Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fair?

Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fair?

Postby 12345qwert » Tue Jul 08, 2014 5:31 pm

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” – but when it comes to promotion/command selection boards in the Navy, perhaps these pictures adversely affect the selection process – and don’t allow our records to TRULY "speak for themselves.”

Enlisted Sailors (E-6 to E-9) and officers up for promotion in the Navy know that each selection board (for advancement/command) requires an updated picture to go along with our “package.” Before reading the rest of this, it’s worth noting (up front) that while the Army and Navy require this picture, the Air Force and Coast Guard no longer require it (I am unsure about the USMC).

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to get to serve as a “recorder” for a selection board (an absolute MUST for anyone who plans to make a career of the Navy – you get to “see how the sausage is made”). After I returned, one of my mentors asked me if I thought it was a “fair” process. I told the officer that it was, but I thought it could be “fairer,” but wasn’t sure exactly how. Below, I will argue that we should TRULY allow our records to “speak for themselves” (a phrase I am certain you’ve heard throughout your career) by (1) removing the picture, (2) removing references to gender, and (3) removing the ability to speak on behalf of a Sailor you’ve worked.

1. Removing the picture: When I was a recorder on a board, I asked one of the senior officers that was a board member why the pictures were required (the pictures were the first thing we looked at when grading AND reviewing a record in front of the board (make SURE your picture is updated within the last two years before you go up for promotion)).

The officer stated that pictures ensure that the servicemember is maintaining uniform and fitness standards. Yet, what does the way that someone looks tell you about their fitness? Our FITREPS include only a P/M/F for our PFA scores, so isn’t that enough to determine if someone is “fit enough to serve.” If we want to determine fitness levels, why not include the OUTSTANDING/EXCELLENT/GOOD/SATISFACTORY/FAILURE scores (I am CERTAIN that would motivate everyone to give 100% on their PRTs)? How can you tell by looking at a picture of someone how fit they are – and do we want this "evaluation" to be a major factor in determining advancement?

* The DOWNSIDE to pictures. If the only reason that the Navy needs pictures is to evaluate whether Sailors maintain standards, we should also be aware of the downsides to this approach. I will be honest, I am a white male who is rarely the “other,” but (like all of you) I have worked with a diverse group of Sailors in my career and (like all of you) I want to ensure that everyone has the best chance to succeed based on their performance.

If you think that you don’t notice someone’s gender and/or race, try taking this test (it will only take 5 minutes). Please do so before proceeding (it will really open your eyes): https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.

(a) How does knowing someone's GENDER impact selection? Before you make any judgments, please read this article (http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2013/le ... ying-field), this one (http://leaderonomics.com/articles/women ... tereotypes) or watch this clip from the Daily Show (http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/09yfp ... tled-women)

(b) How does knowing someone’s RACE impact selection? Before you say “I am colorblind,” please read this article (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6919.html).

2. Removing the gender from FITREPs. If we know that we evaluate men and women leaders differently (whether we want to or not), why not just leave the gender references out of the discussion? Does it matter whether it was a “he” or a “she” that led the operations department? Or is it about the performance itself.

3. Inside of the selection board, board members can only speak POSITIVELY on behalf of the servicemembers they’ve worked with in the past. Although the intent is to prevent adverse comments being made about servicemembers that can’t answer for themselves, the reality is that this rule puts those servicemembers who DON’T know one of the randomly assigned board members at a DISTINCT disadvantage to those that happen to know a board member. Why not just let the records speak for themselves?

These minor tweaks will not “fix” the system entirely, as they will put MUCH more emphasis on the officers writing/signing the FITREPs that the board sees (and the subjective decisions those officers make on who is the “best” and how “competent” they are), BUT those “raters” at least get to see the officer/enlisted Sailor enough to “judge” their performance. The decision is less about what you look like – and more about what you do.

