Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows
In my previous post Sharing is Caring - How to Empower Lean Project Teams (Part 1), I wrote about how to overcome the traditional ways of competing agendas in project teams and how we create change by giving people new experiences and embracing their imperfections and humanity.
In this article, I am going to explain why personality assessments are a valuable tool to help team members collaborate successfully.
The reason we do these exercises early on is that people can learn about each other and understand how their fellow team members think, resolve conflicts, and make decisions. The truth is that personalities are pretty locked in, however, we can train our brain and flex our personality type to adjust to the situation and the person(s) we are engaging with.
What lean project teams can learn from Carl Jung
We found the Myers Briggs assessment a valuable tool to improve the collaboration in our project teams. There are no right or wrong answers in this individual assessment, which helps team members become aware that everyone has a different way of thinking and making decisions.
Isabel Briggs Myers, a researcher, and practitioner of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types, built on Jung’s theory of psychological types and created an assessment tool around four dichotomies:
- Extraverted vs. Introverted
- Sensing vs. Intuition
- Thinking vs. Feeling
- Judging vs. Perceiving
Understanding the variations in personality types and ideally, the preferences of your team members provide you with an insight into how they approach their work. Knowing where your fellow team members draw energy from and how their thinking and decision-making strategy works enable you to interact more productively.
For example, depending on your personality type, you have a specific way you take in information and make decisions: some people are data-driven and will rely on facts and figures to make a decision and will have a hard time making a decision when there is a lack of data available or provided.
Others trust their gut feeling more than anything else. They only need a feeling, a rough concept to decide. It is not difficult to understand that these two personality types can cause conflicts in a team situation.
Additionally, some people will make their decision based on the facts or based on the impact the decision would have on the people affected by it. To have balanced decisions, it is helpful to have people that are looking at both the facts and the impact. Oftentimes we do not have that balanced perspective on our teams or we don’t embrace it and allow the different perspectives to carry equal weight in contributing to the decision. Doing exercises that help you embrace the other perspectives and to compensate for your own blind spots is extremely helpful in having a high performing team that makes more durable decisions.
Another area we look at is how different personality types get work done.
I am the type of person to go to Italy without any plans and am perfectly comfortable with it. I have all the things I want to do in my head and will make them happen once I am there as opportunities arise. It’s not that I don’t have the skills to structure things and plan ahead; it’s just not my natural go-to. I am a P-Personality according to the Myers Briggs assessment.
P-Personalities are thinking about stuff for a long time, however, nothing will go on paper until the very end. They have a long list of options and figure things out when they get to their final destination. They are not as structured as J-Personalities.
If you are a J-Personality, you love the details and planning it all out every step of the way from the first discussion through the end of the vacation. No matter if you are planning your holiday to Italy or the next six weeks of your project.
Having both personalities on a project team can be frustrating when they don't understand how each other approaches decision-making.
J-Personalities naturally think that P-Personalities are not making progress.
P-Personalities feel there is no flexibility to adjust when new information comes to light if the team is dominated by J-Personalities.
Again, neither type is better or worse, both can make or blow the schedule. Therefore, it is even more important to make everyone aware of the different types of people in a project team and to flex and apply the different approaches depending on the different project needs. Does making a decision too early prevent flexibility for the owner to incorporate a current state-of-the-art solution or if decided too late does it cause extra work, overtime, and missed critical milestone dates?
Where attention goes, energy flows
We also look at the sources of energy for different team members. For example, extroverts get their energy from social situations, in other words, external processes, and they like to talk things through with others. An introvert, on the other hand, gets their energy from alone time and needs time to think about things silently, to contemplate, to fully work out the solution before sharing. When he/she is ready, she will speak up.
How does this translate into project team situations?
Please read on in the next part of this series.
Jessica Kelley has more than 20 years of experience integrating Lean thinking on projects across large organizations in the construction industry to achieve cultural transformation. As the Operational Excellence Manager at Southland Industries, she is responsible for the design and implementation of lean business systems resulting in high levels of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, process improvement, and financial benefits. She also manages the operational excellence road map and is a mentor, facilitator, trainer, and coach for the company’s employees. She is a member of the Lean Construction Institute, the Project Production Systems Laboratory at UC Berkeley, the Center for Innovation in the Design and Construction Industry, and the Construction Industry Resource Training Network.