Posts Tagged VP-30
Talent Management: Allowing people to do what they enjoy and are good at leads to better outcomes for everyone
Different people excel at different things. There are some tasks that some people will never ever be good at, regardless of how much training they have or effort they put in to it. Consider someone who has a really difficult time with attention to detail – they’re probably not the best person to release message traffic nor will they be a very good admin officer. Some people are terrible at relating to others and make terrible leaders, yet we force them to assume leadership roles. Hate doing paperwork? NATOPS probably isn’t a good fit, even though it’s generally reserved for the best aviators.
There’s two things at play here:
1) The Navy’s career advancement program requires a breadth of roles for all people, focusing and rewarding more for different experiences rather than high performance in one area of focus.
2) There’s zero effort to identify people’s true strengths, zero effort to explicitly state what strengths people need for different roles, and zero discussion with people before being placed in a role.
This isn’t a good system. Some people will excel in many different roles, or just get lucky and get the roles that they’d naturally have been good at. Many people, however, will find themselves in a position they’re not very capable at. They will respond in two ways: work hard to overcome their deficiencies and be marginally successful in the role, or do terrible in the role and their career never really recovers. This happens all over the place and at different times – I recall a JO Comsec Officer who had difficulty understanding process and paying attention to details. He was fired and that was that. One year into this person’s career, it was over – he could never recover from failing at a job he would never have been successful at anyways. That’s an example of what’s bad for our people.
We see this also at the O-4 level, where the career funnel almost mandates you take your turn as the MO or Ops O. What percentage of O-4s do you think were really good at those roles? It’s less than half. This is an example of what’s bad for the Navy. Another example are those roles to PMA-XXX where somebody would influence long-term strategy, tactics, and procurement. There’s virtually no screening for ability before those roles and they have the potential to be hugely impactful for the entire community – bad for the Navy.
Leaders that have been successful through this system will argue that it’s a testing platform to figure out who’s the most adaptable, and it’s also is a great learning opportunity when you fail. That’s true. But if the penalty for failure is a derailed career, I’d argue that failure isn’t celebrated as a learning opportunity but is something to avoid at all cost.
There’s a much better way to do this. When people get roles they’re going to be good at and like doing, it’s really good for the Navy. It’s also really good for the person, because they’ll get high performance marks. It’s also really good for management because they don’t have to have as much oversight. Everyone wins.
A VP skipper can implement this within the squadron. The only thing he/she would have to change is the evaluation system. You’d have to eliminate the “X JOB” = #1 ranking philosophy and you’d have to ensure the person behind you that will eventually write the final fitreps is onboard with this philosophy too. And each XO could be very transparent about the skills needed for people to be successful at follow-on orders and try to place people accordingly.
There’s tons of people that agree the career progression in the Navy needs to be revamped. There was an 80+ page paper written by some ex-Army officers at Harvard. No company in the world manages their talent the way we do. I remember speaking to a VP O-6 about this. I was really disappointed that he generally agreed with me but he said, “I don’t think there’s a better way to do it.” Knowing what I know now, he was blind to his own bias. He considered himself very successful, and automatically attributes it to the system of career progression. But consider how many skippers are getting fired and how broken our senior ranks seems to be.
There’s one really easy way to make this better – make PERS more transparent. Have job postings. Have some writeups about what the job entails and what kind of skills you’d need in that role. This isn’t that difficult to do.
Highly skilled people leave the VP Navy because of this broken system.
Someone was recently quoted as saying, “VP-30 is the center of the universe for the P-3 Navy.” Well if the center of my universe is a giant ball of suck, how do I leave? To answer that question, I went to famed theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku. I didn’t get a response – probably because he was busy riding around in that fucking sweet DeLorean.
So what makes VP-30 suck so huge? First lets look at the facts about VP-30.
Fact #1: It recruits individuals with the most recognized talent (note that is not the same as actual talent).
Fact #2: Its primary function is to teach fleet replacement students (3Ps, Navs, SS2s, you know… nuggets). Its secondary function is to teach CAT 3 students (your returning department heads).
Fact #3: Within VP-30 lies the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (hereafter referred to MPRWS or Weapons School) and the P-8 Fleet Introduction Team (FIT).
Fact #4: A shore tour at VP-30 is the number 1 predictor of follow-on success as a department head and command screening. As such, BUPERS will never put an ex-VP-30 person against another one in fitrep cycles.
Fact #5: It is the largest squadron in the navy (over 90 LTs).
And now here are my opinions on the facts:
1. The recruitment process is bogus. Its a fucking boys’ club. Are you the skipper’s boy? Yes? Then you’re going to 30. Are there a lot of you former squadron mates in 30? Do they like you? You’re golden. How often is the phrase “I can’t believe these are the people they send to 30” uttered? A lot. All the time.
2. Do you really need the best and brightest at VP-30? Absolutely not (at least not the way 30 is run currently). The best NFO in a fleet squadron is the one who is kickass at ASW, knows how to do a COOP SLAM-ER, doesn’t bitch about flying pointless hours, and tries hard to train upgraders. So what do we do with that guy or girl? Send them to 30 to teach NAVs how to take fixes, kick green, and to ultimately make them look slightly less retarded than they otherwise would when they show up to a squadron. The best NAVs in the squadron, on the other hand, are the WORST NFOs in the squadron, because they sit NAV the most (even after they’re qualified). We should send those people to 30, and send the best and brightest to the WTU – where they could actually make squadrons better.
And do you know what happens during an NFO’s time at 30? They forget all the shit that made them good at being a TACCO. Just in time to get senior enough to teach CAT 3’s inadequately. I have news for the fleet JO’s: Many of the O-4’s are not that good in the plane!
3. So we got this weapons school now, and the P-8 FIT, one of which is supposed to usher in a new frontier of Maritime Patrol Aviation, and the other to provide us with a constant source of expertise and tactical excellence. So why the fuck are they bothered with teaching NAVs and Copilots? Divorce them from VP-30, and let them do their jobs.
4. The detailers actually make it so that it is most likely that the ex 30 dude gets the #1 DH fitrep so that they can screen for command. So what happens when you get another DH that is equally as competent, well liked, but did a WTU tour? The skipper gives the #1 fitrep to the 30 guy because 1) it’d be a waste to give it to the WTU because he’s not going to screen anyways, and 2) because the rankings are always subject to change based on where you were, and where you’re going.
5. So what does 30 actually do with all of those instructors? What is the finished product that gets sent to the fleet? How much learning actually takes place at 30? Any competent student at 30 doesn’t have to study AT ALL to pass. Meanwhile – the WTU doesn’t have enough people to do anything except teach ARP and grade quals, and they’re the ones that are supposed to make the fleet better. Why don’t we trim down at 30 and bolster the WTU? I know its been done like this forever, but it doesn’t fucking work right. 30 instructors do good things, but their overall effect is minimal. The WTU’s overall effect is ALSO minimal, but its because they don’t have the right people, and they don’t have the right number of people.
So VP-30 sucks, and that’s pretty much why. Oh and it also breeds a culture of douchebag primadonnas that forgot what its like to be in a squadron.