The enneagram

nine paths to project success


The current economic environment creates a project management paradox. The importance of projects to organisational success, and in many cases survival, is greater than ever. Yet, available funds, time, and human capital are scarcer than ever.

The pressure to deliver combined with scarcity of resources and time requires project managers to have outstanding leadership skills to optimise individual and team performance. Project managers need to engage the creative talents of their teams to work through the many constraints and issues that result.

The ancient knowledge of the Enneagram entered western consciousness as a process model at the start of the 20th century and then as a typology model in the later half of that century. The Enneagram is increasingly used in business as a coaching and leadership development tool. It is a practical tool that assists project managers in:

  1. Creating high levels of engagement and individual performance
  2. Managing team diversity and facilitating problem solving
  3. Accelerating team development and performance
  4. Providing a model to quickly diagnose and resolve team performance issues
  5. Improving communication and reducing conflict

Based on a long practical experience establishing performing teams this paper will cover:

  1. The history of the Enneagram and its relevance to business, teams, and projects
  2. The Enneagram as an integrated model for project and individual performance
  3. The nine personality types, their preferences, and contributions to performance
  4. The nine key structures of teams and how these can be managed to constructively act on project performance
  5. The relationship between the personality types and team structures
  6. The critical role of leadership in harnessing individual identity to achieve outcomes


Project managers may well have the most challenging leadership role in their organisation. Team theories such as Bruce Tuckman's “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model” (1977) and Dr. Istvan Gorgenyi's “The Hunting Territory” (1998, 2008) show that teams have defined lifecycles. These lifecycles cannot be avoided and must be traversed if a team is to become functional and perform at the desired levels. Doing so takes time and requires leadership.

Time is a scarce resource for project managers. Projects need to complete within defined timeframes to deliver required business outcomes against challenging scopes with limited budgets. Often the project manager and team members are meeting each other for the first time, may not have worked on similar projects, and do not have sufficient resources. Too often it seems that the only project success factor within the project manager's control is leadership, their leadership.

This paper presents the Riso-Hudson Enneagram of Personality Types (1996) as a leadership tool that project managers can use to engage project team members and stakeholders. The Riso-Hudson Enneagram of Personality Types (enneatype) recognises the diversity and contribution of each personality type to a business and team. Project managers who understand, and are empathetic to, the Basic Desires (drivers) of each enneatype are able to positively act upon on individual desires to improve contribution, communication, and relationships within the team resulting in improved team performance.

The Enneagram of Project Teams recognises the process of teams in becoming functional performing teams, the structures that act on teams and the unique constraints within which project teams operate.

The Ennegram of Teams is the synthesis and integration of the:

  • Enneagram as a process model as described by A.G.E. Blake (1996)
  • Energies of the enneatypes as described by Riso and Hudson (1996,1996, 2000)
  • Adaption and extension of the Organisation, Hierarchy, Informal, and Autonomy structures described in The Hunting Territory theory developed by Dr. Istvan Gorgenyi (1998)
  • Identification of the nine structures most critical to team performance.

The structures have been placed in an Enneagram revealing the process of team formation and structural relationships that impact upon team and individual performance.

Project managers who understand and apply the Enneagram of Personality Types and the Enneagram of Teams are able to accelerate team development. Importantly, they can create an engaging environment that allows team members to create innovative solutions to address issues and constraints that the project faces.

How Does the Enneagram Help Project Managers Lead?

Personality Type

The Enneagram provides true insight into the personal needs and motivations of people. It helps us understand what people truly want and enables authentic leaders to meet each individual on their own ground. Being met includes knowing that the individual Basic Desires of team members are being considered and addressed as far as is practical. Team members are not asked to give themselves up to the project. They are able to maintain their identity (sense of self). Effective leadership creates a shared team identity that constructively and positively impacts the personal identity of team members.

Team Processes

The Enneagram is also a process model that can be used to provide a clear map of team processes and structures. The Enneagram of Teams identifies the key structures of teams and their impact on performance. It also tells us how teams are formed and how this process can be accelerated.


The Enneagrams of Personality Types and Teams are real. Project managers who understand these Enneagrams and use them in the best interests of the team and team members will be afforded the support and trust of team members. Team members will actively engage in the fulfillment of the team mission and will work constructively and cooperatively beyond their immediate scope of accountability to ensure success. An environment can be created that supports cooperation, innovation, problem solving, and sound decision-making.

