U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Case Study
Christopher (Todd) Jones, Ed.D., MBA
Chief, Division of Training
National Conservation Training Center
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
By Karen Friend, Business writer.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is an 8,000-person public organization. They have been using Extended DISC since 2001. We spoke with the Chief of Training, Christopher Jones, Ed.D., regarding how they are using Extended DISC® as both a leadership development and an organizational development tool to deliver more effective training programs and services within the organization.
The role of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Conservation Training Center is two-fold. The first role is to provide technical training to Service employees. The other is to provide leadership and supervisory training as well as organizational development services to the organization. Extended DISC has been hugely successful for this organization. We use it in our leadership development program to increase individual awareness about style and in our organizational development work as a direct tool in conducting interventions with groups and teams.
The business issues that we wanted to address with Extended DISC fell within two main areas. On the leadership development side, the issue was to give participants in leadership development programs an opportunity for greater self awareness of their individual styles which would in turn provide greater self regulation. On the organizational development side, we were looking to improve effectiveness in the team function.
Compared with other assessment tools we have used in the past, I have found Extended DISC to be more comprehensive. The strength of Extended DISC, in my estimation, is the fact that it offers greater specificity to the individual. Additionally, it has an added benefit that other instruments don’t. It looks at how that natural style adjusts as a person perceives what his or her role is in the workplace. That gives a person a more comprehensive understanding. It says, “Here is your ‘natural’ style and here is your ‘adjusted’ style as you think about executing your work role.” It also provides feedback on the implications or the disadvantages of overusing a particular attribute of behavior. Extended DISC is a more holistic instrument. It has excellent psychometric properties. I believe it’s been richly validated and therefore, in my mind, it’s a preferable instrument.
We are currently implementing Extended DISC in several ways within our division. In leadership programs, particularly in our Advanced Leadership Development Program, the first phase of the program is geared toward the participant examining the role of leadership and their self concept as a leader. In trying to connect the individual with the idea of leadership itself, the tool gives a person increased self awareness about their natural style. It allows them to think through and reflect around what that style means with regard to their concept of leadership, how they perceive themselves as a leader, and where their developmental needs are in leadership.
The organizational development use of the tool serves several purposes. Firstly, it provides me, as the internal consultant, with an understanding of the group that I’m walking into and where naturally occurring possibilities of conflict in styles exist within the group composition. I’m getting insight into the makeup of this group and a greater understanding of the behavioral styles of the group composition as a diagnostician walking into that mix of human interaction.
It also provides insight to individuals participating in a group OD session. It’s a safe way for folks to be able to talk and to bring the group together. They begin to understand how they have been clouded in their understanding of why people are interacting the way they are in direct work-related situations. It’s a very warming tool and a mechanism to bring the group to a safer place, to build trust and to then engage in dialog on more sensitive topics that are really impacting the group function.
As a result, when the team now sees these dynamics playing out, they can stop, take a breath and say, “Yes. That’s just a natural dynamic of group interaction as we understand the composition of this group.” By looking at the profile of the group, it’s suddenly easy to understand why this blind spot exists and instead of attributing a bunch of negative stuff, people can sit back and say, “Oh well. This makes sense. That’s why we are strong in these areas and weak here and why we need to make a more conscious effort.”
We’ve had very successful use of the instrument in OD cases where it has raised the awareness of the group and the trust level of the group to the point of avoiding adversarial human resource related claims in the formal process. It’s hard to put a value on what the transaction costs savings is of intervening in a group and moving one or more people away from being so frustrated and so upset about the group dynamic that they pursue dispute resolution through formal mechanisms. I do think there’s an intuitive ROI when the collective system of the human interaction of the organization is improved. I don’t know how you put a dollar amount on that – other than to be able to look at the efficiency and effectiveness of groups working in a more intact way and what that means to overall effectiveness and efficiency in getting the mission accomplished.
The feedback that we’ve received on Extended DISC from our employees has been overwhelmingly positive. From the standpoint of helping individuals understand themselves better, it is a very revealing instrument. It stimulates a tremendous amount of self reflection. From the standpoint of a group environment, the feedback is that it’s a very powerful instrument that gives directly useful information on how to improve the dynamic of the team composition.
Overall, the knowledge we have gained as a result of using Extended DISC has provided us a strong collaborative advantage as an organization. This is a benefit that can’t be directly measured, but that has a direct impact on our organization and the people that we serve. As a public organization and as public servants, I believe that as we are better able to understand ourselves and our interactions with others, we are better able to serve.