The U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office is a one-stop shop for everything acquisition career-related. Your Army DACM Office is responsible for ensuring acquisition career development, talent management initiatives, and Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certification (training, education and experience) of the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW). The AAW consists of approximately 37,000 Army acquisition civilian and military leaders and professionals residing in Army staff offices, Army commands, Army service component commands, program executive offices, and direct reporting units.
The Army DACM Office works directly with the Defense Acquisition University (DAU), the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Acquisition), the Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) (USD AT&L), and the USD AT&L Human Capital Initiatives (HCI) Office to enable acquisition workforce initiatives and to serve as advocates for the AAW.
Hate the SRPE?
Here’s why you should reconsider By Shannon Potter and Wen Lin, Army DACM Office Let’s be honest. Supervisors have a lot of administrative requirements and likely are not looking for more to fill their overflowing plates. So it’s not surprising that the Senior Rater Potential Evaluation (SRPE) mandated in July 2015 for GS 12-15 Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) civilians was met with mixed reviews. But here’s something you might not know: What civilians didn’t have (that the military has had for quite some time) was a tool to help identify and document individuals with future leadership potential—not performance. For the military, this is widely known as the most important part of an officer’s evaluation, carrying significant weight in boards. The AAW is made of 95 percent civilians. It’s about time we have something in place that is more equitable with our military counterparts to help identify the potential of our future Army civilian acquisition leaders. It will take time to work through some of the growing pains of change while the SRPE tool is implemented widely across the community, so we’ve compiled a list of your most frequent questions. Q: I already do a performance appraisal, why do I have to do another one? A: The SRPE is not a performance evaluation tool, nor will it affect your annual performance appraisal rating. In contrast to existing personnel appraisal systems, the SRPE evaluates an AAW civilian’s potential for future performance; while the Total Army Personnel Evaluation System and the various personnel demonstration projects evaluate current performance and contributions to the mission. So what does that all mean? In short, the SRPE helps civilian acquisition professionals and their senior raters identify strengths, weaknesses and professional competencies from a leadership potential perspective. This, in turn, helps the civilian acquisition professional identify goals for growth and allows the supervisor and employee to devise a plan to get there. With an added bonus of informing the individual development plan (IDP), the SRPE can support an employee’s future performance by illustrating a clear trajectory for growth. Q: I don’t have time for another administrative task and neither does my supervisor. A: The administrative burden was the major reason a phased approach for SRPE implementation was adopted. This allowed supervisors to get through the growing pains with a smaller group before tackling the larger population. More importantly, however, the SRPE can facilitate conversations that are part of regular supervisor-employee interactions and help guide them to practical solutions and reinforcements. This, again, will help employees and supervisors develop and refine IDPs. As far as a time burden on those having the SRPE completed on them? There isn’t one. The individual has no direct responsibility with regard to SRPE completion—other than to be receptive to the feedback they receive from their rater and senior rater. Q: What does a SRPE get me? A: The SRPE is a tool to assess a civilian acquisition professional’s potential to fill a position of increased responsibility or other training/leader development opportunities. Currently the SRPE is being used by the Army DACM Office to help determine which Army Acquisition Corps members best fit centralized selection list (CSL) positions as well as to select candidates for both the Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship Program and the Defense Acquisition University – Senior Service College Fellowship Program. In fact, last year the CSL board selected the most civilians ever for the GS-14/LTC level. The SRPE also helps you have an honest conversation with your supervisor about strengths and weaknesses. It can give you a starting place to make a plan for your acquisition career. Q: Why can’t a senior rater (SR) with only two AAW employees give exceptional potential to both? This disadvantages the SR. A: Simply put, not everyone can receive an exceptional potential (EP) evaluation. The two employees should be evaluated against each other, and the SR has to make the decision if both employees possess higher potential. Additionally, the SR does not have to give either one an EP if they are not demonstrating exceptional potential. There isn’t a distribution rule that forces the award of a certain number of EP or high potential (HP) evaluations; however, the SR cannot exceed 49 percent EP ratings within each grade profile (i.e. GS-12, GS-13, GS-14, or GS-15 equivalent). If the SR does use the EP rating for one of the two employees this year, the next year the SR cannot give another EP rating until he/she completes three more SRPEs in the same profile (2/5 = 40 percent EP). The SR should develop their own philosophy for what they consider to be EP, HP, potential (P) and marginal potential (MP). This is the time for an honest assessment of the employee’s potential. Once missing elements to achieving potential are identified, additional training, projects or assignments should be sought out for the employee. Finally, use the IDP to document and set a plan to help bridge those gaps. Q: Should only the employees who are interested in applying for product/project director boards receive an EP rating? A: No. It is important that employees deserving of an EP should receive it, not because of an intention to apply for a position or training opportunity that requires a SRPE. Employees should be compared and rated against one another in the same profile group and in accordance with the senior rater’s philosophy/expectations. An EP should be given to acquisition personnel who exhibit exceptional potential regardless of their future career aspirations or career goals. The SR should always use the SRPE as a tool to have an honest dialogue with an employee on their future potential. It may be a hard discussion to be had, but it is one supervisors owe to their employees and one that their employees need to hear. We’ve learned a lot over the last 20 months since the SRPE was mandated for GS 12-15 (or equivalent) AAW civilians. There are challenges ranging from technical hiccups coupled with the thought that this is just another administrative requirement. But this is about taking care of people. Our civilians deserve a better chance at competing for leadership opportunities on par with our military counterparts. Civilian evaluations are traditionally backward looking, highlighting past accomplishments. SRPE provides an opportunity to examine potential and future potential and a path forward. So, instead of looking at the SRPE as just another administrative requirement, look at it as the AAW’s commitment to ensuring we that have the right people with the right skills at the right time to fill our future acquisition leadership positions. To further facilitate completion of the SRPE, the Army DACM Office has released several instructional tools that can be accessed at https://rda.altess.army.mil/camp/. (Click on the CAPPMIS tab, then the SRPE tab. For additional guidance regarding the SRPE, please contact Ms. Kelly Terry at the Army DACM Office via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was published in the May 2017 issue of the DACM Newsletter. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: GoArmyEd released; soon to be linked to legacy systems Acquisition Education and Training Corner Hot Topics 2.0 November Army DACM Hot Topics
The shape of success
PEO CS&CSS makes a two-pronged effort to maximize the effectiveness of the SRPE and get the most from its workforce. by Mr. Scott J. Davis Last quarter, Craig A. Spisak, director of the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center, wrote about the importance of Senior Rater Potential Evaluations (SRPEs) in helping to identify and shape our community’s future leaders. I agree that the SRPE is a very important tool. Our current environment is uncertain and resource-constrained, and it’s often hard to spend the extra time to think critically about our workforce. Yet I’m convinced that we must make the time to shape our most important resource. We owe that to both the Army and our team members. A mechanism like the SRPE that helps us give employees, leaders and future selection boards an honest, transparent and consistent idea of civilian employee potential is powerful. While our organization’s No. 1 priority is effective program management, we cannot do that without effectively developing our people. Shaping our acquisition professionals—from early mentoring through senior-level assignments—is a serious responsibility we all share. Everyone has a stake in how we recruit, retain, motivate and develop talent across the Army Acquisition Workforce, and every employee, supervisor and leader plays an essential role in the process. Of course, the SRPE isn’t magic. It is just a tool. What matters is how we use it: how we have meaningful conversations with our civilian employees and how we communicate about our employees. A good tool used poorly—be it an integrated master schedule, a spend plan or a SRPE—usually fails to do the job well. Just as there are recognized best ways to use the tools of acquisition, so, too, must there be best ways to develop our people. The author updates the PEO CS&CSS workforce on SRPEs, their implementation and benefits during a town hall meeting in March at U.S. Army Garrison – Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan. As the program executive officer, Davis initiated a communication campaign to ensure a clear understanding of the SRPE as a vital tool that helps provide civilian employees, leaders and future selection boards with an accurate, clear and consistent picture of employee potential. (Photo by Rae Higgins, PEO CS&CSS Strategic Communications) A CONTINUING CONVERSATION At the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS), I’ve challenged our human capital team and all of our senior leaders to take SRPEs very seriously in two ways. The first is to integrate the SRPE into what should already be an ongoing conversation about every employee’s development. We can’t assess someone’s potential unless we understand who they are, what they’ve done and what they’d like to do. We cannot disconnect discussions about an employee’s potential from their career goals or the training, experiences and education they choose to pursue. This ongoing conversation or cycle begins with the Individual Development Plan (IDP), whereby an employee and a supervisor talk about the employee’s goals for their career, education, training and so on, then lay out a plan. This is where the employee describes where they see themselves and