Monday, October 1, 2012

Doing the minimum

Interesting article today concerning reputation here:

The military is an interesting animal when it comes to reputation. On one hand, we have a rank structure and a host of instructions that would at first glance seem to make reputation almost a thing of the past. We have PQSs, AQDs, JQRs, school codes, test results, PFA scores, and a whole host of mechanistic functions that measure our aptitude and ability. It's amazing how much you can glean by a quick glance at someones ODCR or ESR, or even from just one FITREP or EVAL.

And yet, anyone who has sat on a ranking board for sailors knows that what is listed on paper isn't the only thing. How many of us have had to comment "Yes, I know he/she looks great on paper, but on deployment...." or "This sailor deserves an EP because he/she gets stuff done, and you'd want him/her to have your back when things get rough." No matter how hard we try, the intangibles that come with being human beings always seem to come out, and can never really be quantified, even in the 21st century.

If reputation will only continue to be more relevant in the future, then are we really setting our sailors up for success with our standard career advice? We tell sailors to take jobs to get specific codes, schools and experiences, to "buff up their record." But is the sailor that takes the tough jobs always the best one? Just because a sailor takes a job in Bahrain or Djibouti, does it make that sailor someone we want to lead people in the future?

I think we've lost the point of career advice because we focus on the minimum. We want certain jobs because we get an AQD, or overseas duty, or joint duty, or another "check in the block" in our careers. Gotta get that DIVO tour...check. Never mind if we learned anything, it just needs to be on our record. Gotta get a department head tour in...check. Never mind if we were effective or turned out a great product. Short of getting fired or breaking the law or a ship, we're going to get pushed up if we hit the right career wickets.

We're missing the point. For example, the reason detailers want officers to do a DIVO tour is to experience what it's like to lead a small group of sailors. You're a division OFFICER, not a MANAGER. You're expected to help make your division better. If you have a low performing division, then maybe you have a lot of work ahead of you, but it's pretty easy to go up when you're close to rock bottom. For the most part, we don't have this problem in the Navy, as we recruit pretty good sailors and do a decent job at initial training.

The problem is in attaining excellence. If our division, or department, or command, is GOOD, we see no reason to make it GREAT. We run in the daily grind that is required, and so long as we deliver our minimums, we feel we're doing what is right for our career...after all, we're a DIVO right? If we strive to meet only the minimums, we accomplish just that: the minimum.

Wars aren't won by doing the minimum. Great things aren't achieved by doing the minimum. Great sailors aren't built by mediocre leadership, and definitely aren't built by people who simply consider themselves managing an established process.

Your reputation isn't just a sum of accounting codes on your electronic record. Put in the hard work and learn the lessons your current job is designed to teach you. It will get noticed, not always on your electronic record, but rather by the reputation you have with others.