Enneagram as a Typology Model

Oscar Ichazo developed the Enneagram of Personality Types in the1950s. The Riso-Hudson Enneagram of Personality Types is presented in Exhibit 1 and is a complete typology system.

Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Names

Exhibit 1. Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Names

An understanding of the Riso-Hudson Enneagram of Types provides project managers with an insight to each team member. It identifies the characteristics of each personality type including their Basic Fear, Basic Desire, behaviours under stress and at their best.

By understanding the team member personality types, project managers are able to leverage diversity within the team, build constructive relationships, and improve communication with and between team members. Exhibit 2 provides a summary of the nine personality types.

Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Names with Riso- Hudson Four Key Descriptors. Copyright 2008. The Enneagram Insitute. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission

Exhibit 2 Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Names with Riso- Hudson Four Key Descriptors. Copyright 2008. The Enneagram Insitute. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.


The Riso-Hudson Enneatypes was psychometrically validated by the SHL Group in June 2005 (Brown & Bartram, 2005)

Enneagram as a Process Model

The Enneagram symbol was introduced to the West as a process model by G.I. Gurdjieff at the start of the 20th century. (, 2008) A.G.E. Blake in the Intelligent Enneagram (1996) describes the process model used to develop the Enneagram of Teams.

The Enneagram symbol consists of three components: the circle representing unity, the hexad representing the law of seven, and the triangle representing the law of three. In the Enneagram of Project Teams the circle represents the performance of the team, the hexad represents management, and the triangle represents leadership. Collectively, the hexad (management) and triangle (leadership) are the structures that act on team performance. The structures of the triangle inform the structures of the hexad.

Another way of describing the interaction of the structures is to say that the structures of the triangle operate at Level One and impact the structures of the hexad at Level Two. Collectively, they produce the performance of the team, the circle.

The Enneagram of Project Teams


The Enneagram of Project Teams places nine key structures that impact team performance into an Enneagram. The placement of these structures reflects the process of team development, performance development, and disintegration. Placement also reflects the dynamics between the structures and impact on team processes.

The Enneagram of Teams. Copyright 2008. Rod Gozzard. All Rights Reserved

Exhibit 3. The Enneagram of Teams. Copyright 2008. Rod Gozzard. All Rights Reserved.


The Mission structure is the first Level One structure. The Mission defines the purpose of the team. This is the reason that the team exists and the outcomes that the team is required to achieve. As the first Level One structure, the Mission shapes the form of all structures required to support the achievement of objectives. In projects, the Mission structure is initially defined in the project charter and further elaborated in the project management plan.


The Organisation structure is the organisational design of the team. It includes the functions of the project and their relationships, capabilities, competencies, processes, and tools needed to deliver the project. The Organisation Breakdown Structure and Project Organisation defined in the PMBOK® Guide (2008) correlate to parts of the organisation structure. They do not address the competencies, processes, and tools (non project management) required to deliver the project. Project Governance and decision-making rights are critical components of this structure.


Gorgenyi defines “Hierarchy” as “the system of the team and individuals in rank order.” Gorgenyi and Gozzard (1998) identified the factors that affect rankings within a project. Many of these do not relate to actual performance including:

  • Previous performance over a period of time
  • Relationships with powerful stakeholders
  • Perceived skills, knowledge and experience
  • Actual performance
  • Social and communication skills—the ability to present oneself in the most favourable light
  • Position or role in previous projects
  • Job level or grade and assigned role
  • Compensation or charge out rate (individual and subcontractor)
  • Adaptability to changing circumstances

Rank within the Hierarchy correlates to individual recognition and reward.


Leadership is the second Level One structure. Leadership is defined as constructively connecting the personal identity of team members with the Mission to form a shared identity of the team. When this is achieved, team members will appropriately direct cognitive (thinking), conative (doing), and affective (feeling) competencies to achieve the Mission. As a result, team members have a personal stake in team performance and will take ownership of current performance in order to achieve the mission. Leadership accepts the diversity of personal identities within the team and does not require team members to forsake personal identity for team identity.


The Identity structure is the shared identity of the team. The strength of team identity is a factor of the alignment of individual identity to team identity. The extent to which team Mission and Performance (success) positively impacts personal identity (sense of self) directly correlates to individual alignment to the Mission and Performance of the team.