where they want to go. Based on the IDP, the employee and supervisor should make choices about future opportunities. In the SRPE, the supervisor and senior rater assess the employee’s potential—not just as an individual, but across relevant peer groups. This answers questions about where an employee is and where they can go, based on their potential: Are they skilled in the field they’d like to pursue? Have they experienced the right program type, phase and category to prepare them for the next level? Are they ready for the next step? If not, what training or experiences would get them there? An honest conversation about the SRPE helps the employee understand strengths and weaknesses, their competitive potential and what they could do to reach their career goals. After reviewing the SRPE and pursuing training or experiences, the employee and supervisor can return to the IDP and change or continue plans to meet the employee’s career goals, perhaps improving the employee’s demonstrated potential. Because this should be a continuous cycle of communication, nothing on the SRPE should shock or surprise the employee. If it does, communication was clearly lacking, and that needs to be addressed. MAXIMIZING THE SRPE’S VALUE The second way we’ve leveraged SRPEs is to think diligently about how we maximize their value for our team members’ assessment and their competitive potential. SRPEs are most effective to the Army and the employee when they provide a consistent, accurate assessment of a civilian employee’s potential for future progress against a substantial set of peers in both grade and function. Based on feedback from previous centralized selection boards, we understood that inconsistent phrasing, small cohorts, imprecise distinctions or multiple No. 1 enumerations (ratings) in the same organization caused confusion and did not enhance an employee’s competitive potential. Making distinctions meaningful, consistent and accurate is important not only for the board, but also for individual employees. In PEO CS&CSS, we established the program executive officer as the senior rater for all NH-IV employees, giving us a large pool of comparable associates, both overall and by functional group. It also means that every associate will have a SRPE from the general officer or Senior Executive Service level, which is required for centralized selection list boards and provides a consistent evaluation and enumeration for all NH-IV personnel in our organization. At the beginning of each SRPE cycle, supervisors think critically about each associate’s experience, training and demonstrated potential before participating in program manager—O-5 and O-6—meetings to negotiate and agree on an organizational order of merit list (OML). Teams develop OMLs within each organization and within each functional area. Then, at the PEO level, senior leaders negotiate a PEO-wide OML to rank our employees overall and by functional area, paying particular attention to ratings of “exceptional potential” in managing the senior rater’s overall profile. This process gives us a clear and fair assessment of potential across the more than 150 associates in our NH-IV workforce, based on discussions and input from all of our senior leaders. The process also collects draft narrative comments and recommendations for each associate’s training or experiences. To make finalizing the senior rater’s comments as efficient as possible, our staff created a Microsoft Excel-based tool with unique macros that take in the OML and suggested comments. The tool aligns recommended senior rater comments, enumerations and potential training or assignment opportunities based on career fields and experiences. It is tremendously helpful, making the process of completing senior rater comments easier and far more consistent and fair. The SRPE allows Army acquisition organizations to think critically about the workforce and each member’s competitive potential: Who are the future civilian leaders, and how can they and their supervisors best develop their potential when resources are limited? How can the SRPE be applied to generate ongoing, honest conversations with employees about their strengths, weaknesses and goals and how to meet those goals with training, education and job experiences? (Image by U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center/exdez/iStock) HOW A PEO CAN KEEP COMMUNICATION REAL There’s one additional point I’d like to emphasize about SRPEs and any changes we make in how we recruit, retain, motivate and develop our people: Real communication matters. Shortly after coming aboard at PEO CS&CSS, I conducted a climate survey and found myself both surprised and troubled by some responses. When asked whether their organization’s leadership would treat them fairly, too few of our team members responded positively, and even fewer thought their leadership would represent their best interests or support their career advancement. Ever since, we’ve made fairness, consistency and transparency major themes of every change we’ve made in the area of human capital, including SRPEs. I’m pleased that two years later, our climate results showed approximately an 8 percent improvement across our O-6-led project management offices. In the case of the SRPEs, many of our associates and their supervisors had to learn what a SRPE was and how it fit into their development activities, and our approach to consolidated SRPE management took some getting used to. We initiated a deliberate communication campaign, beginning with our supervisors, to ensure a clear understanding of not only what we were doing but why. We first briefed all leaders at the O-6 level, followed by a supervisory all-hands meeting, a discussion on SRPEs during organizational town halls and direct messages to the workforce from me. I also wanted to position our