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Using Personality Inventories to Form Teams for Class

Projects A Case Study

Rebecca H. Rutherfoord
Southern Polytechnic State University
1100 S. Marietta Parkway
Marietta, GA 30060
770+528-5511 (fax)


The criteria used was the Keirsey Temperament Sorter

instrument which established each students personality type.
[6] The author gave the paper version of the Keirsey
Temperament Sorter to the class, chose the groups based on
personality type (control group and experimental groups) and
then studied the results of the different groups through the term.

Many Information Technology classes require some sort of team

project. As part of research into using personality inventories to
help form project teams, the author conducted a case study in a
software engineering/systems analysis class using a control
group methodology for group selection after giving a personality
inventory to students. This paper will discuss concepts of
personality inventories, how they can be used for group
selection, the case study itself, and further discussion of how this
can be applied in other classes. The primary personality
inventory used is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is available on the web at
www.keirsey.org where students can take the inventory and get
their personality type results. [6] The hardcopy is also available
through the book Please Understand Me by Keirsey & Bates.
[7] The two versions are slightly different. The current on-line
version just gives the student part of their personality type for
free. The student must pay for a more comprehensive
description of their personality type. The four basic areas of the
Keirsey Temperament Sorter follow the Myers-Briggs scale.
The Myers-Briggs which was created in the 1940's by the
mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel BriggsMyers using the general ideas of Carl Jung. The test has 126
questions intended to show how different individuals prefer to
use their observation and judgment to make decisions. [10]

Categories and Subject Descriptors

D.2.9 Management; K.6.3; K.6.4

General Terms

Personality Inventories, Team formation, Team Projects

Many information technology courses require team projects.
One of the difficulties in selecting students for these teams is in
the criteria for selection. Faculty have the choice of letting
students select their own groups or assigning students to groups.
Most faculty have studied enough group dynamics to know that
heterogeneous groups are usually the best. If students self-select
their group, it is unlikely that heterogeneous groups will be
formed. If faculty assign students to groups, several possible
criteria may be used for group assignments. Criteria such as
gender, prior classroom experiences, work experience and race
are just some of the criteria that most faculty use in selecting
their groups. [5] As part of an experiment, the author decided to
use a personality inventory to help form project teams.

The four basic areas following the Myers-Briggs scale are:

Extrovert versus Introvert (E/I); Sensing versus Intuitive (S/N);
Thinking versus Feeling (T/F); and Judgment versus Perception
(J/P). [5] Extraverts relate more easily to the outer world of
people. Introverts relate more easily to the inner world of ideas.
Sensing individuals would rather work with known facts and
Intuitives would rather look for possibilities and relationships.
Thinkers base judgments more on impersonal analysis and
Feelers base judgments more on personal values. Judgers prefer
a planned, decided, orderly way of life and Perceptives prefer a
flexible, spontaneous way of life. The Introvert/Extravert relate
to your orientations, your direction of focus and source of
energy; Sensor/Intuitive relate to perceptive functions;
Judger/Perceptive relate to attitudes toward the external world
outer life. 50-70% of the population are Extravert and 30-50%
are Introvert. 60-70% of the population are Sensor and 30-40$
are Intuition. 30-40% of females are Thinking, where 55-70%
males are Thinking and 60-70% of females are Feeling where
30-45% males are Feeling. This area is the only one where
population differences are seen in gender makeup. 45-65% of
the population are Judging and 35-55% are Perceptive.

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These four areas then make up 16 basic personality types which

all have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Table 1 shows these
16 different combinations.
Table 1 16 Personality Types [6]

Bruce Tuckman, in his 1965 article on "Developmental

Sequence in Small Groups" identified four basic stages. They
are: Forming - teams succeed when they have clear, worthwhile,
and compelling goals; Storming - teams will go through a
thrashing about stage where they develop relationships;
Norming - here the team sets objectives and goals, establishes
operating rules, and selects needed training; Performing - the
team works together to achieve the job for which they were
formed. These four stages need to be recognized by all team
members through an education process.
Teamwork and
cooperation are essential elements in any team. Compared with
individuals, including management, teams come up with more
ideas and are better able to pare them down to the best ideas.
Moreover, teamwork helps people establish a shared sense of
responsibility, reducing the amount of stress felt by any one
person. This building of relationships helps improve their work
in other areas as well. [5,11]

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter has established four basic

