Fitness Reports and Selection Boards “What you need to know to write evaluations that will get your personnel promoted” CDR Ralph T. Soule
Background • Based on Senior member on ED FY01LCDR Selection Board • Good individuals were hurt by apparent lack of familiarity with the new FITREP system and/or planning by the CO. • Even with 95% selection, it was a tough job to leave quality folks on table. • Assembled fitrep writing suggestions • Collected lessons learned from BUPERS/other Communities • Collected comments from various flag officers & captains • Hope to help all understand how the system works • Understand the OSR/PSR & how it is used on boards • Recommend that you volunteer for a selection board • Learn Competition strategies to get best people promoted • DEVELOP PLAN FOR WRITING FITREPS
Learning Objectives • Understand the Selection Board process in order to write a better fitrep. • Understand the importance of a fitrep-writing strategy to help promote those you think should be promoted. • Understand significance of ‘Reporting Senior’s Average’ and the hidden dangers of not knowing this average. • Identify ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of Fitrep writing
Preview of Brief • Fitness Report System • Develop a FITREP grading strategy for tour /career • Importance and pitfalls of Reporting Senior’s Average • Fitrep Keys • Fitness Reports and “Confidence Building” • Billets/Jobs assigned • Numerical Grades and Averages • Recommendations for Promotion • Narratives • The Selection Board process • Selection Board and Fitness Report Takeaways
Fitness Report Keys • A FITREP is the single most important document that will cross your desk • It determines the fate of your subordinates • Write it as your memo to the selection board on whether the individual should be promoted. • “It should not be written as a counseling tool” • Keep fitreps timely but labor over them (invest in your people) • Stay current on the NAVADMINS • Did you know that there are now unlimited MPs for O-3’s? • What message is sent if you mark one O-3 as “P”? • All NAVADMINs can be found atwww.persnet.navy.mil
Reporting Senior’s Special Charge • Accountable to: • Navy for frank assessment • Officer for frank assessment • Why should anyone have to draft his/her own FITREP? • You must go eyeball to eyeball and explain yourself • You owe each candidate a record review • Work on Plan B BEFORE the selection board • Be honest • Have a plan for each ratee • Fratricide is not in the best interest of the Navy
Getting Started • Do regular counseling session with personnel • You must do this to know what they are doing so you can evaluate • Take notes • Schedule a time to discuss fitrep • Do not let them write it • Consider what you think the 3 bullets should be • Discuss bullet with individual, get their input
Getting Started • Based solely on performance during the rating period, rank your personnel. • With brutal honesty, answer the question: Should this person be promoted to the next grade? • Determine when pers will zone to next grade. • How many opportunities will you have to rate each individual? What ranking was the last fitrep? • Seek input from key players. • Determine final ranking.
Fitrep Approach • Officer’s writing evals need to develop a strategy for their tour, for writing FITREPs, and especially for grading. • Without a strategy, you can hurt the flexibility you should have in the future to help those you really want promoted. • You owe it to your future subordinates • You need to know promotion zones, who is up for promotion at your command, and who is just below zone that could unexpectedly be drawn in to zone
Soule Strategy • Determine relative ranking in group • Consider who is eligible for promotion • Consider the “plan” for this person • Write the verbiage • Assign grades (easiest part)
Effective Fitrep Checklist • Intro paragraph(major accolades, breakout (peer ranking)) • Some details of leadership, supervisory and management accomplishments • Evidence candidate is ready to accept increased responsibility • Professional expertise, qualifications, and outside rate involvement • Personal achievements (SOQ, SOY, etc.) • Off-duty education, and community service, particularly if it helps the Navy • Wrap-up paragraph to emphasize overall highlights, ranking (if not covered in intro paragraph), and recommendations.
Ranking Strategy • Pattern of performance has a major visual impact • Grade trends, improving, decreasing or erratic speak strongly • Successive improving FITREPs by same senior very helpful • Repeated marks by same senior (good or bad) have heavier weight than single data point • Ranking Amongst Their Peers • Strongest indicator of performance • Look for creative break-outs to reinforce the grades; “My NR 1 CDO/IWO/Ship Sup” • If mandatory distribution requires nod to one of two equal performers…put them both above your average and use the narrative for the lower performance recommendation (MP) to break him out as identical to the EP
Ranking Strategy • No such thing as a “fleet average”…it is the Reporting Senior’s Average that matters! • Don’t inflate your grades early in your career…learn to use the system • Start low to provide flexibility • Your first Fitrep grade ever written IS your average…it CANNOT be viewed as bad. (Key is in the words) • Bad Example: 1st Fitrep written was a 1 of 1, @ 4.83 average, • Leaves little room to show progress! (must get a 5.0 next time) • Hurts future subordinates who must get a 5.0 to excel • Even a 3.0 Fitrep written as your first (your average), if supported by a strong narrative, will help get your person promoted.