supervisors for success, so our human capital and communications teams devised a specific guide to shape each SRPE review session. Not every supervisor needed the assistance, but developing our supervisors is no less important than developing the people they supervise. Giving supervisors standard questions to ask improves individual IDP and SRPE reviews, and helps embed consistency throughout our development cycle. CONCLUSION We’re only in our second year with this process, but so far, anecdotal feedback from centrally selected boards is positive. Just as importantly, our workforce appears to be understanding the process well, including their ability to better understand their own potential. This is important, especially as we begin the process this year of formal SRPEs for our larger population of associates at the NH-III level. We have to make sure to use the tools in a way that continues to enhance the way our team members, supervisors and those beyond our organization understand potential and possibility. Fundamentally, understanding is about communicating, and when it comes to developing our people, that conversation should never end. Talking about goals, potential and opportunities must occur not just at SRPE time, but rather as part of an ongoing, everyday activity. Our people and our Army will be stronger as a result. For more information, contact Liesel Folden, PEO CS&CSS’ workforce development lead for human capital and assistant PEO for strategic management, at email@example.com or read Mr. Spisak’s column on the importance of SRPEs, “Tough Choices, Powerful Tool,” in the April – June issue of Army AL&T. MR. SCOTT J. DAVIS is the program executive officer for combat support and combat service support. He holds an M.S. in industrial engineering from Wayne State University and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 30 years, retiring at the rank of colonel in May 2015. He was selected for the Senior Executive Service in 2005. A member of the Army Acquisition Corps, he holds Level III certifications in program management and engineering. This article is scheduled to be published in the July-September 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: December Army DACM Office Hot Topics Army acquisition product directors selected in first-ever board Energizing the Base Building A Better Mirror
Annual ASA(ALT) acquisition writing competition showcases workforce talent; creativity
By Karen D. Kurtz WASHINGTON (June 26, 2017) – The Principal Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)), Maj. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, announced the fourth annual Maj. Gen. Harold J. “Harry” Greene Awards for Acquisition Writing competition today to encourage critical writing focused on Army acquisition. “The annual writing competition is designed to showcase the tremendous talent and creativity within the acquisition community and those associated with it,” said Ostrowski. “Each year, we invite participants to candidly share their ideas, expertise, and experiences by writing about them,” he continued. “In doing so, we honor a leader who was passionate about our responsibility to provide Soldiers with the best equipment in the world.” Designed to drive the dialogue about meeting and overcoming challenges in delivering capabilities to the Warfighter, the competition is open to anyone and seeks maximum participation, especially by members of the defense acquisition workforce. “We are living in interesting times,” Ostrowski said. “We need to think and write clearly about our challenges and opportunities. This competition is the perfect venue to reflect on Army acquisition – its past, present, and future.” Prospective authors may submit articles, opinion pieces, or essays from 500 words to 1,800 words in one of four categories including lessons learned; innovation; future operations; or acquisition reform. The 2016 winners and honorable mentions were published in a supplement accompanying the January 2017 edition of Army AL&T magazine. They were also honored at the U.S. Army Acquisition Executive’s Awards Ceremony and Banquet held in Springfield, Virginia, in December 2016. Submissions must be unclassified, original, not previously published or submitted to a writing competition, and completed during Fiscal Year 2017. Four award winners will be selected, one in each category with four additional works selected for honorable mention. All entries must be submitted by email no later than midnight September 26, 2017. Additional information about the competition is found at the ASA(ALT) website, including the call for submissions. The winners will be recognized at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C. One of the authors earning an honorable mention in the innovation category during the first competition noted the benefits of participating. “It provided a means to have my voice heard other than just through the established chain of command in submitting comments and recommendations for draft regulation reviews, and it also served as an important way to represent [Lower Tier Project Office],” said David Cook, from Program Executive Office Missiles and Space. The acquisition writing competition is named for Maj. Gen. Greene, the Deputy Commanding General of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, who was killed by an Afghan Soldier on Aug. 5, 2014, while making a visit to Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was promoted to Maj. Gen. in 2012 while serving as the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management in ASA(ALT) prior to deploying in January 2014 to Afghanistan. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: Defense Acquisition University (DAU) FY15 training schedule now open August Army DACM Office Hot Topics September Army DACM Office Hot Topics Time for Talent