Temperaments. These are Guardians which include Supervisor
(ESTJ), Inspector (ISTJ), Provider (ESFJ), Protector (ISFJ);
Artisans which include Promoter (ESTP), Operator (ISTP),
Performer (ESFP), Composer (ISFP); Idealists which include
Teacher (ENFJ), Counselor (INFJ), Champion (ENFP), Healer
(INFP); and Rationals which include Fieldmarshal (ENTJ),
Mastermind (INTJ), Inventor (ENTP), Architect (INTP). (4)
The top three personality types in the IT field are INTJ, INFJ,
and ISFJ. [ 4]

Some other areas that deal with teams are creating cooperative
teams. [4,9,14] Such teams are looking at ways in which they
might create cooperative and collaborative environments.
Project management principles also address team building. [13]
Projects must include total quality management techniques in
order to create software on time, within budget. Total quality
principles is at the heart of good software development projects.
[16,20,21] Part of the newest concepts dealing with team is the
workgroup concept. [9] This type of team incorporates the
concepts addressed earlier in this paper. Since this paper is
primarily dealing with personality inventories, these various
topics will not be covered.

Research has shown that heterogeneous groups are normally the

more creative, cooperative, and innovative. By creating groups
that have different personality types, strengths and weaknesses
can be balanced within the group. [7] Faculty who desire to use
the Keirsey Temperament Sorter are encouraged to read the
book Please Understand Me, or Please Understand Me 2. In
strengths/weaknesses, and learning styles of the different
personality types. Since student teams need to understand how
IT personnel interact with so many different groups, it is
important to create teams who have various skills and abilities,
as well as personality. [20] Table 2 shows the various areas of
interactions that software team members must make. The initial
handling of the creation of these teams can create a team which
is much more cohesive and cooperative. Teams go through
several stages as they organize and progress. The basic roles of
the teams include the team leader and team members. These
people are doers, who make things happen so that the team
achieves its objectives. The team leader who is the person who
brings the team together, presides at meetings, mediates
disagreements, and interfaces with other parts of the
organization. The team coach is the person who advises or
coaches the team when they have problems working together.
This person could be a person brought in when the group gets
into difficulties. This person may also be called a facilitator.

Other types of vocational and personality assessment include

aptitude tests, employer self-selection tests, Strong Interest
Inventory (SII), and Self-Directed Search (SDS). The author
suggests readers go to these various sites for more information.


As part of the study of personality inventories on team
formation, the author undertook an experiment with a graduate
software engineering/systems analysis class during the fall term
2005. The class contained 22 students. The author was the
professor for this particular course. The class was divided up
into various control and experimental groups. The first night of
class, the instructor gave the Keirsey-Bates Personality
Inventory to each class member, and inventoried prior work
experience, ethnic background and sex of each student. The
author attempted to form groups where the only dependent
variable was personality type (work experience, ethnic
background and sex were spread out through each group). The
second class the author broke the class up into 3 control and 3
experimental groups using the data from the personality
inventory and backgrounds. The control groups were made up
of only one personality type and the experimental groups were
made up of different personality types. The personality types for
each group are as follows:

Table 2 Contacts with Team Members (not complete)

Project Leader
Database Designer
Database Developer
Hardware Purchaser
Team Leader
Team Member
Team Coach

Control Groups:
Group 1: ESTJ
Group 2: ESTJ
Group 3: ISTJ


results that the experimental groups came up with more possible

requirements and more possible reports.

Experimental Groups:

After the exercise, a survey was taken to ascertain the level of

possible frustration with the exercise. The control groups all
showed a higher level of frustration on the sliding scale. Group
1 and 2 were all towards the very frustrated end of the scale.
Group 3 was closer to the ok level. Groups 4, 5, and 6 were all
ok to good exercise range. The scale is shown below.

The author attempted to keep other factors evenly distributed

across the various groups in order to keep other factors from
possibly biasing the groups. These various factors were
male/female, country of origin, and work experience.
The male/female ratios were:
Group 1 2
Group 2 2
Group 3 3
Group 4 2
Group 5 2
Group 6 2
The country of origin makeup were:
Group 1 1
Group 2 1
Group 3
Group 4 2
Group 5 1
Group 6 1

Question: How did you feel about the exercise as far as your
level of frustration:
good exercise
very frustrated
A second exercise was done at week 9, again within a controlled
time frame, where the groups had to produce a project
management PERT (performance evaluation and review
technique) chart. This chart had to display all of the phases of
their project (those completed and those to come). The author
wanted to see if there would be a difference in the PERT charts
produced as far as amount of variation and detail. The control
groups came up with their tasks, but did not embellish. The
experimental groups all had much more content listed on their
PERT charts. They incorporated many more topic areas, and
drew more tightly identified time lines. It would appear that
heterogeneous groups may have a more complete outlook than
do homogenous groups according to this exercise. However,
again it should be noted that we are dealing with a very small


Prior work experience survey indicated:

All groups had at least 1 person with No prior computer
All groups had at least 1 person with over 5 years of computer
The groups were given instruction on the basic personality types
through class lecture. [6] They were also given various group
dynamic techniques and methods throughout the semester. This
was done to ensure a common playing field throughout the
groups. The groups were all given the same software
engineering development project - to create a system for the
NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) for game
management. Throughout the semester several short surveys
were taken to ascertain the groups' progress and adaptability.

