MBTI at Work
The instrument measures four sets of personality preferences: Extraversion/ Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/ Feeling and Judging/Perceiving, and depending on the scores in each of these four sets, an individual matches one of 16 types. See side bars.
This is not to say that all members of a preference type are homogenous. While two ENTPs might seem very similar, a third could be very different. Our culture, our families and our experiences continue to shape us throughout our lives; a percentage of people may align themselves with different preference types as they mature.
Where we were born and to whom we were born are powerful shaping forces. For example, American culture supports E (extroverted) behaviors and skills, while I (introverted) behaviors tend to be less valued or understood. Our gender roles impact our preference types as well. F (feeling) males and T (thinking) females are in the minority and may have difficulty finding support for their contributions and behaviors in the workplace.
Changing our behavior can be a long and difficult process we have the weight of years pulling against any momentum we may gather. However, acknowledging and understanding our behavior (and others behavior) can occur much more quickly, allowing the team to cope with and compensate for areas of weakness, overcoming interpersonal conflicts while leveraging strengths.
How the MBTI Helps Organizations
First and foremost, the MBTI gives team members a common vocabulary to use when diagnosing interpersonal issues, and providing positive and constructive feedback. If handled correctly, an MBTI workshop can be a safe place to analyze personal strengths, quirks and foibles in an open and sometimes humorous fashion.
For example, a customer service department, found to its amazement, that out of the twelve members, only one was an ENFP, a type most comfortable interacting with people, especially in emotionally-charged situations. The solution, obviously, was not to fire eleven members and hire eleven more ENFPs, but to develop some strategies to help the team compensate for its antipathy to emotional stress.
In these and other ways the MBTI can be a useful tool in informed decision-making.
This is probably the primary obstacle the MBTI encounters in gaining universal acceptance as an organizational development tool. Because it is a complex and scientific measurement tool, only qualified MBTI instructors can administer the results, and engage in the post-assessment diagnostic process. There are certain set training costs and re-certification costs, so having an on-staff MBTI facilitator is probably not cost-effective for most groups. Outsourcing training and development to companies that focus on MBTI workshops is one solution. Choosing another measurement tool, like DiSC or TrueColors is another.