The Greatest Possibility of Success

Secret of My Success Soundtrack album coverImage via Wikipedia

Sometimes Al Kamen’s column is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. He just awarded the State Department’s HR Bureau with The Loop Better-Late-Than-Never award.

“The bureau, in an Oct. 13 notice, said it had awarded a $1.6 million contract to Campion Services Inc. in West Lafayette, Ind., to “assist the department in ensuring that all examinations for Foreign Service [jobs] have been professionally validated and constitute a reliable means of identifying those applicants with the greatest possibility of success in the foreign service.” Well, good thing the department’s only been hiring for a couple of hundred years.”

Okay — some folks I know take themselves too seriously at times; they’d burst if they laugh. Don’t get mad at Al. Relax, have a good laugh. It’s good for the soul.

I’ll try to explain. See it’s pretty much like insurance – a “just in case” thingy.

article cited the Foreign Service Written Exam as “a proven cognitive test, and the Oral Assessment” — both considered a “gold standard” by McKinsey. The State Department reportedly rolled out its Total Candidate hiring strategy a couple years back at the recommendation of the same management consulting agency.

My educated guess is that State just wants to “ensure” that this upgraded “gold standard” strategy actually works. One – because what if it doesn’t? Just imagine the implications. {Um, can they actually compare the success rate of intakes before and after the Total Candidate roll out?} Two- They need the professionals to validate that what they know is true. OMG! Would they know … what if … you rise up to that possibility of success now but not 10-20 years from now? Would they really know?

A reliable means to identify applicants with the greatest possibility of success …

You think maybe that means success in day to day work?

Or is that success with a capital “S” after every tour?

{Or is it success like in Afghanistan – “we’ll know it when we see it?”}

Is it a well-lived life? The sum of all experiences in a culture not your own? Is it the richness of friends across the globe crossing time zones, languages and cultures?

Is it surviving 30 years of conformity going to places you’re asked to go, saying things you’re asked to say? A marriage intact after assignments to 8 countries in 6 continents {let’s skip Antarctica, that’s a slushy assignment there}? An ambassadorial assignment? There are 173, give or take, resident ambassador assignments every four years or so. {A third of that goes to political appointees with about 115 to career diplomats}. I don’t know what the current number of the Senior Foreign Service is but I know it gets crowded at the top.

{Is it as Albert Einstein’s says: “If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut?”}

Is that officially depressing now? I meant to serve sweet, not sweet and sour. It’s Al Kamen’s fault for bringing up that $1.6 million contract.

I digress. In any case — there was something I really wanted to say. Oh success.

Whether you consider success a journey or a destination, best have a plan in place on what scenery you intend to see or how to get to your destination. This is not an advice. Just reality. To paraphrase Winnie-the-Pooh’s creator, A. A. Milne, planning is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.