The Strength Deployment Inventory®

SDI Qual RGBToday's healthcare system is fraught with change: mergers, downsizing and reorganizations create workplace environments that are challenging, uncertain and stressful. It's not surprising that organizations, during times of significant change, report an increase in formal complaints, staff turnover, absenteeism, and interpersonal conflicts.

While "conflict" is usually perceived as a negative concept, it actually has the potential to be used as a catalyst for positive growth. To make that happen, however, team members need to communicate effectively in order to understand one another. Acknowledging and appreciating the strengths of the team means that conflict can be managed and authentic collaboration can occur.

The Strength Deployment Inventory® is a tool that helps teams do just that.

Conflict Triggers

People tend to enter into conflict about things that are important to them – so-called conflict triggers. Conflict in groups or teams is usually based on:

  • Misinterpretation or misunderstanding of motives
  • Disagreement on methods to achieve a shared goal
  • A clash of relating styles
  • Poor or no communication
  • A faulty assumption

When involved in a conflict situation, we see colleagues acting in ways that are very different from our own. We see events as they occur through our own lens of experience and motivations, and because of this, it is often difficult to understand where others are coming from. Sometimes we can even feel as though we're being attacked, especially if our thoughts and feelings are deeply held.

In order to successfully navigate through a conflict situation, it is vital to understand conflict triggers – both our triggers and the triggers of the people we work with. We need to understand what motivates others so we can see their actions, and respond to them, appropriately and objectively. Taking this approach will improve communication, promote teamwork, and help re-align thinking.

The Strength Deployment Inventory®

The Strength Deployment Inventory® (SDI®) is an evidence-based tool built on a psychological framework called Relationship Awareness Theory. The SDI® identifies different core motivations in people and assigns colours to those motivations. For example:

Red – Motivated by goals

Blue – Focused on others

Green – Searching for the "right" answer

Altogether, there are seven types of core motivations identified by the SDI®: the three mentioned above; blends of the three colours for people with more than one primary core motivation; and the "hub," for those whose primary motivation is a sense of belonging to a team.

The colour-based SDI® system facilitates our own awareness of what motivates us and enables understanding of other motivational types – during times of success as well as times of uncertainty.

The SDI® in Action

Recently, I used the SDI® tool with a senior healthcare team facing a major change to its organization. Of the 18 team members, 12 were analytical green types who wanted all the facts on the table so they could think through different scenarios. The other six team members were goal-oriented red types who wanted to move forward, make a plan, and take action.

Given such divergent core motivations, it's easy to understand why conflict would arise. The greens perceived the reds as being rash, while the reds were frustrated at the green group's apparent slowness. The emergence of these conflict triggers meant that the skills each group brought to the table were no longer seen as strengths. While it's understandable that conflict would arise, it ended up being counter-productive, as the important matters-at-hand ended up getting pushed off the agenda

I used the SDI® as a self-awareness tool to build understanding with this team. When team members became aware of each other's core motivations, they were able to figure out how to work together. The "personal" element was removed from the conversation to make room for a healthy and productive debate about the issue they were facing. Their discussion included time for analysis and the team was able to collaboratively identify a deadline for taking action. It brought clarity to their thinking and made them more willing and able to truly listen to what their colleagues were saying.

Other organizations have used the SDI® tool successfully to:


"When they understand why and how people behave, they can accept it and value how differences contribute to the richness of the team and they can learn how to work better as a team."
Lourdes de la Peza, Management Sciences for Health

"In the past, even if I had neutral to good news I'd be surprised that the team didn't all jump all over "my good news." I realize now that many people don't see it as immediately something to embrace, they have to think about how it would work, the documentation that would need to be put in place, etc. I am better prepared to wait for the added quality they bring to 'my good ideas'."
Unlimted Potential Healthcare Coaching client

Other Applications

A practical and valuable tool, the SDI® can be used in a variety of situations including:


Is your team ready to increase its effectiveness, improve communication or manage conflict? Contact us to see how we can help.


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