Who Watches the Watchmen?

Who Watches the Watchmen?

A Smiley badge with a bloodstain

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

~ Juvenal (Satires)

No, this ain’t about governance, corruption, Leveson, or our drift as a society towards a police state (maybe another time).

Nor about the Agile community, and the question of who might hold all the pontificating bastards like me to account (deffo one for another day).

It’s about the comic series (and book, film) “Watchmen“.

“Series writer Alan Moore created the main characters to present six “radically opposing ways” to perceive the world, and to give readers of the story the privilege of determining which one was most morally comprehensible.”

~ Wikipedia

Ways to Perceive the World

There’s probably more than Moore’s six ways to perceive the world, and in the Marshall Model I’ve chosen to show only four.

Which of the six main Watchmen characters map to which four organisational mindsets? Not that there’s an obvious or direct mapping, but here’s my take on the question:

The Comedian


“He believes that humans are savage in nature, and that civilization can never be more than an idea.”

This reminds me of the Adhoc mindset, where there’s often a belief that organisation and discipline can never be more than an idea.

Doctor Manhattan


Harder to find a correspondent for Dr Manhattan. Given his affinity with technology and science and his tendency to “grow away from human habits and humanity in general” I might choose the Analytic mindset. But his superhuman powers, especially near-total clairvoyance, make the mapping less than satisfactory. And I’m saving the Analytic mindset for…



A “child prodigy” – as so many Analytic-minded organisations are in their “youth”, he “learned the art of lying” in childhood. Like Alexander the Great, Ozymandias seeks to control the world by any and all means at his disposal. Sounds like a sociopath of the first order, to me.

“One of the worst of his sins is kind of looking down on the rest of humanity, scorning the rest of humanity.”

~ Dave Gibbons



“Rorschach sees existence as random and…this viewpoint leaves the character ‘free to ‘scrawl his own design’ on a ‘morally blank world'”.

Rorschach consistently refuses all compromise. It’s also interesting to note that Wikipedia suggests “he loses all faith in humanity”, whereas I see a different interpretation.

In any case, of the six main Watchmen characters, I see Rorschach as closest to the Chaordic mindset. Even his ever-changing black-and-white mask seems appropriate.

Night Owl II and Silk Spectre II

Nite_Owl Silk_SpectreBoth of these characters are the “good guys” of the plot, with Night Owl II interested in technology and Silk Spectre II (at the outset) girlfriend to Dr Manhattan. Later she becomes the catalyst for Dr Manhattan to rediscover his conscience regarding humanity, albeit briefly.

They both have “difficult childhoods”. And both have more compassion and humanity than the other characters.

Accordingly, I’d say these two are closest of the six to the “Synergistic” mindset. Although they don’t seem to do much systems thinking.


How do you see these mappings working out? And at least as interestingly, perhaps, which character, which way to perceive the world, resonates best with you? And which way to perceive the world is most in line with your current workplace?

– Bob

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