A third survey around week 12was taken concerning the

frustration of the individuals in the group with the other
members concerning progress. Question: What is your greatest
frustration currently with your group? Examining the answers
from each group, the author noted that the control groups were
experiencing more problems of a personal level - rather than
technical. Even though the groups were the same personality
type, they seemed to want to carry out the project themselves, or
had problems with others in their group who did not pull their
share. The experimental groups seemed to have more technical
types of problems although personal problems were noted as
Group 5 experienced some problems with an absent
student. One group stated they didn't have enough time to work
together. During each class period (twice per week) the author
gave the groups a minimum of 20 minutes at the end of each
class. It is difficult to ascertain what the problem was
concerning this issue. The author had assumed that the students
would have more difficulties in the heterogeneous groups since
the personality types were mixed, but this did not appear to be
the case with these groups.

3.1 Experiment Descriptions

The first survey was taken about the 7th week after an additional
major requirement was presented and added to the requirements
of each group. The process for this assignment was as follows.
First, the groups met in a 10 minute brainstorming session to
come up with any new requirements which could be added to
their system. The author wanted to see if any statistical
variation occurred within the brainstorming output. The results
were as follows: Control Groups 1 & 2 both had relatively small
brainstorming output. Group 1 came up with 1 additional
requirement, and 3 possible reports. Group 2 came up with 2
requirements and 2 reports. Control Group 3 came up with 3
additional requirements and 2 reports. Experimental Group 4
came up with 4 additional requirements and 3 reports.
Experimental Group 5 came up with 5 additional requirements
and 4 reports. Experimental Group 6 came up with 4 additional
requirements and 4 reports. It appears from the brainstorming

During the last week of the semester a final survey was

conducted to ask the groups questions concerning their
comparison of group work in this class with any previous group
work. Question: How did your working in groups this quarter
differ from previous group work? Looking at the general
comments concerning the good points of each group, all


groups seemed to have similar comments. However, concerning

the bad points of each group, the control groups had more
negative comments than did the experimental groups. Of
course, this cannot be attributed to just personality type, but it
was an interesting comparison.

encompass many of the 16 personality types. [14] Faculty need

to be aware that many different types of personalities are drawn
into computer science or related fields. Computer Science is not
longer just for mathematicians and electrical engineers. As can
be seen from the table a variety of personalities may be
interested in computing. It would appear from this list that SF
personalities do not seem to be interest in the computer science
or related areas, yet all the rest of the 16 types have possible
computing jobs. [18]

General observation of watching the groups working together

also displayed some interesting points. Groups 1 and 2 spent a
lot of time arguing and rehashing who would be doing parts of
the project (even though this was decided very early on). There
seemed to be more general agreement (possible group think)
and less discussion about other possibilities. There was also
quite an interest in grades and being very clear on what is
expected of them. Group 3 was very quiet (all of the group
members are introverted) and it was difficult to see much
interaction going on at all. This group seems very focused and
responsible. Groups 4, 5, and 6 were very active. They carried
on boisterous discussions and seemed to throw ideas out with a
lot of variety. By understanding the basic learning styles, and
seeing how the groups fit into these established patterns, the
author made some assumptions concerning group formation,
behavior and performance.

Table 3 Jobs by Personality Type

Comp Operator
Comp Operator
Comp Programmer
Inf-graphics Design
Comp Programmer
Inf-graphics Design
Comp Repair
Inf-graphics Design
Comp Programmer
Software Developer
Software Designer
Comp Programmer
Systems analyst
Software Developer
Comp programmer
Database Manager
Inf-graphics design
Systems designer
Technical trainer
Computer analyst
Computer analyst
Program designer
Technical trainer
Project manager
Database manager
Program designer
Network int spec

3.2 Assumptions
The author assumed that the groups with the ESTJ personality
types (groups 1 and 2) would be very opinionated and want to
follow a traditional path. This seemed to be verified from the
general survey questions, and observation of group behaviors.
Group 3 (ISTJ) was very quiet, and private. Again, they wanted
verification of what exact requirements were. These control
groups followed the basic behavior and learning patterns as
established by the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. This would
indicate that personality can play an important part in the
behavior of teams.
The experimental groups showed a much more open and varied
approach to problem solving. Since there were varieties of
learning styles represented in each group (where the control
groups all had the same learning style), these groups seemed to
have the ability to listen and discuss several types of solutions
and come up with the "best" one for the group. There was much
more interaction going on between the members of these groups
than in the control groups (as viewed during class). These
groups also tended to stay during the allotted group meeting
times, and also after class.

