A paper presented to the Project Management Institute's Annual Seminar/Symposium "Tides of Change", Long Beach, California, USA, 1998 (Updated for web presentation, 2002). Presented here as the fourth in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Introduction | Review 1950-1970  | Review 1980-1990  | Classification
Findings | Summary & Conclusions | Appendix A  | Appendix B

Search for a Project-Management-friendly Personality Classification

In an attempt to bring more recognizable and practical utility to the issue of project manager selection, a six-step analysis was undertaken. The first step consisted of a review of the last ten years [1985-1995] of PMI publications to abstract familiar words or phrases used to describe a project manager's required personal characteristics and skill sets. The selection excluded words that depicted technological experience or know-how. The result was a list of some 200 words or phrases which, together, suggested that the project manager should be an impossible paragon of virtue!

The second step consisted of selecting familiar but differentiated headings into which the words could be sorted. The review of the literature described earlier suggested that with appropriate changes in terminology the primary X-Y axes of the MBTI grid would be appropriate and sufficient as separators for a 2x2 grid. This would give rise to four recognizable project leader types. This result appears to be confirmed by the work of Kliem and Anderson referenced above. It is also supported by the observation that the four cells at the extreme corners of the MBTI 4x4 grid describe characteristics most often found in project leaders. This in itself was an important finding.

Thus, a horizontal (X) axis was chosen to show a "Problem versus People focus" and end‑labeled "Inward-looking" to "Outgoing". This equates to the "Introvert" to "Extrovert" axis of the MBTI grid. A vertical (Y) axis was chosen to show a "Receptive versus Directive Style" and end‑labeled "Autocracy" to "Adhocracy". This equates to the "Intuitive" to "Sensing"' axis of the MBTI grid.

The label "Adhocracy" needs some explanation. It is a term coined by Robert Waterman to describe a particular type of loose and flexible project team environment. In this environment it is necessary to lend some semblance of structure to travel the apparently unknown route to the project's destination, that is, until its final phase.[15]

The arrangement thus described is shown in Figure 5. Examination of the figure's axes suggests that a person in the top-left quadrant might be described as an "Explorer" or entrepreneur. A person in the top-right could be described as a "Driver"; in the bottom-right as a "Coordinator" or catalyst; and in the bottom-left as an "Administrator" or stabilizer. These titles also fit reasonably well with the MBTI character descriptions.

Figure 5: Identification of Project Manager's Style
Figure 5: Identification of Project Manager's Style

In the third step, the list of words were assigned to one of the four headings as seemed most appropriate. They were then subdivided into "Personal Characteristics" and "Personal Skill Sets". Personal characteristics are those aspects of a person's temperament that determine their natural tendencies or preferences, though these tendencies may be honed by experience. Skill sets are the project manager's personal "kit bag" of capabilities that can be developed through training and experience. A number of the words were deemed to be applicable to all four types of project leader. The result was approximately twenty five phrases in each of the four columns under each of the two main headings.

The fifth step involved matching the four leader-type columns horizontally, and augmenting the phrases if necessary, to provide a cross check and comparative representation. Finally, the resulting rows were further sorted into the generally accepted project management functions of "Planning, Organizing, Executing and Controlling". (Note: Cleland describes five functions: Planning, Organizing, Motivating, Directing and Controlling.[16] Motivating and Directing are taken as being part of Executing. Kliem and Anderson use the term Leading, but their description better fits the function of managing execution.[17])

Review of Selected Literature, 1980-1990  Selected Literature, 1980-1990

15. Waterman, R. H., Adhocracy: The Power to Change, W W Norton & Co., NY, 1992, p16 & 59.
16. Cleland, D. I., Project Management: Strategic Design and Implementation, TAB Professional and Reference Books, PA, 1989, p24.
17. Kliem, Ralph L. and Harris B. Anderson, Teambuilding Styles and Their Impact on Project Management Results, PMI Journal 27(1), 1996, p46.
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