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DDI Founders & History

Five decades of innovation in the science and practice of leadership

William C. Byham, Ph.D., and the late Douglas W. Bray, Ph.D.,William C. Byham, Ph.D., and the late Douglas W. Bray, Ph.D., co-founded DDI (Development Dimensions International) in 1970 to create and implement assessment centers that would provide actual behavioral data for hiring, promotion, and employee and management development decisions for businesses. Their groundbreaking work on assessment center methodology evolved into many of the hiring, promotion, and development best practices still used currently. Today, DDI continues to be focused on the science and research behind identifying and developing great leaders. DDI is a leading and innovative leadership company with more than 1,000 talented associates, serving a diverse roster of clients across more than 90 countries.

William C. Byham

Bill is now DDI's Executive Chairman and works with its Operating Committee to help customers and develop staff in DDI's global offices.

During the past 45+ years, Bill has forged important innovations in human resource technologies and systems that have had significant impact on organizations worldwide. These HR and management breakthroughs include: the assessment center method; behavior-based interviewing; behavioral job analysis methodology; results- and behavior-based employee and leadership training and development; empowerment; Targeted Feedback® (an alternative to 360 multi-source feedback); and Acceleration Pool® as a method of succession management. Bill has shared his advancements in 23 books and more than 300 monographs and articles. His latest book, Leaders Ready Now, written with co-authors Matt Paese, Ph.D. and Audrey Smith, Ph.D., was just published in spring 2016.

Prior to founding DDI, Bill was the manager of selection, appraisal and general management development for J. C. Penney, where he installed the first managerial assessment center for retailing in 1968, leveraging Doug’s experience and research. After the successful application of the methodology at J. C. Penney, Bill wrote the first popular article about assessment centers for the Harvard Business Review.

Bill has received more than 100 awards from organizations around the world. Notable recognitions include:

  • St. Barnabas CEO Leadership Award (2014)
  • Innovation Award for Continuous Development of Assessment Center Methods from the 3rd National Congress Assessment Center, Indonesia (2013)
  • Legacy Award (outstanding contribution to the science, practice, and organization of assessment centers) from the South African Assessment Center Study Group (2013)
  • The most prestigious award that Bill has received was in 1994 when he received the Tunku Abdul Rahman Medal, the highest civilian award given by the country of Malaysia. The two previous recipients were heads of state.
  • Gold Medal Award of Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology from the American Psychological Foundation (1991)
  • American Society for Training and Development Distinguished Contribution to Human Resource Development (1989)
  • Professional Practice Award from the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychologists (1989)
  • Outstanding Contribution to Psychology and Management Award from the Society of Psychologists in Management (1986)

In Inc. magazine (March 2003), Adam Hanft wrote: “What Tom Peters is to excellence and Jim Collins is to leadership, William C. Byham, who co-founded DDI back in 1970, might very well be to hiring.”

Douglas W. Bray

After DDI was established, Doug served as chairman of the board, and consulted with Bill and top DDI executives on a wide range of human resource matters. Doug remained in his role as AT&T's Director of Human Resources Research and Practice. While there, Doug directed the landmark 25-year Management Progress Study that followed the careers of managers as they progressed up the company ranks. The study showed that the assessment center method could successfully predict organizational achievement. Assessment centers were subsequently implemented throughout AT&T.

Doug conducted a parallel longitudinal study of workers entering the Bell System in the 1970s, working with Ann Howard, Ph.D., who became his wife in 1983. Both studies are chronicled in the book, Managerial Lives in Transition: Advancing Age and Changing Times.

Doug was a luminary in the industrial/organizational psychology community, helping to develop Bell Systems' successful supervisor relations training program and playing a key role in the early application and evaluation of behavior modeling training. He had more than 60 books and articles to his credit and was a member of the International Taskforce on Assessment Center Guidelines that established the guidelines and ethical consideration for assessment center operations, first published in 1975.

Doug held many important professional offices. Among others, he was president of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Psychological Association, and president of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Professional Psychology.

He and his wife established the Douglas W. Bray and Ann Howard Research Grant within the SIOP Foundation to support research on assessment centers and managerial or leadership development. In 1959, Dr. Bray founded the Duke Ellington Society of New York.

He was the recipient of many awards including:

  • Lifetime of Achievement in Assessment Center Methodology Award (2000)
  • Gold Medal Award of Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology, American Psychological Foundation (1991)
  • Distinguished Service and Outstanding Contribution Award, American Board of Psychologists in Management (1988)
  • Outstanding Contribution to Psychology and Management Award, Society of Psychologists in Management (1986)
  • Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (1980)
  • Distinguished Service and Outstanding Contribution Award, American Board of Professional Psychology (1988)
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