Please be advised that this posting provides neither an exhaustive nor totally detailed explanation of the MBTI uses/ applications available to you. Consult a certified MBTI user for specific, tailored guidance on options that may be available to you and your situation. Additional information is available on the PEP site Links page (under Personality Type); or you may contact us directly with any specific questions.

CognitiveFunctions-WikipediaIn this next section, I will discuss one potential use of Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) in building more effective teams and staff.  This is a single example that I have used numerous time with clients in helping them assess issues and risks posed by team or group composition; and, ways to address them.

Assertions:

There are several preconditions that must be met before embarking on this application of MBTI.  The prerequisites include:

  • Your team or group members will need to know or establish their individual Myers-Briggs type. For example, each team member will need to know if they are an INTJ, ESFP, etc.
  • Each member of the group will need to be included/ involved in this effort, at the same time, and together.
  • You will need a knowledgeable, certified MBTI user to lead the discussion.

Discussion:

Note: If you are not familiar with MBTI and its general use, be certain to review some of the links under Personality Type on our Links page.

For the sake of our discussion, we will assume the following:

  • We have a group of 7 people.
  • Each person has established their MBTI type using a reliable and professional method.

Their individual MBTI types and the overall group summary information are expressed in the next table:

MBTI Type E/I N/S T/F J/P
Member #1 ISTJ I S T J
Member #2 ENTP E N T P
Member #3 ISTJ I S T J
Member #4 INTJ I N T J
Member #5 INFP I N F P
Member #6 ESTJ E S T J
Member #7 ISTJ I S T J
Group Type I S T J
Dominance 5/2 4/3 6/1 5/2

By way of quick clarification of the MBTI Dimensions, let’s examine Wikipedia’s definitions:

(E/I): The preferences for extraversion (E) and introversion (I) are often called “attitudes”. Briggs and Myers recognized that each of the cognitive functions can operate in the external world of behavior, action, people, and things (“extraverted attitude”) or the internal world of ideas and reflection (“introverted attitude”). The MBTI assessment sorts for an overall preference for one or the other.

(S/N): Sensing (S) and intuition (N) are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come “out of nowhere”. They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

(T/F): Thinking (T) and feeling (F) are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. Thinkers usually have trouble interacting with people who are inconsistent or illogical, and tend to give very direct feedback to others. They are concerned with the truth and view it as more important.

(J/P): Myers and Briggs held that types with a preference for judging (J) show the world their preferred judging function (thinking or feeling). So TJ types tend to appear to the world as logical, and FJ types as empathetic. According to Myers,judging types like to “have matters settled”.[…] Those types who prefer perception (P) show the world their preferred perceiving function (sensing or intuition). So SP types tend to appear to the world as concrete and NP types as abstract. According to Myers,perceptive types prefer to “keep decisions open”.

Analysis:

Next let’s examine what our group MBTI might tell us.  First, here is the summary:

Group Type I S T J
Dominance 5/2 4/3 6/1 5/2

 

Our aggregated Group Type looks to be that of an ISTJ; further, it is worth noting that there are 3 actual ISTJs on the team. A more detailed examination of the Dominance row would seem to indicate that this aggregation is actually a fairly strong representation with the possible exception of the N/S dimension (which is just barely weighted towards Sensing, 4 to  3).  What this means is that the group “as a whole” will likely exhibit traits very much like those of an ISTJ individual. A quick look at the description of the ISTJ type (from Wikipedia) indicates:

ISTJs are faithful, logical, organized, sensible, and earnest traditionalists who enjoy keeping their lives and environments well-regulated. Typically reserved and serious individuals, they earn success through their thoroughness and extraordinary dependability. They are capable of shutting out distractions in order to take a practical, logical approach to their endeavors, and are able to make the tough decisions that other types avoid. Realistic and responsible, ISTJs are often seen as worker bees striving steadily toward their goals. Despite their dependability and good intentions, however, ISTJs can experience difficulty in understanding and responding to the emotional needs of others.

