Landscape Diagram


The Landscape Diagram represents the impact of constraints on a system. It represents a “map” or picture of how those constraints influence patterns of activity and decision making across the whole system.

The two axes represent two critical dimensions of human interaction.

  • The “X” or horizontal axis represents the degree of certainty in the system, and describes a continuum from “Close to” certainty, which represents a high degree of certainty, to “Far from” certainty, which represents little or no certainty among the agents in a system. When agents in a system are “Close to certainty” they are more able to predict the impact of a decision or action or more clearly describe what is happening because the system is constrained in such a way that uncertainty is minimized or eliminated. Some examples of constraints that bring high levels of certainty include close coupling, strong enforcement of multiple maximum specifications, limited diversity, small spaces or containers.
  • The “Y” or vertical axis represents the degree or agreement in the system, describing a continuum from “Close to” agreement, which represents strong agreement, to “Far from” agreement, which represents little or no agreement, or even disagreement among the agents in a system. When agents in a system are “Close to agreement,” they see things in similar ways or they respond to stimula in ways that are similar to the responses of other agents in the system. The system is constrained in such a way that disagreement is minimized or eliminated. Some examples of constraints that bring high levels of agreement in a system include commitment to a shared goal, fear of punishment or retribution for disagreeing, clearly stated expectations, high levels of similarity.

Activities and interactions in any system can be assigned to one of three zones, based on the level of constraint, relative to either or both dimensions. Given any particular situation, the two dimensions can be graphed according to the constraints that are in action.

  • Organized Zone – Close to Agreement and close to Certainty – this zone is is governed by procedure, rules, and policies. It is highly predictable and constrained.
  • Self-Organizing Zone – Further from Agreement and Certainty – this zone is governed by simple rules. It is the area of learning, relationships, creativity, and innovation.
  • Unorganized Zone – Far from Agreement and Certainty – this zone is characterized by unconnected blips and trends that may or may not have meaning in the system. It is an area of random activity, unpredictability, and surprise.

When system [Constraints] increase, activities move toward the Organized Zone. As constraints decrease, they move toward the Unorganized Zone.

NOTE: Any given map on the Landscape Diagram represents a single situation or event or set of conditions. What is highly constrained for one situation can show up as random and unconstrained in another. For instance, Company A may have done major research and development on an idea and created a new level of technology or product development that another group or Company B has no idea about. For Company B, those ideas are still highly unconstrained—individuals in that group are far from both agreement and certainty about it. Once they become aware of the idea, it begins to be constrained and moves into the self-organizing realm as patterns emerge in Company B about the new idea’s/product’s use and/or value to them. This, then, leads to the second

NOTE: Any given map may change across time or circumstance. Say that Company B becomes aware of the new idea and begins to consider its possibilities, opportunities, and limitations, patterns begin to emerge as agents in the system move toward higher levels of agreement and certainty. Say that Company B likes the new idea/product so much they decide to adopt it as their own. Then they have work to do to help increase agreement and certainty, often to the level of the organized zone. This phenomenon is described by the Maturity Model of Change. and becomes the basis of a useful tool for helping us understand and move through change in a relationship or organization.