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Temperament and Culture

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Temperament and Culture

Building Customer Relationships

Temperament and Culture

Implementing Complex Strategies

Temperament and Culture

Planning For Growth

Temperament and Culture

Delivering Lasting Change

Temperament and Culture

Predicting Job Sucess - Building High Performance Teams

Temperament and Culture

Team Performance Measurement

Temperament and Culture

Growing The Organisation

Temperament and Culture

Looking To Achieve New Heights

Temperament and Culture

Working Effectively Together

Temperament and Culture

Building High Performance Teams

Temperament and Culture

Temperament and Culture

Temperament and Culture

There are many ways of looking at our personalities and temperaments but from very early times four temperaments with similar themes have been suggested. As early as Hippocrates we find him proposing a model of 4 temperaments based on dominance of particular body fluids for each person. These were:

Sanguine (blood) – happy
Melancholic (black bile) – sad
Choleric (yellow bile) – irritable
Phlegmatic (phlegm) – calm

Over the centuries some of these terms have been used as ways of describing people albeit without much scientific evidence for the link to body fluids!
David Keirsey, a psychologist, has developed a very useful model of temperament patterns. Although his work is separate from the work of Carl Jung on Psychological Type his four temperament patterns, which he described as Idealist, Artisan, Guardian and Rational links very well to Jung's work. Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers also used Jung’s work when producing the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. William Bridges subsequently proposed the idea of Organisational Character based on MBTI types as a simpler and more pragmatic way of looking at the behaviour patterns in organisations using the scales of Extraversion - Introversion, Sensing - iNtuition, Thinking - Feeling and Judging - Perceiving.
In their excellent book - Please Understand Me - Keirsey and Bates divided Jung’s Psychological Types up into four groups based on outwardly observable behaviours and referred to the four groups as temperaments. Temperament theory has proved to be particularly useful in helping different groups to understand each other. These four groupings help us to look at individual differences but at the same time some would say that they can be considered to be Cultures; their behaviour will differ between the groups but be similar for people within the groups. (There are a number of ways of arriving at a group, or even a company temperament, it is not as simple as adding up the number of people with each preference. The combined use of questionnaires and focus groups seems to give the best results. The preference of the leader often has a marked effect, which may or may not be desirable depending on circumstances!)

Remembering that we are not trying to put people or departments into boxes here and we can all be practical, structured, creative, flexible etc. consider the effect of individuals within a team having the following preferences. (Then consider the effect of different department teams having, on balance, those same preferences on the communication, information gathering, decision making and overall approach to, say, a continuous improvement or Six Sigma initiative).

Practical and Structured Culture 
(MBTI: SJ  Keirsey: Guardians)

General Focus:  
Policy, rules, procedures, protocol, schedules, systems, follow through, logistics, practical requirements and results, getting things done in accordance with the plan – short, medium and long term.

Six Sigma Focus:
Right training, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity, at the right quality, to deliver the right results in alignment with existing plans and budgets

Creative and Empathetic Culture 
(MBTI: NF Keirsey: Idealists)

General Focus:  
Human values, impact of actions on people, meaning, morale, harmony and cooperation, vision, inspiration, growth and development of the person and the company.

Six Sigma Focus:
Right training for ALL the people, clarification of the deeper issues, mediation and conflict resolution, generating enthusiasm and championing the cause.

Tactical and Flexible Culture 
(MBTI: SP  Keirsey: Artisans)

General Focus:  
Tactics, needs of the moment, employing any available means to accomplish an end, using tools, immediate (sensory) information, action.

Six Sigma Focus:
Pointing out the immediate needs, detecting and exploiting options, crisis management, handling the unexpected, getting the whole thing under way, improvisation, getting on with it. 

Strategic and Analytical Culture 
(MBTI: NT  Keirsey: Idealists)

General Focus:  
Strategy, technology, abstract analysis, searching for patterns, developing hypotheses, logical systems, change.

Six Sigma Focus:
Relating the means to the overall vision and goal, the appropriate projects for the larger perspective, developing multiple plans for meeting all possible contingencies, generating strategic options.


When, in workshops, people are split into these groups and asked to describe their ideal organisation the results can be dramatic. People from the SJ and NT groups frequently view each other’s output with disbelief; it is as though they are from different planets. It can be more serious in the actual workplace though. In one client after such a session, a divisional team described how, three months before, they had presented their 5-year plan for budget approval to a panel headed by the managing director and Financial Director. It was an excellent big picture of how the company would grow into new markets with restructured Sales/Marketing teams and was strong on vision. The plan was critical to the company’s success but it was rejected for lack of financial data, failure to take account of present realities and for not having enough detail. It had to be re-worked and re-presented five times over a period of two months at considerable cost. During the delay two key personnel left who might otherwise have stayed in the light of the restructuring.

It turned out that the divisional team was largely composed of people with Idealist preferences with an Idealist leader. The company had a predominantly Guardian culture and the budget approval panel had a strong Guardian focus (in addition, both the Managing Director and the Finance Director had Guardian preferences). All four temperaments were needed of course for an optimal solution but the natural strengths of the two temperaments involved, instead of being valued and used synergistically served only to irritate and alienate each other.

The following year, after all the people had come to understand the cultural issues in Temperament terms the budget review was completed in a 30-minute presentation. It also addressed far more of the cultural factors resulting in higher buy-in at the next level of management.


category:Culture
added:2016-01-08

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