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4MAT model for influencing

Updated: Mar 3

Anyone heard of the #4MAT Model?

It has been used in the education world since the 1980s (originally developed by Bernice McCarthy). But I like to use it for #influencing and developing key messages for stakeholders.


Recently, I’ve been thinking about it in my NHS role – how to influence senior NHS leaders to think strategically about the resilience of lymphoedema services in their areas.


Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life. It means that one limb (or other part of the body) will be very swollen and it doesn’t go away on its own. Lymphoedema can significantly affect mobility, it’s painful, you might not be able to wear certain clothes, you might have to wear compression garments for life. It can also have a significant impact on your mental health and wellbeing.

A photograph from the Australian Institute of Lymphodema - showing the 4 stages of lower limb lymphodema.

Even though it’s a chronic condition for 100,000s of people in the UK, it’s not well recognised by primary and community care teams. It’s not a well recognised career path for NHS nurses, physios and other professionals. And, in the majority of areas across the UK, it’s not a clearly commissioned service.


So I’ve been thinking about the 4MAT model and how to construct messaging for senior leaders who have too many complex problems to juggle, not enough staff to dive into the detail of local problems, and not enough funding to do everything as well as they would like to.


The idea of the 4MAT model goes that humans will generally have a preference for one or two of the following categories (based on left/right brain and limbic/cerebral parts of the brain) to understand (or be convinced about) an idea.


This is genuinely #heartsandminds and #thinkingvdoing in response to change.


The 4MAT quadrants are:

1. Why? – tell me broadly why the problem is something we can’t ignore

2. What? – what are the specific factors or concepts to understand the problem? What do the data say to prove it’s a problem?

3. How? – what are the practical steps to solving this big problem? How realistic are those steps?

4. What if? – What are the outcomes that we’d achieve, if we changed things?

An infographic showing the 4Mat model - in four quadrants. On the horizontal axis is left/right brain and on the vertical axis is limbic/cerebral brain


In the NHS, we collect vast amounts of data. But that data isn’t always easy to extract over large geographies. We don’t always have the resource to analyse and interpret it in a way that suits a specific audience. And there’s also lots of data that don't get collected routinely either.


By working through this model, I know that I need to talk with some lymphoedema practitioners about how we might quantify one of the key problems that I think will hook our senior leaders.


And if yours is a complicated problem, your ‘how’ might be demonstrating the steps you want to take, to work out how to fix the big problem.



If you have big challenges at work and need a thinking partner, do email me for details to have a free 30min discovery call. In that call, we can talk about your challenges and whether coaching is a good option for you right now.


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