Archives for November 1998


You Can’t Fool the Troops

Naval Institute Proceedings

Too many officers are being promoted on the backs of their men.

Performance evaluation systems are currently undergoing massive change in corporate America, and we have studied this revolution closely in business school. In addition, I sought out the judgments of business school classmates with military backgrounds; called the Off Duty Club, we meet to discuss how business case studies may or may not pertain to the ‘business’ of the military. We recognized that every branch is struggling with performance evaluations.

The Air Force Officer Performance Report underwent a full-scale review in 1995. The Navy changed its report in 1996; the Army in 1997; the Marines will do so in 1998. No single service has emerged with the model which has been accepted by the others. It is inherently contradictory to assert that operations must be more joint, but the evaluations whereby leaders of the joint operations are selected must be separate and disjoint.

Military performance measurement is a difficult task. As Stanford Business School Professors Baron and Kreps write, “When a firm is unclear on how to precisely measure performance, it often expends a lot of energy tinkering with different schemes.” The Services are in good company: a 1993 survey of Fortune 500 companies reported that 90% considered their evaluation systems to be unsuccessful. But that is changing. There is currently a rush in corporate America to replace the methodology by which leaders are evaluated, counseled and promoted. The Services should take heed.