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The Belbin Team Inventory, also called the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, Belbin Team Role Inventory, SPI or BTRSPI, is an assessment used to gain insight into an individual's behavioural tendency in a team environment. It was devised by Dr. Meredith Belbin to measure preference for the nine Team Roles discovered whilst studying numerous teams at Henley Management College.

A Behavioural Test

The Belbin Team Role Inventory assesses how an individual behaves in a team environment. It is therefore a behavioural tool, subject to change, and not a psychometric instrument. The assessment includes 360-degree feedback from observers as well as the individual's own evaluation of their behaviour, and contrasts how they see their behaviour versus how their colleagues do.

Unlike the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is a psychometric instrument used to sort people into one of 16 personality types, the Belbin Inventory scores people on how strongly they express behavioural traits from 9 different Team Roles. An individual may and often does exhibit strong tendencies towards multiple roles. Belbin himself asserts that the Team Roles are not equivalent to personality types.

History of the Belbin Team Inventory

Dr. Meredith Belbin first began studying teams at Henley Management College in the 1970s. Over a period of ten years, Belbin carried out extended observational research to determine which factors influenced team failure or success. A management game was designed to reproduce work life. It contained all the principal variables that typify the problems of decision-making in a business environment. The experiment was designed along scientific lines with careful measurement at each stage.

Those participating were invited to take a battery of psychometric tests and teams were assembled on the basis of test scores. At first, Belbin hypothesised that high-intellect teams would succeed where lower intellect teams would not. However, the outcome of this research was that certain teams, predicted to be excellent based on intellect, failed to fulfil their potential. In fact, it became apparent by looking at the various combinations that it was not intellect, but balance, which enabled a team to succeed. The most successful companies tended to be those with a mix of different people, i.e. those with a range of different behaviours. In fact, eight distinct clusters of behaviour turned out to be distinctive and useful, with the balance required dependent on the purpose and objectives of the team.

Application and Use

The Belbin Team Inventory first appeared in Meredith Belbin's book, "Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail", (1981)[1] . The inventory is protected by Belbin's copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form. Additionally, it is not normed, lacks the Specialist role and the benefit of feedback from colleagues and does not offer Team Role feedback. Much early research is based upon this now obsolete version of the inventory.

Belbin now administer the refined Belbin Team Inventory via e-interplace, a computerised system which scores and norms the data to produce feedback reports for individuals, teams, groups and jobs. Meredith Belbin argues that the optimum size for a team is 4 people. Beyond this number, individuals do not work closely enough together to constitute a team and are defined as a group.

Data from the Belbin Team Inventory can also be amalgamated and inrepreted to assess how effectively a team is likely to work together, including selecting the best candidate to fulfil each role, and identifying gaps and overlaps in the Team Role distribution which might have an impact on a team's success. The Belbin Team Inventory can also be used in conjunction with the Belbin Job Requirements Inventory to assess a candidate's behavioural performance in a particular job.

The Team Roles


Plants are creative, unorthodox and a generator of ideas. If an innovative solution to a problem is needed, a Plant is a good person to ask. A good Plant will be bright and free-thinking. Plants can tend to ignore incidentals and refrain from getting bogged down in detail. The Plant bears a strong resemblance to the popular caricature of the absent-minded professor/inventor, and often has a hard time communicating ideas to others. Multiple Plants in a team can lead to conflicts, as many ideas are generated without sufficient discernment or the impetus to follow the ideas through to action.

Resource Investigator

The Resource Investigator gives a team a rush of enthusiasm at the start of the project by vigorously pursuing contacts and opportunities. He or she is focused outside the team, and has a finger firmly on the pulse of the outside world. Where a Plant creates new ideas, a Resource Investigator will quite happily appropriate them from other companies or people. A good Resource Investigator is a maker of possibilities and an excellent networker, but has a tendency to lose momentum towards the end of a project and to forget small details.


A Co-ordinator is a likely candidate for the chairperson of a team, since they have a talent for stepping back to see the big picture. Co-ordinators are confident, stable and mature and because they recognise abilities in others, they are very good at delegating tasks to the right person for the job. The Co-ordinator clarifies decisions, helping everyone else focus on their tasks. Coordinators are sometimes perceived to be manipulative, and will tend to delegate all work, leaving nothing but the delegating for them to do.


The Shaper is a task-focused individual who pursues objectives with vigor and who is driven by nervous energy and the need to achieve - for the Shaper, winning is the name of the game. The Shaper is committed to achieving ends and will ‘shape’ others into achieving the aims of the team. He or she will challenge, argue or disagree and will display aggression in the pursuit of goal achievement. Two or three Shapers in a team, according to Belbin, can lead to conflict, aggravation and in-fighting.

Monitor Evaluator

Monitor Evaluators are fair and logical observers and judges of what is going on in the team. Since they are good at detaching themselves from bias, they are often the ones to see all available options with the greatest clarity and impartiality. They take a broad view when problem-solving, and by moving slowly and analytically, will almost always come to the right decision. However, they can become very critical, damping enthusiasm for anything without logical grounds, and they have a hard time inspiring themselves or others to be passionate about their work.


A Teamworker is the oil between the cogs that keeps the machine that is the team running smoothly. They are good listeners and diplomats, talented at smoothing over conflicts and helping parties understand one other without becoming confrontational. Since the role can be a low-profile one, the beneficial effect of a Teamworker can go unnoticed and unappreciated until they are absent, when the team begins to argue, and small but important things cease to happen. Because of an unwillingness to take sides, a Teamworker may not be able to take decisive action when it is needed.


