The Whole Is the Sum of the Parts

The Whole Is the Sum of the Parts

The personality of a project consists of individuals who, in turn, have complicated personalities. Taibi Kahler proposes, Observing people is like observing holograms. A hologram comprises hundreds of thousands of independent images, each of which portrays a complete object from a slightly different angle. Combined, these images create a three-dimensional display. When we view the complete display, we "get the whole picture". When we perceive a person, we "get the whole picture" of an entire personality, comprising separate units of behavior linked in sequences or patterns. Some patterns are natural, healthy and constructive. Others are learned, negative behaviors that we show when distressed.

As an organization deploys the project management methodologies, care must be taken not to become so involved in the technical aspects, such as project registers and scheduling tools, that we lose sight of the real strength of the business - its people and the rich variety of experience that they hold. The project leader must achieve skill in handling people, seeing their holographic facets, and recognizing their healthy and unhealthy behavior patterns, not just employing the processes and tools of the methodology.

Many project managers get their rank by having been technical experts in a given domain. A key skill, sometimes unnatural among technical leaders, is the ability to recognize the mix of personalities that a project team possesses and maximize that mix for productivity. A team is made up of independent images, just as is each person. Various models are available from the behavioral sciences to help us with the composite. Each of us harbors a little bit of darkness within our individual personality. Management theory includes various personality models that describe how the team's collective negative traits may be controlled.

Individual Personality Type

Starting with the individual, various personality models have been derived from Carl Jung's theory of "psychological types". The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation - Behavior (FIRO-B) model, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, the Kahler Process Communication Model (PCM), and the WorkStyle PatternsTM Inventory from the McFletcher Corporation, represent a few. There are more than 150 models published, but we will talk about seven that are readily implementable.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator may be the most popular and widespread, having been in use for more than 40 years. With millions of people assessed all over the world, its validity is continually updated and debated. It is generally administered and interpreted by professionals formally trained in its use. MBTI identifies four bipolar dimensions of behavior, measuring self-reported preferences on each one, which allows for 16 different personality descriptions, identified by 4-letter codes. The type dimensions are demonstrated in Table 1.

Much can be found on the Web about MBTI, including an abbreviated version of the test instrument and a discussion that relates the model to leadership. For the technical disciplines, many personality types (about 60%) fall into the ISTJ type. Regional or national culture can provide a modifying context for expressing type, as discussed in a later section.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

FIRO-B Instrument

One more tool that needs certification to administer is the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Measuring Behavior (FIRO-B), a multiple-choice questionnaire developed by William C. Schutz, Ph.D. It is an efficient measure of interpersonal relationships, and it has been normalized by data from tens of thousands of individuals across 15 occupations. It measures three basic dimensions of interpersonal relationships in a very short period of time. Most behavioral test instruments tend to ask a lot of questions, so the brevity of the FIRO-B is a welcome relief from "test fatigue".

According to Schutz, all humans have three basic needs, to a greater or lesser degree. They are the needs for inclusion, control, and affection. Inclusion is the inner drive "to establish and maintain a satisfactory relation with people with respect to interaction and association". It has to do with being "in" or "out". A person may need inclusion from others or might need to reach out to others, expressing inclusion. Control is "the need to establish and maintain a satisfactory relation with people with respect to control and power". It has to do with being on top or on the bottom. As with inclusion, it works in two directions, but a high need for both getting and giving power are not generally found in the same person. The third need of the triad is "the need to establish and maintain a satisfactory relationship with others with respect to love and affection". It has to do with being close or far. As shown in Table 2, in the FIRO-B Model, the six inner needs are the desires of a well-balanced individual.

The FIRO-B Model

Schutz claims that the needs profile of a person is shaped by that person's parents or caregivers in childhood, and these needs are not likely to change in a lifetime.

Applying the FIRO-B postulate of compatibility to teams helps decide which individuals will work well together and which ones will clash. In some cases, it is desirable to have team members who possess alike traits (two people are compatible if both express and desire little affection); in other cases, it is best to mix complementary traits (it might not work if two people on the same team have a high need for control but they have different goals). Schutz's principle of group interaction is that each of the three needs comes to prominence at different points of the group's life cycle:

The typical sequence is: inclusion → control → affection. During early meetings, members try to decide where they fit and how much they're willing to invest in the group. This is the inclusion phase. As these primary identity issues are resolved, the emphasis switches to questions of control. What are the ground rules? Who will be the leader? How much responsibility will be shared? When this struggle is resolved, the group slides into the affection phase, which centers on positive attraction, pairing, jealousy, and hostility this sequence recurs in groups that continue to meet.

Later, we'll see that this sequence closely follows a popular model of team formation behavior.

