JDSU Uses Personality Typology during Management Empowerment Camps

Posted 28 January 2016 by
Global Marketing

By Michael Segovia, Lead MBTI Certification Trainer. This case study originally appears in Industrial and Commercial Training Magazine here


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to gauge the success of optical product maker JDSU’s effort to engage Human Resources as a strategic partner in building an international company culture using training in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to bring diverse teams together with a common management language for discussing interpersonal and team dynamics. Design/methodology/approach – The study relied on interviews with managers, employees, and designers of JDSU’s Empowerment Camp on their experience of improvement in management and communication in the organization.

Findings – With a common language for discussing communication, management, and interpersonal interaction centered around insights derived from management’s training in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator through the Empowerment Camp, members of the organization encountered a more unified and effective management approach across JDSU’s diverse web of international offices. Originality/value – This paper is the first to explore a company’s effort to engage Human Resources as a strategic partner in building an international company culture.

JDSU has its roots in the exciting technological breakthroughs of the mid-1990s internet boom. The company became a household name among the Silicon Valley set as the internet grew explosively. However, after its initial meteoric rise, JDSU experienced the same kind of turmoil as many other internet companies in the early 2000s. It has since turned around and seen a resurgence in its chosen areas of focus and expertise: developing innovative optical products and advanced technologies for the telecom, datacom, laser, and anti-counterfeiting markets.

The Problem

As JDSU took on the new challenge of scaling its innovation, Sharon Parker, VP of Human Resources at JDSU, was looking to make some cultural changes. To help the company scale, she believed that Human Resources could be a strategic partner to the business in bringing about effective change through cultural transformation. JDSU would desperately need cultural alignment between the executive strategy and the general employee population. Managers serve as the linchpin between an organization’s leaders and its workforce, yet JDSU offered no consistent, company-wide management training for those very people. While many managers had been promoted on the basis of their technical proficiencies, they had not received the training they needed to create a team culture of alignment with organizational leadership.

The Solution

Sharon turned to the talent development team at JDSU to create a program that would address the need for consistent manager training. In response, Juls Snowden, a manager development expert with 25 years of experience, created “Managing at JDSU: Empowerment Camp.” The Empowerment Camp consisted of 60 hours of facilitated classroom training over a 12-week period, including five full-day class learning sessions as well as weekly webinars. JDSU is a global organization, so it was crucial that the assessment tool the organization chose to use for the Empowerment Camp had a lot of flexibility from both a global and support perspective, as well as be able to translate well across many languages in various cities and countries including Shenzhen, UK, and Germany. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment was at the core of the Empowerment Camp’s curriculum, as a tool for helping managers to both increase their self-awareness and to help them learn strategic influence. On the first day of the Empowerment Camp, participants formed Power Teams of five to eight participants, to begin building a support network in resolving work issues. Participants were also responsible for individual projects in the Empowerment Camp, and on the last day, each person unveiled a six minute presentation of their course-long projects designed to increase empowerment and efficiency at JDSU. The presentation illustrated problems that they had identified and tackled in their areas of expertise. Managers often need executive support to bring their projects to fruition, so this was a great opportunity for them to have an impact while practicing their influencing skills.

Executive Speakers and a Directors’ Panel were also a part of the Empowerment Camp, to help facilitate dialogue with current Empowerment Camp participants regarding their experiences learning to manage and lead others. Participants used the Introduction to Type® and Teams booklet to explore their teams’ dynamics and worked with Snowden to learn how to harness personality differences to create greater balance in the way the teams approach challenges. By selecting development tools that are value neutral, facilitators were able to guide participants to talk about interpersonal issues in an objective, respectful way. Managers also had the opportunity to bring in their teams for a separate Myers-Briggs introduction to further explore their team dynamics. This created a common language across the organization for having constructive coaching conversations.

Snowden also incorporated the Introduction to Type® and Leadership booklet into Empowerment Camp. Participants used this booklet to identify their own leadership style as well as the styles of the leaders they work with. This helped them identify ways to influence people of other personality types while putting their own leadership strengths into action.

