The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 46

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.
| (202) 647-8160 | @matthewasada
Bidding and 360s
The 2015 summer assign-
ments cycle has begun, so I
want to highlight efforts to
improve the assignments
process—in particular, the
360-degree evaluation com-
Each year AFSA negotiates
with the State Department
the procedures governing the
assignments season. AFSA’s
goal is to ensure a level play-
ing field and maximize the
efficiency and transparency of
the process for the depart-
ment, the individual employee
and bidders as a whole.
All employees should have
a fair shot at positions for
which they are qualified. That
is why the process of remov-
ing positions from the overall
pool (i.e., linked assignments)
is so troubling.
In addition to meeting the
department’s goal of “trying
to get the right person, with
the right skills, in the right
position,” it is important to
consider the employee’s own
professional development
and personal concerns in the
assignments process.
Ideally, such a process
would maximize overall
employee utility, and do so
in the most efficient man-
ner possible. However, the
decentralized decision-
making system; the absence
of a sophisticated matching
program; and the lack of full
information about employee
preferences, performance
and potential, all contribute
to overall system inefficien-
Although regional bureaus
will likely continue to control
assignments, there is some
interesting work being done
on the development of a
matching algorithm. Particu-
larly at the entry level, where
assignments are directed,
such an approach could save
time and prevent sub-optimal
Several years ago, medical
schools successfully intro-
duced such an algorithm
into the resident-residency
matching process. A Foreign
Service bidding algorithm
could yield similarly produc-
tive results.
Even if such an algorithm
were to exist, however, posts
and bureaus would still suffer
from incomplete informa-
tion about an employee’s
performance and potential.
Enter the 360-degree evalu-
ation and several bureaus’
attempts to address this
information deficiency.
CBAT–Another CA Inno-
Last year, the Bureau
of Consular Affairs piloted its
Consular Bidding Assessment
Tool for officers bidding on
senior supervisory positions.
This year it has refined the
tool (CBAT 2.0) and expanded
participation to all employees
bidding on consular positions
The Bureau of Human
Resources built its own
deputy chief of mission/
principal officer assessment
tool (called DAT), modeled
on the first-generation CBAT,
and is piloting it this year with
MC-level DCM/PO positions
Finally, the Bureaus of
Near Eastern Affairs and
South and Central Asian
Affairs continue to refine their
joint 360 bidder reference
portal, relaunching it this
year as the 360 Community
Lobbying Center. The center
further simplifies the process
for candidates and their
references for assignments
in regional and functional
bureaus that have opted to
use the single system.
While AFSA would like to
see a more holistic review
of the assignments process
to address employee and
management concerns, we
are encouraged by briefings
CA decided to
scrap the traditional 360 in
favor of this improved tool.
The beauty of CBAT is that
both management and the
employee receive the sum-
marized feedback from the
anonymous contributors.
In addition, the tool informs
management’s selection pro-
cess and the employee’s own
professional development.
AFSA sees value in this
professional development
tool and has worked with CA
to address concerns regard-
ing access, data retention and
use. In our view, access to the
raw data and final product
must be strictly limited,
disposed of within the year
(not retained) and only used
in the assignments process.
The CBAT report should not
become part of the official
performance file; nor should
it be used for other assess-
ment purposes.
DCM/PO Assessment
The Bureau of Human
Resources’ DCM/PO assess-
ment tool is a good start.
However, it lacks the CA tool’s
professional development
value because the employee
does not receive a copy of
the results. AFSA hopes that
DAT 2.0 will also include an
employee feedback mecha-
nism and, if found success-
ful, will replace rather than
supplement the existing 360
reference process.
360 CLC.
NEA and
SCA’s effort to optimize
the existing 360-degree
evaluation process with a
centralized reference portal
is an improvement over the
status quo. If you are going to
request 360s, why not make
them easier for all to collect?
Moreover, it is exciting to see
the intrabureau cooperation
on this organic effort.
However, it is worth asking
whether the 360 evaluation
process is worth doing at all.
Might there be an altogether
better way of improving infor-
mation about an employee’s
performance and potential,
and providing the employee
with constructive feedback?
In this regard, CBAT 2.0
looks promising. We will have
to see how the expanded
rollout goes. I’m thinking of
bidding on a consular posi-
tion just to test it out.
Next month: Promoting
Diversity in the Foreign Service
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