See how DVLA uses MBTI to develop leaders and drive change

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is an executive agency of the Department for Transport (DfT). Its main purpose is to facilitate road safety and general law enforcement by maintaining the registers of drivers and vehicles, and to collect vehicle excise duty.


Under the banner of a large scale cross-organisational initiative, the Organisational Change Programme (OCP), DVLA was tasked with accelerating the quality and range of services it offers.

DVLA recognised that both leadership excellence and streamlined organisational design were key components in a successful execution. Under the OCP, the role of leaders was redefined as “To lead and develop people to deliver our business”, resulting in a major shift in the way DVLA expected its leaders to behave and how it measured their success. This, combined with the fact that there was a number of new managers in responsible positions who lacked experience, meant DVLA needed to invest in a development programme, focused on both the leaders’ personal and professional development.

Adrian Thomas, DVLA’s Learning and Development Strategy and Communications Manager, says: “We wanted leaders to see that managing people is not just a process and a checklist of skills. Individuals need to know that it’s much more about ‘what I need to do to improve myself so that I interact more effectively with other people’. Our objective is to bring leaders to maturity through this organisation so that they really drive our change process.”

OPP was selected by DVLA as a partner for the programme, as Adrian explains, “OPP won hands down. I had worked with them before in a coaching project so knew something of their capability. We didn’t want prescriptive models and off-the-shelf components. We were looking for a programme that would get under the surface of behaviour and help people see that the first step to being a leader is based on personal insight. We used the strap-line ‘It’s All About You’ to get this across, which really resonated with our young managers.”

Alison Jorgensen, Head of DVLA’s L&D Business Advisors team, who managed the programme’s implementation, says: “OPP stood out from early in the tender process. The credibility and integrity of the organisation went without saying, but more than that, the flexibility and credibility of the people we met from OPP was impressive. They were very innovative and extremely flexible with regards to how we worked together. The consultants gave us lots of ideas, and understood our business and our challenges.”

OPP worked in close partnership with DVLA’s Learning and Development Group (LDG) to design an MBTI®-based programme that would offer delegates increased awareness of themselves and others as a basis for developing their capability as managers. They called it ‘Development FM’ (for managers). “The theme was carefully chosen as a powerful metaphor for the importance of getting on the same wavelength as others,” says Adrian. “This gave us a great hook for marketing the programme in a new and exciting way to generate buy-in across the organisation.”

As part of the OCP, DVLA had undertaken a talent audit involving a half-day assessment for every manager. Each participant received developmental feedback against the agency’s core competencies. But, crucially, this also identified common development themes, and it was important these were at the core of the new programme’s modules: raising awareness, relationship management, unleashing potential, change catalyst and conflict management.

All delegates completed the first module and then identified and pursued their own development journey, selecting from the available modules to suit their individual experience and development needs. The MBTI® questionnaire, a powerful tool for increasing self-awareness, underpinned all the modules by providing a framework to understand and value differences. The programme also included case studies and practice sessions with ‘live’ issues.

Since launch in 2007, the event has been rolled out as part of the management development curriculum and Alison and colleagues have marketed it widely with presentations, testimonials, posters and themed road-shows to stimulate voluntary attendance.

The response, Alison says, “has been great. It’s one of the most popular courses on our books. We’ve had fantastic word-of-mouth promotion, with a major breakthrough of our evening workers actually requesting to be included. OPP were very flexible in helping us create this option. The feedback across the board has been tremendous with a reported engagement score of around 90% from participants.” As many as 1,500 managers may ultimately participate in the programme and DVLA and OPP continue to work together to fine-tune and enhance the programme in light of participant feedback.

Different from anything DVLA has done before, the programme has a strong emphasis on the individual, a focus on personal development needs and an approach tailored to the organisation’s culture. Delegates have been overwhelmingly positive about the self-knowledge achieved as a catalyst for development. This deeper understanding of their impact on others maximises the likelihood that they will achieve lasting behaviour change, and that the organisation, in turn, will achieve sustainable performance improvement.

“It’s too early to be able to measure business impact in hard numbers. But we know this programme is breaking through to people with the message that even if you have a specialist role, you depend on others to get business results. So it makes a vast difference to your effectiveness if you understand yourself and can adapt the way you work with others to get the best out of them,” Adrian says. “It’s making people thirst for more, creating a new appetite for development and a focus on unlocking potential.”

OPP were very innovative and extremely flexible with regards to how we worked together. The consultants gave us lots of ideas, and understood our business and our challenges.

Alison JorgensenHead of L&D Business Advisors Team. DVLA