Alignment of the personal and team identity structures can be achieved by understanding the Basic Desires of each Riso-Hudson Enneatype.


The Resources structure is defined as the resources available to the team. Resources can include, budget, headcount, time, skills, access to stakeholders, vendors, etc.


The Performance structure is the last Level One structure. In projects, performance is measured against the triple constraint of scope, time, and budget to establish how well the project is tracking against objectives. Mission defines what the project is to achieve (where to go), Leadership engages stakeholders and team members (we are committed to the Mission), and Performance (are we achieving Mission) tracks progress relative to Mission.


The Informal structure is the communicational network of the project. Whereas as the organisational structure informs us who has to do what, the informal structure provides insight to how it is done. Within any given project there are numerous relationships between team members, stakeholders and other projects represented by sub groups. Some sub groups will have a number of strong relationships with others and some may have few if any.

The system of the sub groups and their interrelationships comprises the informal structure. It tells us how communication occurs and how work is actually done within the project. The strength of the Informal structure determines the responsiveness of the team under pressure.


The Authority structure is the right of the project and team members to act to fulfill the project mission. The degree to which the previous eight structures have been effectively established and balanced informs the effectiveness of this structure.

Process of Team Formation


Each of the nine structures is required and present in any team. The placement of each structure within the Enneagram of Teams informs the order in which each structure is established. For example, it is not possible to design an effective organisation without a recognised and clearly defined Mission. Meaningful Hierarchies can only be established in the context of an existing organisation. Leadership cannot come in to effect without an objective to achieve (Mission), people to lead (Organisation), and a Hierarchy to act on, and so on.

The process of Formation occurs in the sequence presented next. Each step in the process develops the form of the team with each step reinforcing the previous step and informing the following.


The Mission structure is formed when the project is authorised and chartered. At this point the team does not exist. Establishment of Mission provides the reason for the team being formed. The strength of this structure is directly impacted by the projects alignment with and importance in achieving the organisational mission.


This structure forms as members are assigned to the team. The presence of the required behavioural competencies to achieve the Mission is the most important factor in establishing this structure. Organisational design that recognises the relative skills, competencies, and experience of team members is the next most critical factor.


Three hierarchies are present in any team. The first is the project manager's ranking of team members. The second is the team's ranking of team members. The last is the stakeholder group's ranking of the project and team members relative to other projects and teams. It is critical that the project manager's hierarchy reflects the actual competencies, skills, experience, and current performance of team members. Doing so will settle and align the dynamics between each hierarchy stablising and strengthening the informal structure when it is formed. This structure is the most dynamic, subtle, and complex within the team and requires the project manager's constant attention.

At this point the mechanical structure of the team has been formed. The team members will act to large extent independently of each other to maintain and increase their sense of self. Typically, there will be relatively low levels of cooperation between members and adequate levels of performance.


Leadership as defined for the Leadership structure must be present if the team is to develop and perform to its potential. It provides the energy needed to connect team members with the Team Mission and Performance so that they have personal ownership of both.

The degree to which leadership is provided directly correlates to healthy formation of the team.

Without effective Leadership, the team will not develop and remains a group of individuals working to personal objectives primarily motivated to reinforce its sense of individual identity.

In the absence of effective Leadership, the best-case scenario is that the project will perform sub-optimally with regard to scope, schedule, or funding. The worst-case scenario is cancellation of the project. This situation can be partially treated through the effective practice of project management techniques although the outcomes will remain sub-optimal. Team members will not be engaged to deliver the Mission and will remain largely focussed on preserving or inflating their sense of personal identity.


At this point, a team identity has formed and the team begins to act to deliver the mission. The team is not a coherent whole at this point and will be starting to be more aligned to the Mission. Team identity will continue to develop in direct response to the Leadership provided and the management and development of the other eight structures.


Resources are allocated in the form of budget, time, people, and skills providing the team with the capability to act. Sponsors and stakeholders will adjust allocation of resources over the project's life based on Performance against Mission.


Performance of the project and individuals is measured to ensure attainment of Mission. At this point, the team becomes accountable for outcomes and therefore can be viewed as a team. The internal process of Formation is complete. Stakeholders will recognise the team and its Performance.


