and how can people use them for decision making? How will feedback correct course if and when people stray from these principles? Is management brave enough to sacrifice an easy short term result to a principle?



Sources/More Reading

Peter Senge, The 5th Discipline

Sue Knight, NLP at Work: The Essence of Excellence

In an interview, Charles Garfield, author of Peak Performance and Peak Performers, said " The mission of the individual needs to align with the mission of the team, which needs to align with the mission of the organization. In fact, I would take it further -- the mission of the organization needs to align with the mission of the society in which it is embedded and the mission of the planet to which we are all indebted. "

The Aligned Team model, a key component of the e-Merg program, is derived in part from the neurological levels model of Robert Dilts, who wrote in a Brief History of Neurological Levels, "Our brain structure, language, and social systems form natural hierarchies or levels of processes....The concept of logical levels of learning and change was initially formulated as a mechanism in the behavioral sciences by anthropologist Gregory Bateson, based on the work of Bertrand Russell in logic and mathematics."


Five Levels Up to an Experience Centered Company

When I opened my first iPhone box, I was delighted. Here was a package that didn't require a knife or scissors to rip apart. Instead, it demonstrated deeper levels of thoughtful design by gently unfolding to a neatly designed interior. The shapes pleased my eyes.

How does your organization "unbox"?


Apple helped create a trend in unboxing experiences by extending optimized customer experience outward. They even have a "secret unboxing room." 


Extended experience applies to small businesses as well as design leader behemoths like Apple. I used to frequent a wine shop in downtown Charleston. Jack, the owner, seemed to greatly enjoy leading me along a continuum of wines to try. He was clearly interested in my having a great experience with the wines he sold. The unsolicited education about wines I got there made me want to bring my business to him even though I could have purchased elsewhere for less.

Effective marketing is no longer just about attaching good feelings to a product. Now the way to carve out distinctive advantage is by creating great experiences for customers at every point of contact coupled with media systems to share them with the marketplace.

Do you know what feelings you want people to associate with your company? How closely does the experience of the customer match that? What feedback loops do you have in place to reinforce and guide the creation of great experiences?
What would be different with an optimized program to lead your customers to great experiences to the highest level?

As a way of calibrating where your company is perceived and clearing a path to more great customer experiences, I offer this 5-step model of mission centeredness.

Each higher level leads to a further expansion of consciousness and creates more differentiation. Advancing through the levels doesn't mean you lose the benefits of the previous levels. Rather, they amplify the power of the other levels.

If a customer enjoys interacting with your company at every stage, they'll enjoy the product or service more by the association with an organization that connects with their values.

Level One: Pure Profit Focus

Here the leadership of the organization is centered on the results for the company and its shareholders only. Decisions are made purely from the perspective of what will result in the highest profits.

Level Two: Product/Service Focus

With a product/service focus, the intent is on creating a better mousetrap, relative to the other mousetraps on the marketplace. The ad copy speaks of and shines a light on how wonderful the product or service is.

Level Three: Benefit of Product/Service Center

What does the product or service actually do for people? Are you selling the drill bit or the hole? The car takes somebody out of his immediate neighborhood so he can check out the surrounding countryside. It also frees up his family from having to live in the city.

Level Four: The Feelings Associated with the Benefit

Ferrari speaks of the passion of its cars: the. feeling of freedom of driving a convertible through the countryside on a beautiful spring day with the wind in the hair. The sense of the benefits provided shifts from the logical and rational to the emotional. The logical reasons are still there, but people make decisions based on emotion and just need the logical reasons to back them up.

Level Five: The Best Feelings to be had from Every Touch Point with the Company

It's not only the use of the product or service you sell that offers an opportunity to create great feelings in your customers. Every interaction your customer or prospect has with your company offers the ability to create great feelings in them. So, having a map of customer contacts that extends all the way to the first interaction can illuminate creating the fuller experience.




Things you can do-

1 - Map the touchpoints

2 - Sort the touchpoints by type: - web, in-person, phone, media

3 - Make a list of feelings you want your company associated with and link to the touchpoints.

4 - When it is a human interaction, note both the states you want the customer to experience and the states you want your team member to be in.

How to create the kind of culture that makes this happen? Learn more at