Whitepaper: Profiles for People, a method for modelling individual and organisational behaviour

Profiles for People (PfP) is a multifaceted tool, designed to facilitate behavioural improvement of individuals, teams, groups and entire organisations. PfP supports Organisation Behaviour (OB) and Organisation Development (OD) initiatives and strategies.

PfP is based on two tenets that influence people’s actions: first, behaviour adapts to prevailing conditions and, second, situational factors outweigh personal preferences. 

PfP measures and reports on 144 discrete performance factors, distributed over twelve assessment surveys. Each of the twelve surveys examines a different aspect of performance behaviour. Detailed advisory notes suggest alternative practices where change is indicated.

PfP’s assessments differ from personality-based instruments, such as MBTI and Cattell’s 16PF. For example, PfP:

  • Was created specifically for organisational and personal improvement
  • Draws on the general body of behavioural knowledge, and on cognate models and practices.
  • Is anchored to concrete behavioural criteria, not arguable theories.
  • Describes observable criterion-related behaviours.
  • Has no divisive or constraining labeling such as, “You are an introvert” (forever).
  • Directly enables personal, collective and organisational performance improvement. 

History

PfP was designed and constructed in 1979–81 by Michael F Dakin (1933-), a Vietnam veteran, former labour relations negotiator, corporate executive, change agent and management innovator. He established a management consultancy in 1979, specifically to research and develop new tools for organisation improvement.

Michael Dakin served three terms as a vice-president of the New Zealand Institute of Management, and he has written articles for New Zealand Management magazine and National Business Review. He co-founded the Industrial Relations Society of New Zealand in 1973 and he was an early leader in transitioning the NZ Institute of Personnel Management into a professional Human Resources institute.

He identified, collated and grouped key OB components, which led to drafting and extensively testing pilot PfP assessments. Over one hundred randomly selected managers took part in this phase.

PfP was gradually deployed as a consulting tool from 1980, when Dakin was fully satisfied that its assessments were valid and reliable.

Assessments

PfP assessments consist of twelve correlatable survey questionnaires, with each survey offering a choice between 78 paired statements. A questionnaire is typically completed within a mean average time range of five to twelve minutes.

When each survey is completed, a written and graphic profile report is immediately available to the respondent and administrator. The report explains the significance of scores falling outside the median for each factor in the survey.

Assessment perspectives

A respondent may complete a survey about herself or himself. PfP surveys are also available formatted for those cases where the subject of the assessment is:

  • another person
  • a group of which the respondent is a member
  • a group that the respondent is observing

In practice this allows both individuals and groups to develop objective models of individual and organisational behaviours that describe the respondents themselves, other individuals, their own group, and other groups. This process provides insights into self and others, and increases understanding and acceptance.

Non-judgemental

Assessment reports, by design, do not use second-person pronouns (“you”, “your” and “yours”). Instead, the report reader is presented with statements that cast the subject of the assessment (who may or may not have been the respondent) as one of the grammatical persons “she”, “he”, “we” and “they”. Reports can also be read by any reader and the third-person syntax makes sense in every case.

PfP’s reports deliberately avoid using ‘the accusatory you’, which can cause a respondent to become defensive. For example, a respondent may perceive this statement as both personal and negative:

You put pressure on others to act only when you consider that is necessary. You spread your own effort and resources over many activities.

Use of the second- and third-person pronouns instead, correctly highlights gender with the more personal:

He puts pressure on others to act only when he considers that is necessary. He spreads his effort and resources over many activities.

SUBJECT WAS A MALE (EITHER THE RESPONDENT OR SOMEONE ELSE)

She puts pressure on others to act only when she considers that is necessary. She spreads her effort and resources over many activities.

SUBJECT WAS A FEMALE, EITHER THE RESPONDENT OR SOMEONE ELSE

We put pressure on others to act only when we consider that is necessary. We spread our effort and resources over many activities.

