This paper was first published in the Proceedings of the 29th Annual Project Management Institute Seminar/Symposium "Tides of Change", Long Beach, California, USA, 1998. (Updated presentation, April, 2002.) Presented here as the sixth in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Published here May, 2002.

Introduction | General Characteristics | Myers-Briggs
Comparison | Observations | Summary/Conclusions | Appendix A

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

For those not familiar with the MBTI, it is based on the work of Jung (and others, circa 1920). However, Keirsey and Bates show that the concepts bear a marked similarity to Hippocrates' views some twenty five centuries earlier. Hippocrates spoke of the four gods Apollonius, Dionysus, Epimetheus, and Prometheus, each having distinct personality temperaments.[5]

Thus Jung, reverting to Greek mythology, diverged from the twentieth century notion that people are fundamentally alike in their motivation, and postulated instead that people are fundamentally different in their personalities. What is important, he suggested, is people's preference for how they "function" and so may be "typed" accordingly.

Interestingly, by latching on to Hippocrates' four temperaments, the MBTI has developed into a lucrative consulting business. The consulting literature dealing with MBTI team building seems to suggest that every personality type has a contribution to make to teamwork. From a consulting practice perspective, this is no doubt highly prudent. However, common knowledge of certain undesirable types in society who, by definition of the MBTI must be found somewhere in the classification, suggests that universal contribution to teamwork is patently unreal.

For purposes of this paper, it is worth describing the MBTI structure in more detail. The MBTI postulates that the four "temperaments" give rise to four separate but interrelated ranges of personal preferences or natural tendencies in a given situation. These ranges may be characterized as "information gathering", "focus", "decision making", and "orientation". The combination of these four ranges results in sixteen possible "characteristic types".

Presentation is typically in the form of a 4x4 grid, each cell containing descriptive text. Underlying this layout is a primary X-Y cruciform formed by the first two ranges with each quadrant containing a secondary x-y cruciform formed by the second two ranges. The primary quadrants are mirror images of one another. The two sets together result in the sixteen types as shown in Figure 2.

The personality styles and their preferences represented by each cell in the grid reflect the interaction of various combinations of temperaments, rather than the individual temperaments on their own. The descriptions provided by the MBTI give valuable insight into the differences between normal, healthy people. These differences can be the source of much difficulty in understanding and communication, attributes that are so important in project teamwork.

General Personality Characteristics  General Personality Characteristics

5. Keirsey, David, and Marilyn Bates. 1984. Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types. Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, CA: 3-4.
Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Top of Page