Exploring the Waterline Model: Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness


Welcome to our exploration of the Waterline Model, a powerful framework designed to enhance organizational effectiveness by addressing underlying issues that impact performance and results. In this guide, we will delve into the core concepts of the Waterline Model, its application in various organizational contexts, and the benefits it offers to teams and businesses.

Understanding the Waterline Model

The Waterline Model, developed by Chris Paton and Colin Gautrey, draws inspiration from the iceberg metaphor. Similar to an iceberg, which has a visible tip above the waterline and a larger, unseen portion beneath the surface, the Waterline Model distinguishes between observable behaviors and the deeper underlying factors that drive them.

Key Concepts

  1. Above the Waterline: This represents the visible aspects of organizational performance, such as results, outputs, and behaviors. These elements are typically easy to identify and measure but only represent a fraction of what influences organizational effectiveness.
  2. Below the Waterline: This encompasses the underlying factors that influence behavior and performance but are often hidden from view. These factors include beliefs, values, assumptions, culture, and systemic issues within the organization. Addressing issues below the waterline is crucial for sustainable change and long-term improvement.

Application of the Waterline Model

The Waterline Model can be applied across various organizational contexts, including:

  • Leadership Development: Identifying and addressing underlying beliefs and assumptions that shape leadership behaviors and decisions.
  • Team Dynamics: Understanding the hidden dynamics within teams that impact collaboration, communication, and performance.
  • Change Management: Uncovering resistance to change and addressing cultural barriers that hinder organizational transformation.
  • Conflict Resolution: Exploring the root causes of conflicts and addressing underlying issues to foster constructive resolution.
  • Organizational Culture: Shifting organizational culture by challenging deeply ingrained beliefs and values that no longer serve the organization’s goals.

Benefits of the Waterline Model:

  • Holistic Understanding: Provides a comprehensive view of organizational challenges by addressing both visible and underlying factors.
  • Sustainable Change: Addresses root causes of issues, leading to long-term improvement and organizational resilience.
  • Enhanced Communication: Promotes open dialogue and understanding by uncovering hidden dynamics and perspectives.
  • Improved Decision-Making: Enables leaders to make informed decisions by considering the full range of factors that influence behavior and performance.


The Waterline Model offers a valuable framework for enhancing organizational effectiveness by uncovering and addressing underlying issues that impact performance and results. By delving beneath the surface to explore the beliefs, values, and assumptions that drive behavior, organizations can create sustainable change, foster collaboration, and achieve their goals. Explore the depths of the Waterline Model and unlock the potential for transformation within your organization.