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Sunday, October 11, 2009

DISC model of team roles

Jean Tabaka has an excellent explanation of the DISC model of team roles in her book Colloboration Explained. DISC is an acronym that stands for four different personality types

  • D: you can describe this person as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering.

  • I: you can describe this person as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic.

  • S: you can describe this person as calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced.

  • C: you can describe this person as careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful.

Teams tend to be imbalanced if a majority of the people on the team have the same personality role. This imbalance happens frequently because people tend to gravitate towards like minded and like acting individuals.

Teams with too many "D" types tend to be very results-oriented, but they don't produce very high-quality work or very detail-oriented solutions. Decisions are made based on speed and who has the strongest or most dominating personality in the group. Team meetings are marked with frequent power struggles, grandstanding, and little collaborative output. These teams are constantly running as fast as they can, straight into brick walls and then on to the next great idea or initiative.

Teams with too many "I" types tend to enjoy debating and brainstorming but have trouble really making any productive progress. These teams are weighed down with endless design meetings and can't focus enough to fully understand the details of the software they are building.

Teams with too many "S" types tend to hyper aware of how everyone is feeling, but they take too long to come to decisions. In addition previous decisions can be retracted and revisited the next time the group meets because someone's opinion was not included.

Teams with too many "C" types tend to have trouble sticking to their decisions because their decisions never feel quite right. They spend too much time reworking solutions trying to handle all possible scenarios even if the scenarios were not requested by a customer. All of this rework results in missed deadlines.

The highest performing teams are the ones that are composed of all these personality types. These teams just need the right guidance to move from divergence to convergence.

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