The Implementer takes their colleagues' suggestions and ideas and turns them into positive action. They are efficient and self-disciplined, and can always be relied on to deliver on time. They are motivated by their loyalty to the team or company, which means that they will often take on jobs everyone else avoids or dislikes. However, they may be seen as closed-minded and inflexible since they will often have difficulty deviating from their own well-thought-out plans, especially if such a deviation compromises efficiency or threatens well-established practices.

Completer Finisher

The Completer Finisher is a perfectionist and will often go the extra mile to make sure everything is "just right," and the things he or she delivers can be trusted to have been double-checked and then checked again. The Completer Finisher has a strong inward sense of the need for accuracy, and sets his or her own high standards rather than working on the encouragement of others. They may frustrate their teammates by worrying excessively about minor details at the expense of meeting deadlines, and by refusing to delegate tasks that they do not trust anyone else to perform.


Specialists are passionate about learning in their own particular field. As a result, they are likely to be a fount of knowledge and will enjoy imparting this knowledge to others. They also strive to improve and build upon their expertise. If there is anything they do not know the answer to, they will happily go and find out. Specialists bring a high level of concentration, ability, and skill in their discipline to the team, but can only contribute on that specialism and will tend to be uninterested in anything which lies outside its narrow confines.

The Belbin Team Inventory was revised to include the Specialist role, since the role was not revealed in the original research, owing to the fact that no specialised knowledge was required for the simulation exercise.

Studies of Validity and Reliability

Following the introduction of Belbin's approach to Team Role analysis in 1981,[2] an independent scholarly study of the psychometric properties of the instruments was published in 1993.[3] Belbin took Furnham, Steele, & Pendleton to task[4] and the journal provided Furnham space to reply.[5] Belbin argued that the instruments were not intended for scholarly inquiry, but to inform management consulting practices. Additionally, Belbin maintains that the Belbin Team Inventory is not a psychometric instrument and hence applying tests for psychometric properties are irrelevant.

There have been several other scholarly studies of the validity and reliability of Belbin's approach over the nearly 15 years since the Furnham-Belbin exchange, most of which have used the inventory in its original form. Fisher, Hunter, & MacRosson (2001, June) [6] argue that Furnham's approach (also discussed in Fisher, Macrosson, & Sharp (1996)[7]) has fundamental problems in the definitions of several of the 8 roles (see also Broucek & Randall (1996, December)[8] for a more detailed treatment of this problem). Both the Fisher, et al. (2001) and the earlier Broucek & Randall(1996) find that observational and factor analytical approaches yield 5 rather than 8 role constructs. Fisher, et al. go on to argue that this coherence of the 5 traits of teams is backed up be earlier research by Barrick & Mount (1991).[9]

It is worth noting that original research into the Belbin Team Roles has been conducted based on the old, copyright, 8-role version that was only intended for an individual's own interest rather than for use as a tool. More recent studies using normed data from belbin's e-interplace system, such as that by Aritzeta, A., Swailes, S. and Senior, B.(2004)[10] have found far higher correlations and reliability, as well as distinct analytical constructs using the online, normed, 9-role tool with observers added to give 360-degree feedback (enhancing construct validity by providing "real-world" data).[11] Swailes and McIntyre-Bhatty also argued (2000 & 2001) that traditional attempts to measure reliability have been misapplied when it comes to the Belbin Team Role Inventory because it is neither ipsative nor non-ipsative, and an equation that took this anomaly into account gave far higher estimates of reliability and validity.[12]

See also


  1. Belbin, M. (1981). Management Teams. London; Heinemann. ISBN 0470271728.
  2. Belbin, M. (1981). Management Teams. London; Heinemann. ISBN 0470271728.
  3. Furnham, A.; Steele, H.; Pendleton, D. (1993). "A psychometric assessment of the Belbin Team-Role Self-Perception Inventory". Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 66 (3): 245–257
  4. Belbin, R. (1993, September). A reply to the Belbin Team-Role Self-Perception Inventory by Furnham, Steele and Pendleton. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 66(3), 259-260.
  5. Furnham, A., Steele, H., & Pendelton, D. (1993). A response to Dr. Belbin's reply. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 66(3), 261-261. Retrieved November 22, 2007.
  6. Fisher, S., Hunter, T., & MacRosson, W. (2001, June). A validation study of Belbin's team roles. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10(2), 121-144.
  7. Fisher, S.G., Macrosson, W.D.K., & Sharp, G. (1996). Further evidence concerning the Belbin team-role self-perception inventory. Personnel Review, 25, 61–67.
  8. Broucek, W., & Randall, G. (1996, December). An assessment of the construct validity of the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory and Observer's Assessment from the perspective of the five-factor model. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 69(4), 389-405.
  9. Barrick, M.R., & Mount, M.K. (1991). The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1–26.
  10. Aritzeta, A., Senior, B. & Swailes, S. (2005, August). Belbin Team-Role Preference and Cognitive Styles: A convergent validity study. Small Group Research 36(4), 404-436.
  11. Aritzeta, A., Swailes, S., & Senior, B. (2007, January). Belbin's team role model: Development, validity and applications for team building. Journal of Management Studies, 44(1), 96-118.
  12. Swailes, S. & McIntyre-Bhatty, T. (2001). Uses and Abuses of Reliability Estimates: The Case of the 'Belbin' TRSPI. Working Paper presented to the British Academy of Management Conference, Cardiff Business School.

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