The Results

The Empowerment Camp was a success and provided managers with the ability to drive growth within the organization by mastering certain tools and techniques. While the first few camps initially saw a large number of managers from JDSU’s Research and Development department, overall the Empowerment Camp was inclusive to all parts of the organization. JDSU found that by using tools that give a global team a common framework for discussing differences in preferences for communicating, collaborating, and interacting, that individuals with little other common terminology for discussing their work styles were able to express their needs to each other more clearly and effectively.

A specific area within the organization that the JDSU Empowerment Camp focused on improving was the effectiveness of meetings. In particular, the program included a special class called “Making Meetings Matter,” which focused on helping participants to deal with Introversion and Extraversion while participating in meetings, especially those in a virtual setting. Specifically, the program focused on one of the primary sources of interpersonal and communication problems in meetings: ensuring that all input and ideas are given the chance to be expressed and reviewed thoroughly by every member of the group, a problem often linked to differences in preferences for introversion or extraversion. JDSU also found that developing a better understanding of differences in preferences gave camp participants a more acute sense of each individual’s preference to “talk things through” or form ideas silently before expressing them.

We have all been in meetings where we feel either like we are constantly being cut off, or we cannot get a word in. Learning about personality preferences eventually leads to the realization that these problems in communication are not anyone’s fault; they are simply the result of different preferences being expressed without much awareness. With this realization in place, it becomes a lot easier for individuals to make accommodations for each other. In constructing the program, Snowden identified developing this kind of respectful accommodation as a key outcome of training; and also understood that the same type of respect and neutrality had to be at the core of the tools used in the program. “We conducted a needs analysis before we designed the program, which helped us to determine that empowerment was an area we needed to focus on. We were able to build our program around tackling this specific organizational need,” said Snowden. “We discovered that a lot of the bottlenecks stem from personality, and the great thing about building our program around a value-neutral assessment is that is depersonalizes personality so we’re able to address it in a more considerate manner that doesn’t stratify individuals.”

Highlighted results

■ More than 300 managers were trained through the Empowerment Camp program in just two years. In a post-program survey, 98 percent of participants agreed that Empowerment Camp had made them more effective in their job at JDSU.

■ Participants identified a potential savings of more than $20 million to JDSU’s bottom line as a result of the projects they tackled in Empowerment Camp.

■ JDSU employees companywide gained a common language they could use to discuss interpersonal issues and improve decision making. Employees who thought differently from their managers were no longer viewed as cultural outliers, and there was more self-awareness about the value each different type preference could bring to the table.

■ Executives across diverse business units supported Empowerment Camp, which was crucial for the program’s development and expansion. Executive leaders participated in the program by speaking to participants about their personal experiences as managers and attended the presentations at the end of the program. They even went so far as to invite participants to their staff meetings and provide funding for projects they found especially compelling.

Why use the MBTI assessment?

JDSU has managers in more than 20 different countries, and the company identified the ability to effectively generalize an assessment cross-culturally to be a critical factor in selecting development tools for organizations with global teams. JDSU participants had the option of receiving MBTI reports and assessments in their native languages, which Snowden says was a great benefit when taking the program to countries in Asia and Europe.

“What we essentially were able to do is translate and overlay this one language of personality preferences into every local language and cultural context where we have teams working. The four-letter type code and the understandings behind it have become part of a global organizational culture that’s focused on the individual. Understanding national cultural differences is of course essential, but that individual focus reminds us of the relevance of individual variation in addition to monolithic variation in cultures. For that reason, the tool is very humanizing.”

Snowden also identified the need for a combination of breadth and simplicity in a choice of development tools, a quality she identified as a useful facet of the MBTI assessment and its supporting materials. Assessments such as these could be used among teams as a simple introduction to team dynamics, or participants could use the materials to dive deeper into the core of their leadership style. The assessment also has decades of research to back it up, which was useful in engaging engineers and the inquisitive scientists in the company in discussing the nuances of personality.