Sorter Keirsey Temperament

Closely related to MBTI is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, derived from the work of David Keirsey in his book Please Understand Me. It is accessible via the Internet, does not require professional administration, and offers the personality test instrument in four languages (Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Norwegian). Keirsey's model identifies four temperament types, with variants as described in Table 3.

Kahler Process Communication Model

The Kahler Process Communication Model (PCM) is a six-part description based on transactional analysis, which analyzes personalities by observing how one conducts transactions with others (their "miniscripts"). It is administered and interpreted by formally trained professionals enabling you to understand, motivate, and communicate more effectively with others on a project team. PCM has profiled more than a half-million people in 20 different countries, and is used by NASA to evaluate astronaut candidates. The six personality types identified in PCM are explained in Table 4.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter

Kahler Process Communication Model

A key feature of this model is that it accounts for a person's changes in apparent personality over the course of his lifetime. These phase shifts are important for a team leader to identify because they may be misinterpreted as a Dr. Jekyll - Mr. Hyde transformation. The PCM model requires a full-day class from a trained professional to understand and apply it effectively.

Non-Jungian sources for personality models are the Enneagram, and Richard Bandler's Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).


The Enneagram, a centuries-old nine-part model with roots in the Middle East, measures nine basic defensive styles and gives breakthrough feedback and strategies for managing individual stress. The nine parts to the Enneagram model are related as demonstrated in Figure (a).

The Enneagram

The Enneagram has been related to the MBTI types as demonstrated in Table 5

Model Usage

When used correctly, surprising results are often obtained from using any one of these models, revealing the reasons why certain people do or don't work well together.

It is important for a project manager to gain some skill in recognizing personality patterns and predicting their interaction. Mostly, the models mentioned divide personalities into patterns of behavior describing a map of an individual's personality. It is important to remember that these are only maps to a territory, not the territory itself. The models, when applied with experience and caution, are a big help. As a leader, you should completely understand at least one of these models to help you read and deal with individual and team personalities.

Cultural Influences

Cultural patterns are another dimension to individual and team personalities. The cultural diversity of many modern companies is well known, and global project teams are becoming more common. Cultural patterns vary by country and region, and affect team members' expectations. Cultures can influence individual personality expression by providing a framework of norms within which personality types operate. For example, the United States is an apparent MBTI extroverted culture, as compared to the apparent introverted cultures in the United Kingdom and Japan. Also, German participants are typically prepared for meetings and stick closely to the agenda (MBTI SJ behavior), while Latin American participants are ready to improvise and feel free to start on unexpected topics (NP behavior). Latinos also easily speak their mind (E), while Scandinavians need to express themselves only if they disagree with a decision (I). In Asia, the members' relationships are considered most important (NF), whereas, in Western countries (United States and European), money and tasks are usually weighted more heavily (ST). Some older American women, having grown up in the South or the Southwest, may fear ageism (the United States is not a culture of "respect for elders", as in Japan) and may have trouble discussing money matters. American businesspeople frequently jump right into "making the deal", whereas Latin Americans, Asians, and Europeans carefully build a trusting relationship first.

MBTI and Enneagram Types

To understand cultural patterns better, project managers can take short classes available to increase sensitivity to cultural issues. If you have a multinational project team, the members may be divided by the common business language of a company's English (well, American, actually). A good way to gain some quick vocabulary with which to build trust (it helps to show that you are trying even if you aren't proficient) is to take a short immersion course in one or more of your project team members' languages (e.g., Berlitz). It will help you with the basics but also allow you to absorb some of the local cultural patterns. This will help you to read individuals' motives and actions better because language is inextricably related to culture.

Personal Motivation

Kahler proposes that understanding a person's "home-base" psychological needs (birth), in addition to the phase of life in which he is currently operating (environment), will give rise to an understanding of what motivates the person individually and in teams. Table 6 shows motivators for the previous personality structure.

PCM Motivators

Channels of communication are as important as perceptions for each type - a PCM workaholic would probably rather have "just the facts" than be nurtured.

With a handle on personal motivation, the team manager/leader also discovers what to avoid and what behavior is causing distress and therefore lack of productivity, as illustrated in Table 7.

In understanding personal motivation for each team member's performance, individual drivers can be discovered. Does an individual value peer recognition, career path enhancement, financial reward, self-sabotage, or something else?

Many theories relating to motivation in management literature help provide maps to this territory as well. Some of the more useful ones are shown in Table 8.

A modern project manager must understand the fundamentals of these models for managing motivation in people and organizations. Much information on these models of organizational behavior can be found in general management literature because they are generally part of any MBA program.

Leadership Behaviors

Models of Individual Motivation


project management, life cycle, project registers, scheduling tools, project leader, project team
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