Performance Matters

BY PHILLIP KNAUSS, DIRECTOR, SUPPLY CORPS OFFICER PLANS, NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND OFFICE OF PERSONNEL

For years Supply Corps officer promotion statistics have been calculated to understand how officers compare against one another based on their qualifications or established expertise. For example, how well did officers who had trained and worked in the contracting career field compare with officers who trained and worked in petroleum management or supply chain management? Milestone achievement comparisons for selected versus not selected officers have also been among the statistics. Miles tone achievements have considered whether an officer has completed Joint Professional Military Education (JPME), has earned Joint Qualified Officer status, has become a member of the Acquisition Corps (AC ), has completed an Individual Augmentation/Global Support Assignment or whether or not an officer has successfully earned a master’s degree. Finally, comparisons have been made between selected and not selected officers based on demographics.

Statistics that have compared officers based on their affiliation with a particular Supply Corps line of operation or based on a particular demographic association have proven to be straight forward to calculate given the binary nature and availability of the related data. Fair share representations have been illustrated and communicated. Over time, some modest, and not unexpected, trends have emerged. Beyond the rank of Lieutenant Commander (Lt. Cmdr.) officers must have a master’s degree and at least JPME Phase I in their records to remain competitive. Further, officers with either AC membership, Joint qualification or both in their records also have fared better, on average, than their peers. Correlation-based association with a particular line of operation or demographic affiliation has been weaker and less consistent by comparison. What has been missing is, ‘how well did officers perform relative to their fellow officers or relative to officers previously reviewed by their reporting seniors (RS)?’

Recent enhancements within the Naval Supply Systems Command Office of Personnel (SUP OP) data analytics tools provided an opportunity in 2015 to look at promotion statistics from a revised vantage point – Performance. This is particularly significant because promotion boards are, by their very nature, entrusted to recommend the ‘best’ and ‘most fully qualified’ officers for promotion. Because the data sets needed to perform this analysis were only available for the past two years, it may be premature to liken the findings to revealing the ‘holy grail’. That notwithstanding, the findings do tend to confirm that ‘performance matters’.

To illustrate this perspective, promotion statistics were compared for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016 Commander (Cmdr.) and Lt. Cmdr. statutory promotion boards. Promotion milestones such as warfare qualification and number of operational tours were considered as were performance and non-performance indicators such as number of Fitness Reports (FITREPs) above versus below RS average, Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) results and FITREP ‘Air Gaps’ (failure to be given an Early Promote or Must Promote when the RS was not constrained by opportunity).

The analysis considered selection status and performance criteria for more than 400 officers across the four promotion boards reviewed. The analysis found only one example of an officer selected for promotion (Lt. Cmdr.) who had not successfully met a valued community milestone. To better understand the performance measure results, special attention was given to officers who were selected despite having a record element that might negatively influence their selection competitiveness. This person-by-person review yielded an important commonality among the population of officers – sustained superior performance. It also illustrated that statutory promotion boards, as evidenced by the board outcomes, do not reflect a ‘zero defect’ mentality. Statistically speaking, officers certainly enhance their competitiveness for selection by avoiding negative record attributes. For example, based on the data analyzed, officers with an Air Gap FITREP or an individual trait mark of one or two had a near zero selection probability and oftentimes had other detracting elements in their record. Conversely, about one in four officers with a PFA failure were selected for promotion. What was clearly evident in the selected officer’s records, however, was sustained superior performance juxtaposed to what was often a single PFA failure. The analysis also encompassed a more subtle measure of performance using FITREP averages. Specifically, the evaluation reviewed when an officer’s FITREP average was more often below than above their respective RS’s cumulative average. Based on this element alone, selection probability dipped below 20 percent. For officers considered for promotion to Cmdr. the analysis also revealed a 30 percent selection probability for Lt. Cmdrs. who had never broken out in competition. That said, the records of officers who were selected without having broken out in competition had something in common – demonstrated sustained superior performance.

Without consideration for the specific qualifications or skills that an officer earned over their career, the performance related analysis highlighted one and often multiple factors that existed in well over half of the officer records for officers who were not selected for promotion. The analysis revealed that statutory selection boards select officers for promotion based on sustained superior performance even with comparatively detracting elements such as a PFA failure in an officer’s record. The most obvious takeaway is that, ‘Performance Matters’.

March/April 2016