For those that might be interested in how we can go about addressing some of the implicit biases we all have, please consider the following articles:

* http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-Uni ... 082613.pdf

* http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/feeli ... workplaces

I am intrigued to hear your thoughts.
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby Sum1 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:00 pm

I think your first two points are valid, but I'm not particularly excited to discuss them. Your third point, however, is intriguing because it indirectly brings up another issue at hand with the nature of many of our assignments. How many O-3s going up for O-4 haven't been to a big NIOC since their first tour as Ensigns? With our pipeline/career progression the way it is (I use those terms very loosely, as we all know there isn't a "pipeline" in the truest sense of the word) constructed the way they are, I would argue many IWOs doing some of the best work out there in small commands or as one of ones will be dramatically under-represented when the board time comes compared to other IWO brethren who hung out at big NIOCs/IWO-centric commands. Who speaks to the record of a Sailor who's been to NPS, then PCS afloat, then a national billet like DIA or similar where they may be the only IWO present, or had minimal interaction with others around?
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby Mjölnir » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:36 am

I too have been a recorder and share your insight that the process is much more fair than any rumor I had heard prior to my TAD to Millington.

-- I agree that looking at a picture doesn't tell a board member if you are actually in good physical shape or not; I have long voiced my personal opinion that we should change the format of how we report the PFA to show how well a member does. Either annotating the category of their performance (OUTSTANDING/EXCELLENT/GOOD/SATISFACTORY/FAILURE) vice just P or F will as you argue, motivate people to do more than the minimum to just get the P. If the Navy really believed in the 'Culture of Fitness" we would at least put that quantitative score on the report. I am not advocating that the PFA become the litmus test for promotion, but there is little incentive to push beyond the minimum.

-- Removing gender from FITREP's: I am in favor of this, but my desire to keep the photo would foul the intent. We would also need to remove references to people in FITREPs by their first name and not have the first name listed on the OSR, PSR etc ... I don't know too many males named Jennifer or females named David. As stated, removing gender references would put the promotion candidate behind the 'curtain' mentioned in the orchestra example from the Stanford article. I think the hardest part of this for me would be if I were a briefer and not using pronouns in discussing the candidate.

From the Stanford article:
"Since the 1970s, the percentage of women musicians in orchestras has risen from 5 percent to 25 percent. What changed? Did orchestras begin aggressively recruiting women? Did more women start studying music? Did sexist audition evaluators retire? Turns out it was as simple as auditioning musicians behind privacy screens. From behind such barriers, judges now evaluate musicians without knowing their gender. The result—candidates are judged more fairly and more women now make the cut."

My concern with this example and line of thinking is that it does not address what percentage of the candidates were female. If prior to the 1970’s 5-10% of the candidates were female and 5% of those selected were also female, that would seem proportionate. If after the 1970’s the percentage of candidates rose (at the same time as the screen was introduced) that was also a factor.

I was told by one of my former commanding officers that “ducks vote for ducks, you need to go to sea and get a warfare qualification.” I understand the logic and have been in tactical commands enough to know that a particular pin on your shirt (SWO on the waterfront, jump wings if working with NSW or JSOC etc.) goes a long way toward credibility and/or acceptance. I worked very hard to get my SWO & TAO qualification and would not want them neutralized out of my record, but this also is a type of bias and removing it would only negate a significant milestone for any Naval Officer. So on some level I have to acknowledge that there will (as said) always be some types of bias in boards, QRB's and our perceptions of those around us.
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby TarHeel98 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:33 pm

Just a small question-is the point to make the process fairer or more accurate and precise. If the goal is promoting the best qualified based on the paper, that is done pretty well. If the issue is whether the paper best reflects the best qualified, that raises different issues. I would venture that the way to achieve promoting the best qualified is not to change the board process so much as to change the paper as well as transparency and predictability in terms of career progression and detailing. Should we be asking instead, what factors, other than performance, are coloring records (timing, for example). Granted, this is far from an easy examination, that shouldn't make said examination less necessary for improvement in selection of the best qualified.
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby COMEVIL » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:37 pm

I think you are missing the point. The real problem, as you touch on, is the write up. The paper gets promoted, not the person. Unfortunately, we are rarely honest when we generate the paper.

v/r

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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby Schlag » Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:53 am

COMEVIL wrote:Unfortunately, we are rarely honest when we generate the paper.


Until we get that right, there isn't a system on Earth that will be deemed "fair" enough.

That said, "fair" has always been an interesting point for me because fairness is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I would have to say though that I think the statutory board process is pretty fair.

With regard to the administrative board process, I'm not too sure. Do they play by the same rules? Or do things get a little faster and looser?

