This paper describes the experiences of practicing social practice design (SPD) activities with user groups, in geographically distributed, collaborating manufacturing companies, struggling with the introduction of model based enterprise systems. Within a European project, we observed and routinely analyzed ongoing development and assessment work of model based technologies and methodologies, in these companies. Based on an ethnographic study of Modelling sessions and Validation sessions, we performed an in depth analysis of people semantic and pragmatic perspectives (a necessary and needed ‘second step back’), and identified core disconnects on modelling concept use and language, and on motivations and goals, between technology designers – modellers - and domain experts – users - clearly hindering project progress -. These disconnects were addressed with user groups in the form of SPD sessions (‘second order’ activities), which consisted mostly in a series of design game and scenario-building workshops, enriched by open conversations and perspective sharing and comparison. The paper describes how these SPD sessions facilitated the creation of sense making and trust, enabling participants to engage and learn, and to act as change agents in the project, opening the way to co-construction of solutions with other actors. Observations of Modelling and Validation sessions showed that participants could not automatically build on a deep understanding of modelling and its trade-offs; they adopted the representational conventions they had learned to use. Lack of sense making and lack of co-construction were observed, along with lack of facilitation for genuinely participative conditions. Modeller-guided Modelling sessions showed no appropriation of object decomposition and relationship structures by domain experts, nor contribution from users to leadership in the modelling process; only imposition of hierarchical structures by modellers, in the midst of a cloud of mistrust and suspicion. Validation sessions of the model-based approach showed that ‘common’ users do not perceive the value of the approach, as they have not been helped to gain a conceptual understanding of modelling, of the tradeoffs of abstractions, and of how a model may productively interact with work practices. In this distributed project, different concepts of various user groups all conflicted with modellers’ concept. The SPD facilitation interventions helped participants in stepping back from the “official view” of the work process created in the course of the project, and in focussing more on their own experiences, opening up for creativity. SPD events were grounded in the belief that, when it comes to one’s own things, people with no special knowledge of the issues to be discussed can contribute something valuable, especially on those matters that they perceive as problems for themselves; it was impressive to witness how people with no management perspective can engage in strategy development within a very short time. The methods were easy enough to adopt without much preparation and rich enough to stimulate learning and valuable insights; people felt comfortable and not at risk at being judged. Participants expressed how important the experience of working creatively on solving “real problems” had been for them. We can understand this also as a result of the longitudinal character of our SPD engagement with people in the project, which had provided us with good knowledge about work practices, potentials and problems on the one hand, allowed trust building on the other hand.