In my last blog post I wrote about the virtues of not creating new, but rather leveraging knowledge that already exists. This especially applies when using assessment or diagnostic tools. Whether supporting teams improve their performance or working with individuals to address leadership impact, it is important to be able to make accurate assessments and, in turn develop appropriate and impactful interventions.

I am also often asked which assessments and tools I use. I am very transparent about the few tools I use referencing these on my website.  Whilst I am happy to answer such questions, what is more important is why I have chosen specific instruments over others. And that answer is easy – externally validated and / or peer reviewed.

Choosing the right tool for the right use.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most widely used personality assessments. It was never design for recruitment, the owners of the instrument state that “It is not ethical to use the MBTI instrument for hiring or for deciding job assignments.” (MBTI, 2021) and yet people still use it for job selection. Further, Although the MBTI appears to measure something, many psychologists are not convinced that any significant conclusions can be based on the test.

Further, Dr Declan Woods, creator of Teamsalient,  found that practitioners were relying on methods designed to address individual development for team development and “alarmed to hear practitioners were using personality measures and averaging individual team members scores to create a team profile. Like apples and pears, they are different things. Mixing them up creates a skewed profile that is fairly meaningless for a team.” (2021).


Let me start by admitting that I have a bias for well researched tools. For me the stakes are too high to use unreliable models, framework and tools.

There are many team assessment tools available to practitioners.  Neathby, Aube and Rioux published a good overview of the better frameworks in their article “Executive teams: An analysis of popular models with a perspective from the field”. Two models presented are Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002) and the Team Diagnostic Survey (Hackman & Wageman, 2005; Wageman, Hackman & Lehman 2005).

It is not my intention to explain each of the models, but rather their genesis.

Lencioni’s model is based on observed management behaviour reshaped and retold as a story. The various elements make intuitive sense which has resulted in the popularity of the model. Specifically, the simplicity of the Five Dysfunctions model and key insights make it popular among human resource professionals and team consultants. Nonetheless, Lencioni’s book is explicitly a work of fiction; it is not based on research and its practical recommendations lack empirical support (Curphy & Hogan, 2012).

On the other hand, the Team Diagnostic Survey (TDS) is “based on analysis of data from 2,474 members of 321 teams in a diversity of organisations” (Wageman, Hackman & Lehman, 2005, p.373). The TDS model, rationale for the design and statistical results are shared for peer review and assessment.  For me this makes that TDS, and other peer reviewed tools, more robust. In doing so, the framework can appear complex with inputs and outputs that can be hard to remember.

Let me be clear, I have used both tools and they each have their place. They key is to deeply understand the challenge of issue you wish to address and select the tool that will best meet that need.

It is also important to let a degree of pragmatism prevail. At the end of the day, all models and tools are flawed. None can predict with certainty an outcome or provide a conclusive and unambiguous assessment. This is where the art of coaching or facilitation comes in.

And finally, a fool with a tool is still a fool. Resist the temptation to jump to the newest shiny thing. Land on a suit of well-designed instruments from reputable sources and then go to work. It is important to deeply understand each instrument, its benefits and limitations.  

References and Further Reading

Curphy, G., Hogan, R. (2012). The Rocket Model: Practical Advice for Building High Performing Teams. USA: Hogan Press

Hackman, J. R., & Wageman, R. (2005). A theory of team coaching. Academy of Management Review, 30(2), 269–287. Retrieved from

Jupp, V. (2006). VALIDITY. In V. Jupp (Ed.), The SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods. (p. 312). London, England: SAGE Publications, Ltd

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team : a leadership fable (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

MBTI (2021), Online:  https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/hiring-an-mbti-consultant/guidelines-for-hiring-an-outside-consultant.htm. Accessed 13 September, 2021.

Neatby, J., Aubé, C., & Rioux, P. (2013). Executive teams: An analysis of popular models with a perspective from the field. Organization Development Journal, 31(Fall), 73–90.

Wageman, R., Hackman, J. R., & Lehman, E. (2005). Team diagnostic survey : Development of an instrument. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886305281984

Woods, D. (2021) Online https://www.teamsalient.com/the-science-behind-effective-teams/ Accessed 13 September, 2021.

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