The other thing that has confused me about the IDC is the fact that there is a Command and Milestone Board which screens people for O-5 and senior billets; however, there isn't a Milestone screening process for our O-4 MIlestones or for LCDR XO Billets. To me, that seems a little unfair and I'm not too sure how those are vetted and decided upon. That might just be though because I'm used to the SWO paradigm where there is a screening board for DH. Sure you're first look is as a LTJG and the board typically screens 90% of a YG in the first board; but at least there is a process and only screened individuals are offered contracts and subsequently slated for jobs (ultimately based on the strength of their record against their peers).
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby Sum1 » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:40 am

Schlag wrote:
The other thing that has confused me about the IDC is the fact that there is a Command and Milestone Board which screens people for O-5 and senior billets; however, there isn't a Milestone screening process for our O-4 MIlestones or for LCDR XO Billets. To me, that seems a little unfair and I'm not too sure how those are vetted and decided upon.


Are you referring to paragraph 3 of this document?
https://mpte.portal.navy.mil/sites/NPC/ ... 202014.pdf

(requires CAC to get to)

Schlag wrote: That might just be though because I'm used to the SWO paradigm where there is a screening board for DH. Sure you're first look is as a LTJG and the board typically screens 90% of a YG in the first board; but at least there is a process and only screened individuals are offered contracts and subsequently slated for jobs (ultimately based on the strength of their record against their peers).


Well, considering a couple of SWOs I saw on the selection for LCDR list this time around and knowing how much they struggled as DHs, there must have been some REALLY bad SWOs out there. I don't think we have that same issue as IWOs. There are good officers every single board who are passed over, and you can argue it's a result of the overall strength of the community (or something else similarly as "squishy").
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby Schlag » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:05 am

Sum1 wrote:Are you referring to paragraph 3 of this document?
https://mpte.portal.navy.mil/sites/NPC/ ... 202014.pdf


Yup, that would be the one. Internal screening by PERS-472 is not the same as a screening board.

Sum1 wrote:Well, considering a couple of SWOs I saw on the selection for LCDR list this time around and knowing how much they struggled as DHs, there must have been some REALLY bad SWOs out there.


Couple of things at play there. SWO MSR retention is literally a third of ours (compare our retention which the OCM told our Wardroom was better than 90% to SWO retention which is around 30%). Also our opportunity this time around was at 80%. SWO on the other hand had an effective opportunity of 90%+ this cycle (like most other cycles) despite the URL-wide opportunity of 70%. Both of those facts combined mean that there will be some SWO that just have to survive their tour whereas our promotions boards will typically show a lot of good people the door.

I would say this though, a SWO DH tour is nothing to poke fun at. Our #1 DH during my SWO tour told me that being a DH is all about just keeping your head above water and trying to survive the sharks that are trying to kill you. Seeing the crap he'd have to deal with on a daily basis, I can understand why he'd say that.

*Edited for quote box clean-up (I hate those things...)
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby Sum1 » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:51 am

Trust me, I'm not taking anything away from the difficulty of the SWO DH tour, and this guy was the nicest guy on the planet, but he struggled. He basically almost got fired numerous times.
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Re: Is our promotion and command selection process TRULY fai

Postby yoshi » Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:05 pm

If it isn't announced as a screening board, that means someone is picking, and not a group using a process. I speculate this means some of the milestone billets are slated and then presented to community leader(s) for approval (such as FCC/CYBERCOM), while other billets are simply decided in Millington (the fleet ones, minus CRC jobs, maybe). I cannot imagine the process we are using for these milestone billets will survive very much longer, as it does not give everyone an equitable shot. It is based on performance, but only considers certain people within a specific PRD window. Also, it is very susceptible to being affected by personality differences between the detailers/community leader and candidates for those billets.

Considering the effect milestone billets have (they are essentially a first filter) on O5 promotion and the O5 command screening process (pretty close to synonymous with O6 promotion), the right thing to do is to find a more legitimate process. Yep, there would be challenges in doing so, but it is something which can be - and should be - done. I personally like the idea of O4 milestone billets, as we now have a way for officers to understand where they are, how they are perceived, and how long they can realistically expect their career to last. A screening process (even a loose one) is preferable to the status quo, as it is more honest and ultimately a better deal for the officer/family. I think this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate integrity, as I know this O4 milestone topic has generated much churn. It isn't any worse for the Navy, since the community already knows who it has tagged as having command potential at about the O4 level, and certainly by O5 (O5 command screen of course). I think removing the uncertainty at O4 would best serve our community and the Navy. More might retire sooner as O4s, but the promotion percentage for O5 could increase to accommodate, allowing the community to keep the same people (in number) it considers future leaders.
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