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Posted by on Jun 22, 2015

From QUIET to LOUD: Military Personnel Reform

From QUIET to LOUD: Military Personnel Reform

Pentagon_160x160A Military Times article published last month reported that the Pentagon is quietly pushing for military personnel reform. While this is an exciting development, I think the push should actually be loud and swift to create the energy and momentum needed to fully rethink and modernize the DoD’s approach to managing military talent.

That being said, Acting Undersecretary for Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson’s quiet call for revolutionary change in the human resources practices at DoD is a perfect example of what it means to step up to leadership and seize an opportunity to rethink the operating assumptions about managing military talent.

14 years ago, I retired from the Air Force. While I had amazing opportunities to grow and contribute in new ways throughout my years as a military officer, I, like many of my colleagues in uniform, felt it took far too long to meet the time-in-grade requirement for promotion to the next level. Despite my readiness to take on new and more challenging roles, I can recall more than one instance where I had to wait for time to pass. For me, it was a key reason I decided to trade in my uniform for a business suit after 20 years. To know this rule is still in place, along with other recruiting, career paths, and rotation assignments rules, is a disconcerting situation.

Opportunities present themselves every day for anyone, both inside DoD and out, to step up to a leadership situation. How you choose to react is unique to you and the situation. DoD, especially because of its critically important function and unique mission, should be focused on retaining the best talent. While it may not be as loud as I’d like, through his leadership and communication, Brad Carson is quietly and deliberately setting the stage for change by sharing some of his initial thoughts as a way to begin getting others involved and energized about the hard work ahead to modernize DOD’s military personnel system.

A change effort of this magnitude will take many others to think and act differently to create this new reality.

What will it mean for DoD to think and act differently when it comes to managing military talent?

For starters, it calls for new grounding principles and practices to form a clear and big picture view of a modernized military talent system among key stakeholders. Below are some ideas to consider when you are at this stage of forming a big picture view of a new talent management system.

Grounding Principles

  • Be clear about the service value propostion – Why does a person choose military service?
  • Be clear about the culture you need to support diverse talents required to meet many important missions
  • Create strategic dialogue about connecting talent with opportunity
  • Managing performance mean up, down, across, and around
  • Think of change as a system and creativity as a way of connecting things
 Grounding Practices

  • Learn from the private sector’s flexible and technology-driven promising practices
  • Make data analytics central to all decisions and measuring success, but ensure you use the right data and understand its context
  • Think demo, trial, proof-of-concept or pilot to identify possibilities such as career & talent mobility
  • Identify and develop change role models at all levels
  • Think ongoing learning – for current performance, growth or transitions

What ideas do you think should be considered when developing a new talent management system?

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