LEADERSHIP: IDEAL focuses on developing leadership competencies that include modeling trust behaviors, self-accountability, critical thinking, collaborative leadership and active listening. (Image by USAASC/sorbetto/iStock)
Competency assessment pilot measures IDEAL participants growth.
by LeAndrea White
It’s not new that leadership development programs offered by the Army Director, Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office are aligned to meet the needs of a changing Army Acquisition Workforce and strategic environment – and that is especially true about the Inspiring and Developing Excellence in Acquisition Leaders (IDEAL) program. What is new is the enhanced competency assessment that better measures and deepens the analysis of this program’s impact and true benefit to participants and even the Army.
The DACM team wanted to deliver a tool to the workforce that is different compared to that of a typical survey. This enhanced assessment, piloted with the IDEAL program, is intended to measure the progress of participants and provide results that will allow leadership to make future decisions on developmental programs based on data.
Prior to the launch of the new IDEAL competency assessment in October, the assessment was a simple 12-question survey delivered via an online survey tool that measured overall satisfaction of the program’s components and gauged if participants and their supervisors believed they gained important leadership skills. The new assessment goes beyond receiving general feedback. It has evolved into an in-depth, multifaceted self-assessment with a phased approach prior to the start of the program and after program completion. Best yet, it is delivered via Excel, which allows the DACM Office’s Operations Research and Systems Analysis (Functional Area 49) to analyze 64 different data points across the aggregate to deliver a robust assessment report.
The first phase of the IDEAL competency assessment starts when the tool is delivered to participants and their supervisors 30 days prior to program start. It establishes a baseline of the participant’s leadership development priorities and takes stock of their current proficiency levels across the leadership competencies taught throughout the IDEAL program. This prioritization allows each participant to decide what skills are most important for them to develop and possess along their career path. “The new assessment for the IDEAL program is a powerful and useful tool for self-reflection and self-evaluation as the participants measure their competencies for leadership,” said Kristine Faria, IDEAL program manager.
After course completion, the participants return to their organizations to use what they learned during IDEAL. The second assessment phase occurs nine months after course completion and the post-assessment tool will be delivered to participants and their supervisors. It is intended to compare their baseline proficiency levels to their current assessment of those same set of competencies. The DACM Office looks to answer if IDEAL enhanced one’s leadership competencies as intended.
Both phases of the assessment are critical. For participants and their supervisors, they focus on self-reflection to assess their developmental goals and how to achieve them. “Even after the IDEAL program concludes, they can continue to use the assessment as they progress in their careers and continue to strengthen their skills,” said Faria. “For the DACM Office, it allows leadership to gather data to ensure curriculum is meeting the needs of the Army Acquisition Workforce and provide the best developmental experience for its future leaders.”
Maj. Megan Evans, who works in the DACM Office’s strategy and policy branch, was an instrumental part of the team that improved and launched the assessment. “The development of the assessment was based on thoughtful research and collaboration because tomorrow’s acquisition professionals will need to combine strong leadership skills with technical execution,” said Evans.
While there is much professional and personal benefit for individuals, from an IDEAL program perspective, the analytical features embedded within the assessment tool also help identify trends and potential leadership competency gaps in the curriculum. Possibly even in the workforce.
“Quantifiable data allows us to make insightful decisions about curriculum and the overall program execution,” said Evans. “It also ensures the IDEAL program continues to be valuable and effective providing the intended positive outcomes for future participants. Those participants are the future leaders in the Army Acquisition Workforce, so we should give them the best experience so they deliver their best in our modernization programs.”
As this new competency assessment tool continues to be used for the IDEAL program, it will provide the groundwork for measured success to be used across other DACM programs. “Our acquisition workforce is a driving force in the Army that cultivates innovation and provides our warfighters with what they need to be successful. This improved assessment will enhance our ability to provide effective training and development for Army’s future acquisition leaders,” Faria declared.
The IDEAL program targets GS-12 and -13 new and emerging Army acquisition leaders who are seeking to refine their leadership skills or develop them in preparation for a supervisory or leadership position. IDEAL focuses on developing leadership competencies that include modeling trust behaviors, self-accountability, critical thinking, collaborative leadership and active listening. Overall, the IDEAL program matures individuals’ key leadership skills so that inspiring Army teams and colleagues becomes second nature. Applications for the fiscal year 2024 IDEAL program is tentatively scheduled to open in May.
For more information and details on how to apply, go to the IDEAL program website.