Using the Communications Styles Instrument for Teambuilding


By Robert Youker

Maryland, USA

Effective communication is the exchange of meaning with another person or group of persons. Communication is obviously tremendously important in project management where people who may not know each other are teamed together temporarily to accomplish a specific objective. One factor that significantly affects communication is the management style—or personality profile or value orientation—of the persons at each end of the communication.

This paper presents a simple model of four different value orientations or communication styles and a short questionnaire instrument for measuring those four orientations. It then discusses the effect of the interaction of these four communication styles on exchanging meanings for effective project management. It describes how these learnings can be applied in teambuilding and presents exercises to use in teambuilding and training workshops.

There are more than 300 personality profile instruments on the market for describing and measuring various personal traits or styles. Two of the more frequently used are Myers-Briggs and Strength Deployment Inventory (Myers 1986; Porter 1980) (Exhibit 1 in Appendix). All of these can be useful in various degrees, but I have found the Communication Styles Instrument most useful for several reasons (Casse 1981, chapter 9).

The four styles it uses—Action, Process, People, and Idea—are directly related to project management. Unlike Myers-Briggs, the words describing the categories are easily understood and not negative in any way. Also, the user can photocopy the forms, rather than having to purchase expensive forms. The Economic Development Institute of the World Bank has given permission for the use of this document for teaching and training purposes provided the copyright notice is included and the Institute is notified.

The visuals in the solution to Activity 3.1.1 provide more detail on each of the four styles: Action, Process, People, and Idea, and describe the characteristics of each style with regard to content and process. Action-oriented people like to get things done, and tend to solve problems quickly. Process-oriented people like to organize, such as preparing a critical path method (CPM) project schedule chart. People-oriented persons are concerned with human relationships, such as communication among the team members. Idea-oriented people like concepts and new approaches; they may solve a problem in a new way and may create new problems!


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Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This paper was originally presented at the PMI-96 Symposium in Boston; it is republished here with the author’s permission.

About the Author

flag-usarobert-youker-bioRobert Youker

World Bank (retired)

Maryland, USA

Robert “Bob” Youker is a prolific writer, speaker, and spokesperson for PM practice around the World. A co-founder of both Project Management Institute, and asapm, the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management, he is a long-time contributor to the practice of project management. In addition to the above founding feats, he was a Director of IPMA from 1977 through 1988, taking the seat formerly occupied by Russ Archibald.  In addition to his years of service to PMI, he participated and presented in many IPMA Conferences from 1974 through the early 2000s. He presented keynotes at several of them, and organized panels and workshops in others. He introduced IPMA into a dozen government agencies and businesses all over the World, and in many cases, connected those agencies and businesses with IPMA leaders.

Bob introduced and popularized innovations to the practice of project management, from his work in Xerox in the 1960s, to his leadership in the first manual project management planning and tracking tools (Planalog President, 1968-1974). He published an early book on the Critical Path Method, Analysis Bar Charting, by John Mulvaney. As of today, that book has sold more than 30,000 copies.  In his work for World Bank, Bob developed training that has benefited thousands of project and program managers, and government officials, mostly in developing countries. He performed that training in over a dozen developing countries around the World over a 30 year period, and continues today, to help developing and developed nations. He was the author and developer of the World Bank’s CD-ROM based project management training kit titled “Managing the Implementation of Development Projects”, still available and widely used today.  In the 1970s, to increase Executive visibility for the fledgling practice of project management, Bob engineered the publishing of a Harvard Business Review collection of articles on the subject. He suggested the collection, but was told there were not enough articles for a special collection. He bought copies of the articles, submitted them, and the Harvard Business Review published one of their most popular reprint series, with a number of classic articles on project management.

Bob Youker has contributed massively to the profession or practice of project management, to asapm, IPMA, PMI and society.  He continues to teach several two-week project management courses each year for participants from developing countries at the International Law Institute in Georgetown, Washington, DC, USA.  Bob can be contacted at [email protected].