Mental Models

“Essentially, all models are wrong, but some models are useful.”

George Box

Through my work, I’ve found the following mental models, laws, theories and concepts to be useful in context:

ModelTwitter-sized descriptionSources
ADKAR change modelA powerful yet simple model for facilitating individual change; an acronym for the five outcomes an individual needs to achieve for a change to be successful: AwarenessDesireKnowledgeAbility and Reinforcement.Prosci
Aligned AutonomyThe Art of Action by Stephen Bungay
Allen CurveCommunication frequency between engineers drops exponentially as the distance between them increases.
Amdahl’s law“The overall performance improvement gained by optimizing a single part of a system is limited by the fraction of time that the improved part is actually used.” So increasing the speed of a system is limited by the total time needed for the sequential (serial) part. See also Brooks’s Law.Brooks’s Law as a Special Case of Amdahl’s Law
Appreciative Inquiry 4D Cycle
Ashby’s Law of Requisite VarietyThe more variable the operational environment, the more flexible the organization and its internal systems need to be.BusinessBalls
BackcastingThinking in Bets
Bases of Power
Brooks’s Law“Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” The Mythical Man Month
Bus-Length Communication Principle
Challenge Mapping
Circle of Competence
Clean Language
Coaching Competency model
Cognitive Distortiona concept from Cognitive Behavioral TheoryThe Process of Highly Effective Coaching by Robert Hicks
Cone of Uncertainty
Conway’s Law
Core Protocolsa humanizing set of ready-made team agreements and mindful ways of working
Crucial Conversations dialogue model
Diffusion of innovations (aka Crossing the Chasm)Everett Rogers, Geoffrey A. Moore
Double-Loop Learning

Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance model

Dunbar’s Number
Dunning-Kruger effect
Ebbinghaus Curve
Eisenhower Matrix (aka Urgent-Important Matrix)
Emotional Intelligence
Employee Engagement TheoryKahn proposes three principle dimensions of employee engagement: physical, cognitive and emotional.Kahn
ERG (Existence, Relatedness and Growth) Theory An extension of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that categorizes the hierarchy into Existence, Relatedness and Growth.Clayton Alderfer
First Principles Thinking

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Five Levels of Agile Planning

Five stages of a retrospective
Five Thieves of Time
Flight LevelsModel for organizational improvement that “helps you find out where in an organization you have to do what in order to achieve the results that you want” because it stresses the idea of leverage and coherence across the multiple strata and teams of an organization.Klaus Leopold
Flow ChannelFlow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Gambler’s conceit
The Golden Circle
Goodhart’s Law
Hanlon’s Razor

Hawthorne Effect
The Helpful Rule
Hierarchy of Needs
Hindsight bias
Hofstadter’s Law“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
Immunity to Change (Immunity Map)
Imposter Syndrome
Innovation Games
Integral Theory
Johari Windowa useful simplification invented by Joe Luft and Harry Ingham to explain the complexity of communication; the “window” is composed of four “panes”: open, concealed, blind, unknown.
Kirkpatrick Modela model for for “leveraging and validating talent investments,” such as demonstrating the effectiveness of training programs; composed of four levels of increasing effectiveness: 1. Reaction, 2. Learning, 3. Behavior, 4. Results
Kubler-Ross Change Curve
Ladder of Inference
Lewin’s Change- Management ModelChange entails creating the perception that a change is needed (unfreeze), then moving toward the new, desired level of behavior (change) and, finally, solidifying that new behavior as the norm (refreeze).
Liberating Structures
Loss aversion
The Map is Not the Territory
Modern Agile
Motivation 3.0

Myers Briggs / DiSC
N.I.C.E. Feedback
Nine Levels of Learning
Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
ObliquityIn a complex domain, if you focus on a goal directly, you are likely to have a detrimental outcome… If you come at your goals from an oblique angle, you are more likely to achieve your goals.John Kay

OCAI Competing Values Framework

Occam’s Razor
Outcome blindness
Optimism bias
Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Prime DirectiveProactive statement to put people in a mindset of giving benefit of the doubt in order to promote psychological safety
Probabilistic Thinking
Problems and PolaritiesA problem is something to be dealt with or overcome. A polarity, on the other hand, is something to be managed on a continuum.HBR
Prospective hindsight
Pygmalion Effectone person’s expectations of another’s behavior may come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy; related to the four-factor theory of how we communicate expectations through climate, feedback, input and outputManagement 3.0
Reinventing Organizations/Teal Model

Results Pyramid
Rule of the Second Floor
Rule of Three
SAMR ModelA way to think about technology integration with respect to instructional design; four tiers of online learning, presented roughly in order of their sophistication and transformative power: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition.
Satir Change Model
SCARF model Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness
Scenario planning
Schein Culture Model
Schneider Culture Model
Second-Order Thinking
Self-Managing Organizations (SMOs)
70:20:10 Learning Model
Shu Ha Ri
Six Thinking HatsBy mentally “wearing” one of six hats, people in a group separate thinking into clear functions and rolesDe Bono Group
Six Trumps
Stacey Matrix
Sources of Self-Efficacy
System of Profound Knowledge
Reflexive and Deliberative Minds (AKA System 1 and System 2)
T-shaped People/Skills
Tale of Five Monkeys
Temporal discounting
Ten Fatal Leadership Flaws
10-10-10 model
Theory of ConstraintsThe Goal by Eli Goldratt
Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode instrument
Three Levels of Listening
Thought Experiment
Tree of Agile High Performance
Tribal Leadership
Tuckman Model
Two-Factor TheoryHerzberg
Ulysses contracts
VOICESooner, Safer, Happier
V2MOMA management and strategy-alignment/deployment process made popular by Salesforce (vision, values, mission, objectives, measures)Salesforce
Wardley Map
Westrum Culture Model
Wisdom of Crowds
World After Midnight
Wright’s LawTP Wright’s (1936) “discovery” about experience-curve effects, that “we learn by doing” and that the cost of production decreases as a function of the cumulative number of units produced. In other words, you get better at delivering by delivering, which is one of the reasons that we take an iterative and incremental approach to work.
Yerkes-Dodson Law
Zeigarnik Effect

Sources and Resources