The Myers Briggs Type Indicator MBTI

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a very well-known personality construct [5.2, 5.3] that is based upon the following four polarities:

Extrovert (E) versus Introvert (I)

Sensing (S) versus Intuitive (N)

Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F)

Judging (J) versus Perceptive (P)

By filling out a questionnaire, the user obtains a scored self-profile in each of the eight dimensions. Scores can be very close to the center of a given polarity or they can show a very distinct preference for one dimension over another. Each of these aspects of the MBTI is briefly discussed in what follows. The reader is urged to see if he or she can identify with the various types.

Extrovert (E). The extrovert is what you might expect from a simple dictionary definition. This person is sociable and enjoys a multiplicity of relationships. He or she is usually gregarious, outgoing, energetic, and conveys a breadth of interests. According to data collected over a long period of time with respect to the MBTI, about 75% of the population falls into this category [5.3].

Introvert (I). This type of person is more closed, turned inward, territorial and conservative of expending energy. It may be difficult to find out what such a person is thinking because there is a tendency toward not speaking, especially in a group situation. Such a person may be concentrated, watchful, and have limited interactions and relationships with only a few good friends or colleagues. About 25% of the population at large exhibit this type of behavior.

Sensing (S). In this category, one finds people who focus on facts, figures and real-world data and experience in order to grasp and relate to what is going on around them. Such a person is very practical, down to earth, sensible, realistic, and prone to adopt the perspective that if it cannot be seen or measured, it is not likely to exist or be true. Past experience is very important and has a strong influence on views of the current or future situations. Some 75% of the population exhibit this tendency.

Intuition (N). The intuitive person likes to speculate about the future and is often imaginative, inspirational, and ingenious. This type of individual may be prone to fantasizing and searching for new ways of doing things. ''Gut'' reactions may be much more important than facts and figures, which may be discounted in considering what to do in a project situation. A high ''N,'' with respect to this point, may have a serious clash with a high ''S'' because the latter will not understand how gut reactions play a role in evaluation and remediation of problems. About 25% of the population have an ''N'' score.

Thinking (T). This type of person takes pride in using analytical skills in puzzling through problems. Some might refer to such a person as ''left-brained,'' relying on abilities to be objective and impersonal to analyze and resolve situations. Such a person attempts to use standards, policies, and laws to create order and a sense of equity and fairness. Subjective evaluations might make such a person uncomfortable because objective measurements are distinctly preferred. The literature suggests that 50% of the population would tend to qualify as a ''T'' in the MBTI.

Feeling (F). Representing the opposite polarity from ''thinking,'' the ''feeling'' person relies on visceral reactions and human connections. Often, the ''F'' person looks behind and beyond the words at such things as reactions, facial expressions, and body language to try to understand what is actually happening in a given situation. Such a person is comfortable with subjectivity and emotions in others and himself or herself. As a manager, he or she tends to empathize with the situation of subordinates and shows a great deal of patience and understanding. This type of person likes harmony and spends time to try to persuade other people on a preferred position. About 50% of the population score in this category.

Judging (J). The judging person likes to make decisions and move on to the next problem. This person insists on closure and has an internal sense of urgency about almost all matters. He or she responds very well to deadlines and works very hard to assure that all milestones on a project are met. Such a person likes to plan and then proceed with measuring against the plan. The ''J'' person is not very patient and likes to converge to core issues as quickly as possible. About 50% of the population have a ''J'' profile.

Perceiving (P). As an opposite from the ''J,'' the perceiving individual is happier with open-ended assignments and situations that allow more flexible responses. Such a person might tend to want to collect more data about a given problem, with little consciousness regarding the time that it takes to do so. The ''go with the flow'' position of the high ''P'' often drives a high ''J'' to anxiety and anger. Whereas the ''P'' person may adopt a ''wait and see'' attitude, the ''J'' wants to ''get the show on the road'' [5.3]. About 50% of the population have this type of characteristic.

One of the conclusions that might be drawn from the MBTI is that people with extreme and opposite scores for a given polarity may have a tendency to clash with one another. For example, if a PM is a high ''S'' and a project staff member is a high ''N,'' these two people, with their different views of the world and behavior tendencies, may frustrate each other. Although this is not a hard-and-fast rule, it is a point that may explain certain personal antipathies. This may be generalized to a main application of the MBTI as well as other such tests, namely, that it may be used to try to understand why people do not get along on a project and what each may do to try to better understand why and what might be done to bridge such a gap of understanding. Further, if any two people have absolutely opposite MBTI profiles, as for example an ENTJ versus an ISFP, the gap may be even broader and deeper. Having an awareness of these natural differences helps to explain various types of conflict. It may also provide a basis for an appreciation of differences, which could serve to strengthen a project team and its overall performance.

Another obvious question regarding the MBTI: Is there a preferred MBTI profile for a project manager? Some investigators of the field of management believe that this is true. For example, J. Davidson Frame [5.4] appears to select the ESTJ profile as the preferred type for a PM. However, he also points out that, for research projects, ''ESTJ project managers who are unaware of the differences in psychological type are likely to be exasperated by their workers,'' based on the differences in how they deal with and see the world. The key word, from this author's point of view, is ''awareness'' and that people who have a strong awareness of both similarities and differences can make both a strength in a project situation. Research-oriented people can be doing the research tasks and extroverts can be doing the marketing and project presentations. Facts-and-figures people can be happily devoted to the project control activities and high Js can help to bring focus and closure to interminable meetings. In short, we are all different and we perform best when we are working in areas of strength rather than weakness. The aware Project Manager knows this and spends the time necessary to understand differences and assure that individual strengths and tendencies are fully utilized and that the effects of weaknesses are minimized. Thus, even if a PM is an INFP, in distinction to Frame's ESTJ, excellent results can be achieved on the project if such a PM has the awareness, skill, and discipline to use a team approach that fully utilizes the complementary capabilities of that team.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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