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How other models relate to SYMLOG®

In 1996 the author and inventor of the SYMLOG system, Robert F. Bales, was interviewed and answered a number of questions. His answer to the question, “How is SYMLOG different from other instruments?” will inform your journey through this section on how other models and instruments relate to the SYMLOG system.

In part, Bales’ answer is that SYMLOG measures a great many more important things about an organization, about the individual persons, and teams, than any other instrument. Most other instruments are training instruments. They tell individuals in an educational kind of situation something about themselves, the way they think, or ways to think about the job they do. But other instruments don’t purport to give a picture of a team, or an organization, and its various parts, and how they conflict with each other, and what can be done about it. SYMLOG is a method of diagnosis, rather than a kind of educational addition to the individual.

Many aspects that other instruments describe, however, are contained within the dimensions measured by the SYMLOG system. To understand the overlap, it is important to have a picture of how the three critical dimensions of social interaction that SYMLOG measures are displayed.

SYMLOG is a field theory, and one way results from SYMLOG measurements are displayed visually is in a "field" diagram. It is a field of unifying and polarizing forces that influence behavior. The "field" encompasses the major characteristics of social interaction, and, as such, each area within the field has specific meanings attributed to it.

Study the graphic to the right for a moment, to become familiar with words typically used to describe effective and ineffective leaders, or individuals with whom you interact.

Random Traits
(click image to enlarge)

These same words, when grouped into the SYMLOG dimensions, explain the meaning of various locations within the SYMLOG "field" or evaluative space.

Descriptive Adjectives in the space
(click image to enlarge)

This diagram uses the same words that were randomly displayed, but have now been grouped according to the dimensions that SYMLOG measures. Note three different font sizes are used in all the groupings. The x-axis, labeled P-N, measures relationship to others, whether group or individually oriented. The y-axis, labeled F-B, measures relationship to external authority and whether accepting or rejecting.

The three font sizes are used to depict the third dimension: if the characteristic noted is generally experienced as dominant, submissive, or in between (neither dominant nor submissive).

An example diagram containing images of famous people will further aid in understanding the different characteristics associated with the evaluative space.

Famous People - Then and Now - 2015
(click to enlarge)

Most other models in use today are descriptive, and thus have serious limitations on their ability to predict behavior. They describe and label, but do not integrate findings. They deal primarily, if not exclusively, with characteristics associated with the upper right hand quadrant of the SYMLOG space.

Descriptive models can provide good information to respondents about their personality, preferences, styles, decision-making processes, and the like. Since they lack a measurement system, however, or underlying theoretical basis (field theory in the case of SYMLOG), these instruments fail in some critical respects.

Models that are primarily descriptive, not predictive, are unable to:

  • articulate the impact of one’s behavior on others, and whether the consequences of the behavior are perceived as positive, negative, or neutral;
  • allow for more images than the self to be assessed;
  • use the same item set to measure individual, or team, or cultural phenomena;
  • take into account the environment as experienced by others;
  • measure effectiveness of the preferences (because normative/effective data is not available);
  • do anything other than describe, suggest, or inform, not predict (as is the case with SYMLOG);
  • compare the current state to a desired most effective condition;
  • benefit from using repeated measures over time, as SYMLOG does, to measure change;
  • target desired changes to integrate with organizational, team, and individual needs.

The presentation of models and existing assessment instruments that follow are based on their compatibility with the SYMLOG theory and model. As such, not only are the offerings complementary, but the further use of SYMLOG, in addition to what we are presenting, could greatly enhance your use of the tools and their impact on personal insight and understanding of developmental issues.

SYMLOG theory incorporates three dimensions proven to be those used by individuals when evaluating interaction. These dimensions encompass those presented in the assessments that follow, and can be used not only to explain interpersonal interaction, but also demonstrate how the behavior of individuals is likely to impact and influence the reactions of others.

There are essentially 3 important dimensions in any social interaction:

U-D deals with issues of dominance, power, level/degree of involvement with others, personal prominence, need for status and recognition

P-N deals with your relationship to others, whether friendly and group oriented or more isolated and individually focused, if you show self or other directed behavior

F-B deals with your approach to work, problem-solving, relationship to authority, your degree of conformity to social norms, whether your behavior is more controlled or expressive

Your major orientation is one of the determining factors in how you behave toward others and how you are perceived by others.

Most of the models describe characteristics associated with the PF part of the space, and deal, at best, with conflict in the F to P direction. This is the classic polarization between the concern for task (F) and the concern for people (P).

The diagram below indicates the four quadrants of SYMLOG, the general area covered by many of these models (a little larger than the PF quadrant alone). While this shaded PF area encompasses orientations that most people desire to be perceived, what they rate as most effective in social interaction, what is desired in the future, and where they rate those they have known as most effective leaders, many individuals are rated by others as showing value-orientations that are not in this PF area.

Field Diagram Quadrants

(Click to enlarge)

The diagram below has hundreds of circles of all sizes, located throughout the SYMLOG space. Each circle represents the rating of a co-worker made at the request of a boss or co-worker attending a leadership workshop.

Scatter on ACT

(Click to enlarge)

You will note how many of the circles fall outside of the PF quadrant. How can models that do not take into account these other value-orientation deal effectively with these individuals?

A SYMLOG diagnostic provides feedback on all areas of relevant behavior or perceived values in interaction.

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SYMLOG vs. other models
  • Introduction to SYMLOG space and other models
  • SYMLOG and KAI
  • SYMLOG and McClelland-Social Motives
  • SYMLOG and Blake and Mouton Leadership Grid
  • SYMLOG and DiSC
  • SYMLOG and Belbin
  • SYMLOG and Situational Leadership
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