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DISC Improves the Schneider Model to
Understand Lean vs. Agile Change Management

by Patrick Pettibon, VP of Research and Development, Personality Insights, Inc.

A client working in the area of change management asked about how the DISC Model of Human Behavior relates to the Schneider Model. He referred to a couple of related online articles which discuss the agile and lean approaches to change management which you will find at these links:

Agile  - http://blog.softed.com/2012/05/08/thinking-agile-for-change-management-think-again/

Lean - http://www.isixsigma.com/methodology/lean-methodology/building-cultural-acceptance-key-lean-transformation/

As developers of DISC profiles, we found the articles to be very interesting and the Schneider model and DISC model intriguing to compare. Here are a few observations for your consideration:

Major Observations:

  • Lean approaches to change management are very task-oriented and process-oriented (as you would expect when applied to manufacturing plants in Japan). Agile approaches are people-oriented and interactive in nature. Hence, the receptivity of the change method is primarily due to how well it matches each person’s priorities (task vs. people).
  • Secondarily, the receptivity of change is also influenced by the tone and pace of the change itself… in other words, how it is presented and implemented.

Specific Comparisons of the Schneider Model and the DISC Personality Model

  • The Schneider model has a close correlation with the DISC model in segmenting the aspect of being people-oriented vs. company oriented.
  • The Schneider model’s other contrasting traits are reality-oriented vs. possibility oriented, and that does not map exactly to the DISC model which uses the contrasting traits of being Outgoing versus Reserved.
  • Here is the essential limitation of the possibility/reality segmentation as I see… The contrasting traits of being possibility-oriented versus reality oriented are not distinct enough and may have too much overlap into 3 DISC quadrants (not just 2). There is also a big difference between whether a person is focused on reality with regards to facts or reality with regards to people and relationships. There are realities in both areas of life, but they are VERY different. For example, reality might be that I am right about an issue and perfectly logical, but an equally valid reality also exists… The other reality may be that the person that I am trying to convince does not care about facts or logic and does not like my change methods. Imagine – I could be completely aware of one reality and completely unaware of another, perhaps more significant reality.
  • An example of the challenge of reality/possibility segmentation is that both Dominant and Cautious personality styles tend to be “reality based” in their views in the sense that they are both pragmatic. However Dominant styles are also visionaries who are very possibility-oriented and are able to be creative in navigating past obstacles to their goals.
  • Cautious personality styles are not initially possibility-oriented, as they tend to start with reality. However, it would be a mistake to say that they are not possibility-oriented, since they may slowly and methodically formulate what is “possible” and be the key to determining and implementing the change necessary.
  • The Schneider model is fine, but it differs from the DISC model. And, with my bias towards DISC, I find that using Outgoing and Reserved to be more insightful when determining how a person will react to change in general, and Agile or Lean approaches specifically. This is especially easy to see if you consider a person’s PACE preference in decision-making speed and his or her preference for environmental pace.

The diagram below illustrates these points. Please note that they Schneider model segmentation terms are crossed out in red. Crossing them out is not to signify that the Schneider model is wrong, but mainly to show how the Schneider traits best correlate with the DISC model and how it can be beneficial to replace them with DISC segmentation terms.


agile and lean change management, Schnieder and DISC

DISC is a Valuable Tool for Change Management

Clearly change management is a complex topic. Implementing change in any organization is even more challenging. DISC is a helpful tool to include in any change management planning process.

If you prefer Lean approaches that are very process oriented, then DISC can help you get better results with everyone involved by boosting organizational cooperation and understanding. You will achieve your goals better when everyone is understood and valued and therefore buys into the process.

If you prefer Agile approaches that are very engaging and interactive, then DISC can serve as a centerpiece to stimulate discussion while helping everyone appreciate and accept the need for change and measurable improvement. You will achieve your goals better when everyone feels part of the process and understands the need to achieve measurable results.


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