Ranking Strategy • Work a strategic fitrep plan for your tour and career to slowly increase grades and move promotion recommendations to right for strong performers (P >MP>EP) • May be worth giving lower than CO average for first fitrep if only onboard for a short time. (1-4 months) • Lower grade will help to keep you average down without hurting the individual. (Words can further mitigate) • Visual jump of grades & promotion recommendation sends a very strong message to the board. • How long will you/they be there, to play out the strategy? • You can slowly allow your average to increase in order to: • Help those you want promoted to break out from pack • Show progress and improvement
Effective Narratives Strong Opening: “Ranked 1 of 10 hand picked active duty officers.” Strong Bullets Describing Accomplishments and Potential Strong Closing & Recommendation: “He has my strongest endorsement and recommendation for becoming a Program Manager or Shore Commander. In addition, he has earned my strongest possible recommendation for accelerated promotion to captain, now.”
Effective Narratives • Narrative should be comprised of three components, broken out with “white space”: • Ranking - Most of ED Fitreps fall into the 1 of 1 category. Use soft breakouts. • Bullets - Validate the billet filled and note highlights while emphasizing brevity. Be specific with results/numbers. • Must comment on retention, development of personnel (one full bullet) • Recommendations - specific recommendations for follow-on jobs or promotions.
Effective Narratives • Bullets: • Quality of contributions • Character and extent of leadership skills • Ability to assume increased responsibility • Span of control, people supervised/$ • Record generally competitive if it shows: • Consistent growth • Professional development • Positive trends
Fitrep Writing Advice • Narrative: • Impact to the fleet of individuals’ performance. • Future potential to Navy/Community. • Write the report for the briefer of the officer’s record at a selection board. • Adjectives: strong, mediocre, weak - what is message you are sending? • Don’t “engineer” fitness reports.
Effective NarrativesDo’s • Do include ranking and recommendations for your top performers in the write up: • “My Number 1 of 4 Department Heads” • “Most capable Program Manager” • “My best waterfront ship superintendent” • “Ranks 3 of 15 Lieutenant Commanders assigned, regardless of designator. • Do use explanatory comments for breakout • “Ranked Must Promote only because he is compared against the XO” • “He is being ranked against three senior Department Heads” • “Indistinguishable from my number 1except for seniority.” • “Ranked number 2 against very senior competition.” • “ Read this carefully…the rules force me to make him only a Must Promote. He is an Early Promote! He is rated against another O-X who I anticipate will be promoted. Joe’s turn is next. Joe would truly be number one in any other setting.”
Effective Narratives Do’s • Do soft breakouts • “Although 1 of 1, he would continue to be EP if rated against all my Lieutenants.” • “He is the strongest leader for a Lieutenant Commander that I have seen in 20 years of service.” • Do provide breakout verbiage for detaching Fitreps • Do make the hard call on who should be promoted and who should not. • Otherwise you leave it to how the Board interprets it • Do highlight accomplishments to make potential “glow” • Paint picture that they are ready for job with greater responsibility or already performing at level of the next rank
Effective Narratives Do’s • Provide powerful write-up with written recommendation • Use space between written recommendations and body of text to set off most important statements, but don’t leave a lot of white space. • Help distinguish their performance from others. • Describe what makes them ready for the next rank? • Leave no doubt in a selection board’s mind what you are trying to say • Do comment on “false declines” • 6 officers allows 2EPs • 5 officers only allows 1 EP • Comment on those that were “just out of the hunt” for that Early Promote or if forced distribution did not allow you to mark all your Early Promotes • Avoid not observed fitreps for long periods
Effective Narratives Don’ts • Don’t make the board guess...tell the board/briefer what they did and why - Say what you mean. • Don’t avoid the hard call for those who should not be promoted • Don’t write them like sympathy cards • Don’t just quote facts: ‘Supervised X, Managed $Y”, discuss impact, contribution and mission. • Don’t write it as a counseling sheet…write to the briefer (your marketeer) on the board to explain why ready for next rank • Don’t be humble ! • Temper modesty with need for justified recognition.
