Personality Perspectives on Change Management

UYPK53YC65Very few of the courses I teach don’t involve understanding and appreciating personality differences within a team. I use mainly the Meyers Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI) because it sets up a clear method for talking about the key differences that affect any team. But perhaps the most important area where MBTI can be helpful is when a company or team is dealing with change management issues. When implementing change management principles we can use the MBTI to help better assess the need for change, more accurately plan for it, and carry out the process with less conflict or confusion.

A big part of effective change management is engagement. It is critical that all involved understand the “burning platform” or the problem that needs to be solved. In order to be the most effective, everyone involved in the transition also needs to have a vision for the result a clear picture of what the new landscape will look like when the change is complete. There also needs to be a detailed process plan driven by measurable goals and clear actions.  And during all of this everyone needs to understand how they personally fit in this plan and how the change will affect their role specifically. The easiest way to ensure that all of this occurs is if all critical team players are engaged in the change management process as a whole, whether directly or indirectly. If we look at transition theory, team members also need to know what’s in it for them, what they are maybe going to lose, and how any remaining ambiguity will be dealt with.

As you can see, communication is critical for both the change management plan and the transition plan. But communication is more than just words. Real communication is about connecting with each person and then dealing with the important issues as they see them and from their unique perspective. This is where the MBTI really helps. MBTI can help us to understand how to connect and how to shape the communication involved in the change management and transition plan using typology and personality as a base.

So what do the differences in typology look like from a change management perspective?

Extrovert/ Introvert (E/I) 

During initial planning and then throughout the process, engagement efforts should include optimal environments for different communication styles. Is it possible to provide online forums that allow introverts to process ideas at their own pace? Can a system be created for introverts to speak their mind comfortably without having to compete with extraverts? Is it possible to also or afterwards provide extroverts with the opportunity to “talk it out” with the whole group? Not only do these concessions ensure everyone is on board with change management plans, but they also allow for the maximum number of good ideas to come to light.

Sensing/ Intuitive (S/N)

This area explains the difference individuals have in processing and trusting information and data. At all stages of the change management process it is critical to explain needs and process milestones in both concrete (S) and abstract (N) ways. When explaining the problem to be solved we should provide facts and explain the situation using concrete pictures and details. But we should also communicate the big picture vision of the proposed solution and provide an inspirational overview for what the change will mean for the team. Since any big picture is made up combined details, this shouldn’t be too difficult and in actuality will ensure that the change management plan is on course to actually achieve the desired result.

Thinking/ Feeling (T/F)

Decisions can’t always be made in everyone’s favor. Usually leaders have to take in different perspectives and choose the plan that they see as best. Regardless of whether this decision is made using thinking or feeling functions, leaders should take care to craft explanations for the decision that acknowledge people issues and feeling values as well as logical reasoning. If decisions are made primarily from a feeling perspective, it is possible to communicate how they also follow the company’s guiding principles and ethical standards, so that thinking types can see a logical chain and feel comfortable. Change management and transition plans can go a lot smoother when all stakeholders can see the reasons behind them and see their values being represented.

Judging/ Perceiving (J/P)

This is perhaps the hardest personality difference to deal with during the change management process because all change management plans are fraught with a lot of ambiguity and waiting time but also constrained by time and a need for decisiveness. Helping J orientations deal with ambiguity in order to avoid making hasty decisions just to make decisions is important. While it is also important to help P orientations embrace and operate in deadline driven implementation processes. Keeping both functions satisfied during the transition requires both sensitivity and perseverance. Each milestone in the change management process will have the push and pull of J/P conflict, but the checks and balances that these different orientations provide should be viewed as a good thing for the process overall.

All in all when looking at change management processes and transition plans through an MBTI lens, we can appreciate how a team of unique and varied perspectives can be a really good thing for the company as a whole. This silver lining hopefully will make addressing pressing change needs with a little more optimism. If you are looking to address some major change management needs in your organization, schedule a consultation with us today.