By knowing personality types of all team members, the team

leader can understand where the problem solving characteristics
are applicable. Also, each group member who understands the
personality types of other members can open up avenues of
cooperation and collaboration to a greater extent. The strongest
teams are those that have heterogeneous personalities. This also
helps avoid group think which is a danger when teams are
made up primarily of the same personality type.

By using personality inventories, or other similar methods to

form groups, the author believes that software development
teams can be strengthened. By calling upon the strengths of
heterogeneous groups in problem solving, more innovative and
productive ideas can be examined. By having a variety of
strengths and weaknesses in the group, the group can better
manage all problems which it has to handle. When everyone has
the same basic strengths and weaknesses, the weaknesses are
multiplied since there is no counter balance to cover for them.

The author believes strongly that using a personality inventory

can help establish not only heterogeneous groups, but also create
groups who understand and appreciate the strengths and
weaknesses of all team members.

Another assumption is that many faculty assume that most

students entering their programs are traditionally ISTJ or ESTJ.
[9] However, Information Technology is attracting a variety of
students into programs. According to the US Department of the
Interior, the following table (table 3) lists possible jobs by
personality type. As can be seen, computer related jobs


This type of study is simply designed to show how personality
inventories (of any type) can be used to help create
heterogeneous teams for project work. Many IT courses use
group projects especially at the junior/senior level. Since this


[10] Moad, J., "Psych Tests for MIS Staff: Is This Nuts?",
Datamation, July 1994

is not subject matter based, the concept can be applied to any

group project situation. It allows the faculty member to know
their own students better, and allows team members to know and
understand their own team members strengths and weaknesses.

[11] National Computer Systems,1999 Million Conference:

Keynote Presentations,1999, Online. Internet. Available
WWW http://www.ncs.com/assessments/top/ keynote.htm

The only danger can be making too many assumptions about

knowing other personality types and how they should react.
Using this method along with team dynamic information can
help teams perform at their best and allow for personal and
group growth. The author highly recommends this for choosing
project teams.

[12] New Life, Parallel Identifying Terms Used in Various

Temperament/Personality Inventories, 2000, Online.
Internet. Available WWW http://www.new-life.net/
[13] Page-Jones, M., Practical Project Management: Restoring
Quality to Data Processing Projects & Systems, Dorset
House Publishing Co., 1985

[1] AdvisorTeam, Keirseys Four Temperaments,
http://www.advisorteam.org/the_four-temperaments/, 2006

[14] Palmer, J., and Fields, N., "Computer Supported

Cooperative Work", IEEEComputer, May 1994

[2] ActiveWin, Review IT Trends, www.activewin.com,


[15] Paulish, D., and Carleton, A., "Case Studies of SoftwareProcess-Improvement Measurement", IEEE Computer,
Sept. 1994

[3] Clarion,Self-assessment Resources,2000, Online.

Internet. Available WWW http://www.clarion.edu/library/

[16] Seadle, M., "TQM for Applications", Enterprise Systems

Journal, Oct. 1994

[4] Grudin, J., "Computer-Supported Cooperative Work:
History and Focus", IEEE Computer, May 1994

[17] Team Technology, Keirsey Temperament and Myers

Briggs, http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/keirseyanalysis.html, 2006

[5] Henriksen, L., "Structuring and Planning of Interoperable

Workgroups", IEEE Software, Aug. 1994

[18] US Department of Interior, Connecting Personality Type

with Careers and Jobs,2000. Online. Internet.

[6] Keirsey,D.,KeirseyTempermentWebsite,
http://keirsey.com, 2006

Available WWW http://www.doi.gov/octc/typescar.html

[7] Keirsey, D., and Bates, M., Please Understand Me, Del
Mar, California: Prometheus Book Company, 1984

[19] Vocational and Personality Assessment,


[8] Keirsey Tests,

m/guidebk/teachtip/kerisey.htm, 2006

[20] Wesner, J., et. al., Winning with Quality, Addison-Wesley,

Reading, MA, 1995

Mistrik, I., and Schuler, W., "A Framework for

Cooperative Software Development", IEEE Software, Aug.

[21] Wu,B.,build a Self-Managing total Quality Organization to

Minimize Risk in Re-Engineering,IEEE, Aug. 1994