What Are Pyramids For?

In our own work and in work with clients, we have found that the pyramid (the tetrahedron) serves several useful purposes in addition to being a fractal model for mapping complex relationships:

  • It is an aid to systems thinking: It maps our thinking into a coherent whole and enhances our ability to see patterns and relationships, as well as a sense of the larger, holistic system. It complements causal loop diagrams that are part of systems dynamics. Boeing Center for Leadership and Learning developed one of their management development programs after clarifying their shared understanding by building a pyramid.It helped them to understand the Boeing environment as a whole as represented through their collective knowledge.

  • The pyramid as a tool for analysis and integration: This is a mechanism for us to begin to understand and explore organizational dynamics in a non-linear model. It allows us to conceptualize and organize variables in dynamic relationship to each other. We can examine relationships between two, three and four variables and explore the implications for all of them. Mastek, Pacific Bell and Xerox have used the pyramid to analyze their options and shared visions to come up with a collective strategy, mission and future plans. While designing the pyramid, the team members could understand the team dynamics, fears, hidden agendas as well as assess the chances for success for their collective vision.

  • The pyramid as stimulus to conversation: People who were involved in designing a pyramid develop a shared language and shared meaning among themselves. During the pyramid building process, they engage in sharing not from their heads but also from their hearts. If facilitated well, it supports a deeper dialogue that examines beliefs, assumptions and values of the participants and creates a shared understanding represented by the pyramid. So different people describe the pyramid differently and hence the pyramid allows for a variety of perspectives to emerge without conflict or contradiction. In that respect, the pyramid is a tool for managing differences and polarities. A training group in Ford used the pyramid as a means to bring clarity among the team members regarding their mission, training design.

  • The pyramid as a guide to action: The analysis of the relationships among variables in the pyramid provides a foundation for decision-making and action planning that is based on a deeper level of integration than is usual in many organizations. A software company in India, Mastek is using its Mastek pyramid in risk management, strategic planning, team member selection for project teams and situation assessment.


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