SUBJECT WAS A GROUP TO WHICH THE RESPONDENT BELONGS

They put pressure on others to act only when they consider that is necessary. They spread their effort and resources over many activities.

SUBJECT WAS A GROUP TO WHICH THE RESPONDENT DOES NOT BELONG

Validity

Validity is the extent to which the proposed applications of a test correspond with its interpreted results when it is used as intended.

Concurrent validity: test results correspond to pre-existing records for the same test. 

Personality tests, administered several times, are expected to yield similar results each time, within a given range. The results of behavioural assessments, such as PfP, are expected to disclose change that is attributable to altered conditions that affect the respondent. 

PfP reveals the nature and degree of changed behaviour. For example, the Action Styles survey reports strategic and tactical behaviour variances that are traceable to situational influences.

Construct validity: the results of a test accurately reflect what is claimed for it. 

In personality-based assessments, theoretical or abstract concepts are represented by concrete proxies (constructs). PfP’s constructs are not based on hypothetical concepts, but on tangible performance criteria. Personality constructs are not relevant to PfP.

Content validity: the test encompass all behaviours that it purports to measure.

PfP assessment questionnaires are compiled from the criterion-referenced behaviours that define each of the twelve survey groups. Twelve criterion-based factors represent all of the behaviours that belong to each of the twelve surveys, and each factor is defined by a set of behavioural criteria statements.

Predictive validity: the extent to which described behaviours correlate with pre-existing descriptions, records and anecdotes; or, where behaviours have not previously come to notice, they are subsequently witnessed as described earlier.

Subjective validity is the degree to which an assessment, taken at face value, appears to measure what is claimed for it. While this may gain acceptance of the test, it lacks the objectivity of other validating methods. (See Barnum-Forer Effect.)

Comparison with other assessments

The twelve assessments that make up the PfP suite represent twelve groups of behaviours identified from source materials as being central to task completion, social processes and time usage in organisations. These major themes are:

Assessment themePfP Assessment name
Occupational interestsActivity Interests
Time usageTime Actions
Motivation and drivesActivation
Thinking and transactingTransaction
Operating styleAction Style
Operating processAction Process
Poise and balancePoise
Slots, roles & group dynamicsGroup Roles
Team workTeam Work
Building teamsTeam Building
CoachingTeam Coaching
Leading teamsTeam Leading

Below, we discuss a sampling of comparative assessment offerings, some of which have been used as source material/research in creation of PfP assessments (KOIS and Benne & Sheats’ Group Roles), one which entered the market after PfP (Belbin SP inventory) and one (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) which was not used as reference of source material for any PfP assessment but which nevertheless is worth mentioning.

KOIS

Falling into the Occupational Interests group, the Activity Interests assessment was the first of the twelve Profiles for People. It was modeled on the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey (KOIS), which has ten specific occupational interests. PfP’s creator, Michael Dakin, wanted to offer an occupational interests assessment that was not so specific that it would assert (as KOIS does) that a respondent is likely to prefer “computational”, “scientific” or “mechanical” occupations.

The KOIS approach indicates a respondent’s level of interest in a particular type or class of occupation. KOIS assessments appear to slot people into a narrowly defined occupational field.

Dakin developed the Activity Interests assessment to report on a person’s interest in a more generalised range of activities. The survey’s paired choices allow or require each respondent to visualise these activities in a context that makes sense to them.

For example, a respondent with a high score for the KOIS factor Scientific may not consider themselves scientifically inclined at all. Contrasting this is the comparable factor in the Activity Interests assessment: Problem solving. This more generalised factor definition is applicable across a range of occupations and a respondent with a high score for Problem solving may or may not also be interested in a specifically scientific occupation.

The validity of this approach is borne out in practice. A typical case study involves a respondent whose occupation – in-house recruiter – at first seems at odds with her extremely high preference for the Problem Solving factor. But, in subsequent consultation, and correlated with her strong preference for Social process activities, it became clear that this respondent was a “people person” whose occupation was well suited to her interests in solving “people problems”.