Effective Narratives Don’ts • Phrases to avoid
Effective Narratives Don’ts • Phrases to avoid
Effective Narratives Don’ts • Phrases to avoid
Effective Narratives Don’ts • Don’t use FITREP bullets like: (Unless you are sending a message) • “Volunteered to act as the liaison officer between two competing squadrons for limited parking”. • “Flawlessly managed the medical records of 19 Detachment personnel.” • “He would be my EP if he met weight standards.” • “Edited Ship’s cruise book - finest I’ve seen.” • “The Clarence Darrow of Squadron legal officers.” • “Assisted in preparing for the ship’s Christmas party.” • “Contributed to the Navy’s efforts to thwart Y2K impact on operations.” • “This officer supports Navy Core Values because his people have not been to CO’s mast.” Better to leave white space and help important bullets ‘stand-out’.
Common Errors • Typos, spelling errors • Present tense (should use past tense when possible). Is/-ing okay, but not preferred • Wordiness, not being concise • Filling all white space bad • Not in bullet form, all bullets, no intro/closure (see format above)
Reporting Senior Cumulative Averages • Combines all reports within pay grade(Active, Reserve, Line, Staff) • Updated 90 days after end date of report • Cumulative from 1 JAN 97 by pay grade regardless of Designator/Active/Reserve • Reporting seniors can lower their average as a group. Document in each FITREP -- “grades lowered to correct high RSA”. • However... Visual impact of lower grade than RSA very strong! • Any grade change a Reporting Senior makes to one fitrep requires that all of the summary group fitreps be changed.
Reporting Senior Cumulative Averages • Continually track your own RSA • WHY? Errors during input into EMPRS AND rejection of some fitreps by BUPERS due to errors can skew your average and hurt your people. • Personal experience: 2 of 4 fitreps I had signed had errors made during input & raised my average…would have hurt one of my people. • Get your RS Cumulative Average from BUPERs NPC311 • Track your own RSA. • Very helpful Excel spreadsheet available on Persnet WebPage under ‘Services’ and ‘Reporting Senior Average Spreadsheet’ • Great to do ‘what if’ drills. (If I give this grade, what happens to my RSA?) • All designators and Reserves included in paygrade cumulative average.
Reporting Senior Cumulative Averages • Comparison to your RS Average should be a topic of discussion during counseling. • NavAdmin 126/00: “ THE SUCCESS OF THIS NEW SYSTEM IS DEPENDENT ON LEADERS MAKING THE HARD CHOICES AND THE DIFFICULT RESPONSIBILITY OF HONESTLY COUNSELING SUBORDINATES WHO ARE NOT "NUMBER ONE."
Tracking Averages Has separate Worksheet for each paygrade This Excel Spreadsheet to track RS Average can be found at www.persnet.navy.mil under ‘Services’
2. Numerical Grades & Averages(Blocks 33-39) • If you want an individual promoted he must be higher than reporting average for summary group AND higher than your Reporting Senior average (that paygrade) • No throwaway grades, but lower grades in EO and/or MB understood by boards to help balance CO cumulative average • Individual must stay consistent or better in every fitrep with same CO, while at same grade level • Dips in grades after promotion or with new CO are understood • Know your average! • Individuals have failed to select because CO’s unknowingly gave grades less than their average (“message to board”) • Understand what current grades will do to your RSA
3. Recommendation for Promotion OR?? You have two superstars… …….which strategy would you select? Two MPs will hurt both individuals. Break out one as EP and use words to mitigate the effect of an 2/2 MP.
Negative Message • Trend not moving to the right or staying in P/MP columns. • Lieutenant in Promote category (when NAVADMIN allowsunlimited MPs • Giving lower trait averages on subsequent Fitreps. • Giving a lukewarm report after previous enthusiastic report (same senior) • Not breaking out in verbiage as #1 in 1/1 Fitrep (Detaching) • Not changing the words in a detaching Fitrep from the previous, for a short duration (like for 100 days)
Negative Message • Giving a Must Promote to a 1/1 Fitrep. • Putting two officers in MP category instead of on EP and one MP. • Leaving Recommendation Block empty or recommending for a lateral/equivalent position. • One 3.0 trait when average is 4.0 plus. • Especially for Leadership
FITREP Summary • Purpose of FITREP is to determine promotability - NOT job report • Peer group • 1 of 1 versus racking and stacking • Have a plan • Avoid fratricide • Do NOT, repeat do NOT game the system • Make it clear where the individual ranks • Make it clear how the individual is performing • Concrete writeups - no flowering words not backed up by FACTS • Recommend for next job • Know your average and where the individual’s trait average shows
Selection Boards • Types • Statutory • Non-statutory • Either one works. It’s the principle of observation, execution, and revelation that’s important • You can: • Serve as board member • Serve as a recorder
Communications With Selection Boards • Only eligible officer may submit information to the board that is not part of the official record. • Must be in writing • May include endorsements or attachments from anyone • “Third party correspondence” sent directly to the board is returned to prevent inclusion of material without officer’s knowledge • May call board’s attention to any matter officer deems important. • Keep it succinct! • Focus on potential for filling key positions in future. • May not criticize or reflect on character, conduct or motive of any other officer • Should you or shouldn’t you? 2 extremes / schools of thought. • Opportunity to market yourself • Use only as a last resort • A must for those passed over, otherwise it is interpreted as ’lack of interest’ if you don’t.
