Merrill & Reid - The Caps Model of Personal Styles

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

The C.A.P.S. (or CAPS) model describes what the authors refer to as “social style” – patterns of behavior that other people can observe within us. The model has arisen in the domain of organizational interaction and human resource management, and is used by consultants and presenters on these and other issues related to human relationships. This model is said to be based on original research, balancing the specificity needed for explanatory usefulness and the generality need for broad applicability (Merrill & Reid, 1981). The model present four distinct social styles. Individual people are considered to have one or two styles that they manifest most regularly (especially under stress), but everyone is thought to express all four styles in some proportion.

The four modes of CAPS styles are: Controllers, Analyzers, Promoters and Supporters. These four styles are described below.

P - Controllers
Controllers are socially outspoken and they prefer to take charge of tasks, insisting that things be done their way. They demand immediate action from people who work with them, even though they have a hard time describing what they want in ways that would enable others to accomplish those tasks. They care about concrete results much more than human relationships. Their decisions and statements can be hasty or short-sighted. They do not take criticism well, they hate detailed planning, and they find it very difficult to apologize for anything. They are therefore extremely productive as individuals, but when success depends upon careful communication and coordination, they tend to be error prone. They feel most enabled when they have a sense of themselves as powerful.

A - Analysers
Analysers are cerebral perfectionists, approaching problems through logic and rationality. They are extremely details-oriented, risk-averse, criticism-averse and error-averse. They plan meticulously and consider all options before making a decision or acting. They are tactful and reserved in communication, and they dislike pushy, sloppy or aggressive people. Analysers shun the spotlight, and rarely voice their opinion unless they are absolutely certain about their position. They are stronger at planning than at execution. They dislike ambiguity, and prefer information to be concrete, complete and preferably measurable. They are uncomfortable making quick decisions with what they consider to be insufficient information. This makes them less effective in turbulent situations, and less ready to act on sudden opportunities. Analyzers can be uncomfortable to communicate with because they may seem to be scrutinizing and criticizing your position rather than listening to the point you are trying to make.

E - Promoters
Promoters are optimistic, opportunistic, persuasive, spontaneous and expressive. They focus on "big picture" issues and tend to be sloppy with details and follow-up. They are oriented towards novelty and the future, and thus often leave tasks unfinished. They tend to be very creative and are often unreasonably ambitious in the plans they produce. Promoters typically juggle several projects at once, succeeding with some and failing with others. Impatient with the status quo, they often generate new all-embracing visions in one great leap. Promoters are not shy about discussing their ideas. They hate feeling bored and trapped.

I - Supporters
Supporters are the social conveners within their organizations. They have excellent interpersonal skills, and are generally appreciated for this. They do the emotional work in the organization, helping people manage their feelings as they work together. Supporters are sensitive and excitable, and can sometimes be easily hurt. Supporters often lend their talents to communications roles within organizations, and often exert a leadership influence that may not be obvious at first. Supporters dislike being alone and they dislike holding unpopular positions during conflicts, making them susceptible to peer pressure and groupthink. They can sometimes be susceptible to manipulation, both using it and being the target of it. They are also afraid of being taken advantage of, many times with good reason. Some supporters can be very unforgiving when crossed.

Good communication in the workplace involves both knowing one’s own preferred CAPS styles and the strengths and weaknesses implied in this, and knowing how to collaborate and communicate with people whose preferred styles are different.

1. Merrill, D. W., & Reid, R. H. (1981). Personal Styles and Effective Performance. Bradner, PA: Chilton Book Company.
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