Benne and Sheats’ Group Roles

In the 1940s, Kenneth Benne & Paul Sheats identified three categories of role behaviours in groups: Task roles, Personal/Social roles, and Dysfunctional/Self-interest roles. They then populated the three headings with a total of twenty-six “functional roles” by labelling positive and negative types of behaviour noted in the dynamics of the observed  groups.

Apart from publishing their observations in 1948, Benne and Sheats did nothing more – they offered no means of evaluating a group other than by observation in the workplace, or through facilitated workshops.

Belbin’s Team Roles: Self Perception Inventory (BTRI or BSPI)

The BSPI process is simple, quick and provides insights into the team roles people prefer. It is also subjective, as it requires each person to choose, mentally, which of the available roles they think they match before allocating their points. For an impartial critique of Belbin’s methodology, see “A psychometric assessment of Belbin’s Team Roles SPI”.

Points common to BSPI and PfP Team Roles

The BSPI and PfP both focus on observable behaviours, not personality, and neither tool is considered or intended to be a psychometric test. While personality traits are said to be more or less constant, behaviour is prone to change as people adapt to circumstances and situations.

Behaviour is able to be described in concrete terms and used to predict future actions and conduct. Because of this, behavioural assessments provide more useful, verifiable and predictive information. Behaviour-based questionnaires may be used as a substitute for live assessment centres, whereas personality tests do not meet that need.

PfP and BSPI Differences

Time taken to complete

The BSPI questionnaire takes 15 to 20 minutes. 

The normal time to answer any of PfP’s twelve surveys is between 5 and 15 minutes. A battery off eight surveys, the recommended minimum, would likely take 40 to 120 minutes, with a mean average of 80 minutes.

Quick-minded respondents easily complete PfP in under 5 minutes – speed of response correlates with decisiveness of mind and promptness of action. The shortest time recorded for one PfP survey, 1.45 seconds, was by a high performing, fast moving CEO.

Format

BSPI sorts role preferences by having each respondent distribute points among the role descriptions. The person ranks the nine roles in order of overall appeal, and then rates the top few in order of preference. This process discards the less favoured roles completely.

The PfP format pairs action statements representing each of twelve roles, and the respondent is asked to choose one of each pair. The process allocates points to preferred roles at the expense of the unfavoured.This process ranks all roles in order of attraction. Dakin asserts that this method is more definitive and reliable than subjectively selecting a few factors and ignoring the rest.

Related team surveys

PfP’s survey suite includes four related team development questionnaires – team roles, team building, team coaching and team leading. Because of PfP’s design and constructs, hidden strengths and limitations are easily detected. Users are able to cross-reference surveys to find ways and means to improve team and group performance.

PfP and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

MBTI and PfP cannot be compared directly because of their different origins and design. 

Time taken to complete

Compared to PfP, at 5-15 minutes, completing a Myers-Briggs assessment usually takes 30 minutes (Cattell’s 16PF and similar personality theory instruments start at 30 minutes and climb).

Isobel Briggs Myers (1897-1980) created the MBTI test in the 1940s. She had worked with the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale (HWTS), which purported to match people with suitable occupations, but she found that it was inaccurate and unreliable and set about devising a fully dependable instrument.

Katharine Cook Briggs (1875–1968), Isabel’s mother, contributed her extensive knowledge of personality types, which she had gained from studying Carl Jung’s Psychological Types. She had corresponded with Jung for many years and met him when he visited the United States.

PfP, by comparison, was conceived as a tool for organisational and individual improvement. It was carefully researched and constructed from the works of many scholars, writers and widely experienced practitioners who, collectively, had built up the body of OB knowledge for more than a century.

PfP is based on the pragma of observable actions. Its behavioural assessments describe each respondent’s currently preferred behaviours, in greater and more concrete detail than any test anchored in theories of personality. 

©2020 Promana Concepts

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