Letters to the Board • Letters to the Board can add value if they: • Provide additional information to the board not in record • Are short and succinct • ID something briefer would probably miss • Correct wrong info (i.e. awards, etc.) • Endorsement from a Flag Officer if strongly written • Are for your second look • Letters to the Board may hurt you if they: • Unnecessarily call attention to something that may have been overlooked. (DUI as an Ensign, etc.) • You tick off briefer with data overload & info easily seen in fitrep • No letter from 1 time FOS (Failure of Selection) looked at as “not interested in your career”. • If your people have a potential problem or concern, encourage them to seek counsel before they write.
Other Documentsused by a Selection Board • Copies of late or missing reports • Documents in response to board requests • Copies of reports returned for correction • Adverse reports in review process • Messages • Individual’s communication to selection board Providing missing reports to a Selection Board may not get them into your official record.
OTHER COMMUNICATIONS • Adverse comments from Board Member with personal knowledge of eligible • Not admissible unless found in record • Supportive and positive (mitigating) information is admissible: • “That Reporting Senior is a real tough grader” • “That is an extremely difficult job” • “That ship was in a collision and the CO was relieved during that period.”
Selection Board Dynamics • Screen all records • Above zone / Below zone?????? • Attention to under representation - no apologies • Officer ethnic slide from detailers • Minority projections from NAVPERS • The superstars and non-performers are easy!! • The “crunch zone” is hard!! • Consider the odds for junior and middle executives
The Selection Process • Board Members vote on their confidence level for you to be selected. • Results computed and shown on screen as a Scattergram. • Repeat process as needed - typically 2-4 times • Subsequent briefers use different color pen • Vote until maximum number selected. • For those “below zone” - Vote is first whether to review record and brief. • OSR/PSR flashed ~ 15 Seconds/OSR without any markup • Number/percent for selection in Precept guidance • Required number of 100 votes is determined by majority vote after all records are projected • Board votes on final list of names.
Your Service Record • FICHE 1 • Latest photo • Fitreps and attachments • Medals, awards, citations • FICHE 2 • Education / academics • Qualifications / designations • Reserve status • Appointments, promotions, commissions • FICHE 5 • Adverse information,statements in reply • Extracts from courts / boards • Medical boards THESE ARE THE 3 FICHE REVIEWED BY BRIEFER FICHE 3 -Security investigations, clearances - Record of emergency data - Personal history statement FICHE 4 - Orders FICHE 6 - Enlisted record
Fiche 5 • Not always negative • Medical • Junior officer antics • Must always be noted at brief • How to brief a fiche 5 • Your personal assessment • Give best light but don’t pull punches
Record Review • OSR • FITREPS • Special Qualifications • Fiche 5
OSR Review • Brief off the OSR • LOOK at: • prior enlisted • tickets • awards • fiche 5 • qualifications and timeliness thereof • Service College selection • GRADES, GRADES, GRADES • HOW DID THE OFFICER RANK vs HIS/HER PEERS???? • HOW DID THE OFFICER RANK vs REPORTING SR AVERAGE??
CRUNCH ZONE (Review & Brief Again) Actual Scattergram Format (Vote those to Tentatively Select and those to Drop from further Consideration)
FITREPs and Confidence Voting Viewed by entire board Viewed only by Briefer • Promotion Boards revolve around a “confidence vote” • How confidant am I that the CO wanted this person promoted? • How confidant am I (as board member) that they should be promoted? (Precept:“Best Qualified and Fully Qualified”) • Effective FITREPs give the board complete confidence • conflicting grades or poorly written narratives DO NOT • Four data points on the FITREP & PSR provide that “confidence”. • Billet/Job groupings • Performance grades vs. averages • Individual average for reporting period • Summary Group Average • Reporting Senior Average • Promotion Recommendations • Comments (Block 41) in Narrative
1. Billets / Jobs Assigned(Viewed by Board / Described by Briefer) • Has the individual sought the competitive jobs? • Good Performance in competitive jobs is the number one indicator • Were they “hand-selected” for the job? • More demanding jobs can lend weight • Employment of command during grading period • Add contribution and results in Narrative for Combat Operations, Exercises, Major Inspections, etc.