The informal structure takes shape supporting the social and communicational networks and work patterns of the team. There are three key substructures: the informal structure of the team that started to form when the Organisation was established, the informal structure of the stakeholder group, and informal structure of related projects. There is dynamic relationship between the substructures that requires the ongoing attention of the project manager. The cohesiveness of the substructures directly correlates to the performance of the team.


The Authority structure is formed. The ability of the team to act is a direct reflection the strength, function, and balance of the preceding eight structures.

Impact of Structure on Performance

When the team has formed it is inevitable that the some structures will be more developed and functional than others resulting in structural imbalances. Team performance is impacted by the degree to which each structure is functional relative to project Mission and in balance with the other structures.

The lines on the Enneagram inform the relationships between structures. Mission, Leadership, and Performance are placed on the points of the triangle indicating a strong relationship between these structures. Mission establishes team objectives. Leadership connects the team to Mission and Performance. Performance measures progress against Mission. Mission can be recalibrated based on Performance.

An imbalance on the triangle (Level One) will result in suboptimal performance. An example is a very well-defined Mission with average Leadership and weak Performance. In this case, the team may be very action oriented in support of the Mission and not focussed on progress (Performance) in attaining Mission. The relatively weak Leadership structure may cause some hierarchical dysfunction negatively impacting on the Identity and Informal structures. The dysfunction of Level One structures will cause further imbalance in Level Two structures.

Such a situation could see many activities initiated in support of the Mission using a significant amount of resources for little return. It is also likely to contribute to less developed Hierarchy, Identity, Resource, and Informal structures. The bias for action (achieving Mission) will negate the ability to proactively monitor and correct performance. Over time, if not bought into balance (insufficient and/or inappropriate Leadership), the situation will create conflict with stakeholders further impacting project performance. Stakeholders may at best passively support the project and, at worst, actively undermine it. The weak Performance structure will cause stakeholders to question the value of the project resulting in reduced resourcing and funding.

Structural imbalance within the Level Two structures (Organisation, Hierarchy, Identity, Resources, Informal, and Authority) also results in suboptimal performance. Such imbalances are caused by dysfunction in the Level One structures. Understanding the relationships between Level Two structures aids diagnosis and correction of imbalance.

Exhibit 4 shows the primary relationships of the:

Level One and Two structures
Between Level Two structures

Relationships of Level One and Two Structures

Exhibit 4 Relationships of Level One and Two Structures

Final Words

Maintenance and enhancement of personal identity is the fundamental driver of human behaviour. Projects cannot exist without people. The degree to which projects perform optimally is directly related to how the project constructively maintains or enhances the sense of personal identity of each team member.

The Enneagram of Teams identifies the nine critical structures created during team formation. Team performance is optimised when these are functionally formed and balanced. Understanding these structures, the process of formation and interrelationships allows project managers to accelerate team development and enhance performance.

The Enneagrams of Personality Types and Teams provide project managers with a common framework and toolsets to effectively lead and manage their teams. When appropriately used, project managers are able to create a shared sense of team identity and high levels of engagement, which will result in improved performance.


Blake, A.G.E. (1996). The Intelligent Enneagram. Boston: Shambhala.

Brown, A., & Bartram, D. (2005, June). Relationships between OPQ and Enneagram Types, Research Report Version 1.3 June 2005. Retrieved 15 November 2009, from

Gorgenyi, I. (1998). The Hunting Territory or the systems of team life. Sports Coach Magazine, Summer edition (18-21) and Autumn Edition (14-17).

Gorgenyi, I., & Gozzard, R. (2008, March). The Hunting Territory: Optimising Project Outcomes and Enabling the Project Based Organisation. PMI Global Congress 2008, Asia Pacific, Sydney Australia.,(2008) V The Enneagram Retrieved from, ¶2

Maitri, S. (2001). The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putman.

Project Management Institute (2008) A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fourth Edition. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (1996). Personality Types. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (1999). Wisdom of The Enneagram. New York: Bantam Books.

Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (2000). Understanding the Enneagram. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Tuckman, Bruce W., & Jensen, Mary Ann C. (1977). 'Stages of small group development revisited', Group and Organizational Studies, 2, 419- 427.

© 2010, Rod Gozzard
Originally published as a part of 2010 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Melbourne, Australia



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