Although they often focus on their internal world, ISTJs prefer dealing with the present and the factual. They are detail-oriented and weigh various options when making decisions, although they generally stick to the conventional. ISTJs are well-prepared for eventualities and have a good understanding of most situations. They believe in practical objectives, and they value traditions and loyalty.

full article

Thus if our group style tends to be represented by the above type, we might need to take certain actions in order to enhance the groups normal tendencies and behaviors to improve our outcome success in the organization. It is important to note, that the actions we ultimately choose to take, need to enhance and augment the skills and abilities of the group.  For the sake of this discussion, we are merely pointing out what “might be” not what necessarily “must” happen.

If we examine the first paragraph (above) sentence by sentence, we might gain more detailed insights:

ISTJs are faithful, logical, organized, sensible, and earnest traditionalists who enjoy keeping their lives and environments well-regulated.

We might conclude, if our project involves “non-traditional” or “inventive” approaches to our work, that we might need to bolster our team in this area.  Given ISTJs are traditionalists, rather than innovators, they are  likely to need some help and guidance/ coaching operating “outside of their comfort zone”.  The bottom line is, if the project involves developing new ideas, approaches, architectures, etc. our team might be uncomfortable or even unable to assume a true visionary or leadership role in that arena.

Typically reserved and serious individuals, they earn success through their thoroughness and extraordinary dependability.

If our project involves gaining broad acceptance and participation in support of a change or new idea, our team may need some coaching or assistance. If the project effort requires a lot of campaigning, “meeting and greeting the people” activities to generate organizational buy-in, they may need to help establishing and executing those efforts. ISTJ’s are often uncomfortable when operating in that realm.

They are capable of shutting out distractions in order to take a practical, logical approach to their endeavors, and are able to make the tough decisions that other types avoid.

So although, this means they excel at maintaining focus, it also means they may, as we noted earlier, have difficulty in finding new ways to solve old problems.  It also means they might shut off external input when it comes at them “randomly” or “in an unplanned fashion”. They may become so involved in performing detailed tasks, that they loose sight of, or ignore, external stimuli.

Realistic and responsible, ISTJs are often seen as worker bees striving steadily toward their goals.

Because ISTJs often prefer to be goal oriented and task focused, the team might need to work extra hard to maintain awareness of external factors that continue to impact their project, especially after work has begun.  Additionally should their initial goal or objective be flawed in some significant manner, they may end up having “gone in the wrong” direction only to discover the problem when it is late and difficult to address.

Despite their dependability and good intentions, however, ISTJs can experience difficulty in understanding and responding to the emotional needs of others.

If the team’s project impacts people and/or involves behavioral change, the team may need to find ways to successfully address the emotional requirements of their “target” audience.  For this particular team, our data would indicate this may be the team’s single greatest exposure, because it is the team’s greatest imbalance (in MBTI terms).

Summary:

Obviously the above analysis is very simplistic and cursory in nature.  It is provided merely as an example of the types of issues you might uncover via this style, or type, of MBTI analysis.  There are numerous caveats to keep in mind, they include:

  1. Your effort almost certainly needs to be led by a certified MBTI user.
  2. Your team needs to have a good, working understanding of Myers-Briggs types, and their definitions/ descriptions, before undertaking this effort.
  3. Mature, experienced team members may be able to act effectively using their non-preferred MBTI modes.  Thus even though there might appear to be type deficits or deficiencies, operationally these deltas may not be as severe as they appear in the “table”.
  4. All MBTI types are valuable!  Deficits or deficiencies highlighted in this exercise are to be viewed in the context of their potential risk, not as a definitive predictor of risk or problems.

I have found this type of analysis extremely useful from the perspective of highlighting and explaining potential risks, risks that might not be typically surfaced via a more traditional risk analysis activity.  Remember a potential or possible risk is simply that, “possible”.  They are not guaranteed to occur or surface. Wherever I have led this type of analysis it has been very valuable.  In the end, it has improved project implementation and success.

If you have further questions regarding performing this type of an analysis, please feel free to use our Contact page to get in touch with me.

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau is a Management Mentor/ Coach with over 40 years of Engineering and Management Experience. He is a CMMI Institute SCAMPI High Maturity Lead Appraiser and Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is also licensed to teach both the CMMI-DEV and SVC constellations' courses. You may contact Mark directly by using the PEP contact page.