Success Story in Brief

A case study of how the United States Naval Command shored up its leadership pipeline with a thinking-based mentoring program.


Success rate among mentor/mentee pairs (up from 50%)

About the US Navy

The United States Navy is a seaborne branch of the military of the United States. The mission of the U.S. Navy is to protect and defend the right of the United States and our allies to move freely on the oceans and to protect our country against her enemies.



To successfully match mentors and mentees in order to build trust, accelerate knowledge
transfer and develop new leaders in the wake of retirements.

In 1990, the U.S. Naval Command launched a formal mentoring program at its Philadelphia site as part of a comprehensive human capital strategy. The program, complete with a graduation ceremony, was designed to develop future leaders, provide overall career mentoring and fill the potential gaps in expertise and leadership created by the retirement of valued employees. When the program was launched, 120 participants immediately enrolled.


Trust and communication barriers hampering the effectiveness of the mentor-mentee

While the program was popular, only half of the mentor-mentee pairs had been successful match-ups. Those working on the program quickly saw the need for a trustworthy system for appropriately matching mentor with mentee that would allow open communication outside the chain of command. They were also searching for a matching mechanism that would foster the quickest way for mentors to pass along crucial workplace knowledge gleaned from experience.


Using the HBDI® to match mentors and mentees with similar thinking preferences and
providing a Whole Brain® Toolkit for ongoing action planning, personal development
and discussion as well as long-range career strategy development.

After evaluating several options, the U.S. Naval Command selected the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI®), Herrmann International’s 120-question assessment, as the primary mechanism for matching mentors and mentees in the program. The HBDI® defines and describes an individual’s degree of preference for thinking in each of the four quadrants of the brain, as depicted by the Whole Brain® Model. Herrmann International had been a partner with the U.S. Naval Command since 1982, and the company’s Whole Brain® Thinking methodology had already been successfully applied to previous U.S. Naval Command projects.


Mid- and end-of-year evaluations allowed HBDI® matches to be monitored through- out the course of the program. Responses to HBDI® matching techniques have been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the compatibility between mentor and mentee is such that many continue meeting well beyond formal participation. Out of 800 matches made, only five participants declared a mismatch, a 99% success rate. Long-term studies and analyses indicate that over one-third of early participants in the U.S. Naval Command’s employee mentoring program have risen to higher-level managerial positions.