We’re Hosting a Q&A With FSO Mark D. Perry of CorridorRep.com — Saturday, July 18, 7pm EST

Posted: 2:23 pm EDT
Updated: 8:41 pm EDT
Updated: 12:43 pm EDT
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On July 7, I did a blogpost about CorridorRep.com, a website owned by Transparency In Government Performance, LLC. (See “Corridor Reputation” Gets a Makeover, And OMG …. It’s Now Online!)

CorridorRep.com’s site administrator is Foreign Service Officer Mark D. Perry. (Note: he is not the Mark Perry on LinkedIn). We requested a short bio and here is what he sent us:

Mark D. Perry is a consular-coned Foreign Service Officer who has served overseas in Monterrey, Cairo, and Lima.  He is currently working in a domestic assignment at the Buffalo Passport Agency.  He enjoys chocolate and looking for ways to make life better through the use of technology. Prior to joining the service, he worked in corporate HR for Tyco International, Ltd.

We cannot give you firsthand assessment of the site but readers writing this blog seems split between “this is great, yay!” or this is a terrible idea.

Mr. Perry told us via email that he has been thinking about this idea for years and floated it to a number of trusted friends. “Some said wow this is great and others said you are crazy,” he writes.

Another feedback we got is along the line of — hey, it only took a minute to figure out who runs this site; if he’s not good at protecting himself … what about my information?

We asked Mr. Perry about that and he explained that he created the LLC not to hide his identity, but to provide some additional legal protection.  That is true enough as LLC owners are protected from personal liability for business debts and claims.

We also asked about some readers’ concerns on data security, and here is his response:

I can understand the concerns about data security but I think the potential benefits outweigh these risks. Anything posted here could also be overheard in a cafe or sent by personal email to a friend or already on someone’s Facebook page. All of these are also easy targets for collection. This is nothing new. The site might make it marginally easier but I really do not see much risk in that aspect.

One reader asked about an “opt-out” so we also put that question to Mr. Perry.

[T]here really is not [a] way to prevent someone from  rating you. Preventing someone from being rated would be technically  close to impossible. Anyone can delete or edit the ratings they have  entered for others but could not delete ratings from others about  themselves. Anyone can choose not to visit the site so I guess that is one way one could opt out.

The site itself says that “you now have access to honest 360 reviews.”  One of the screencaps on the site is a section that says “Will work again with You” with the following options:  1) Supervisor, 2) Subordinate, 3) Colleague, 4) Other and 5) All.  We should note that the State Department has been using the 360 degree feedback for years primarily as a placement tool during the assignments process, and as far as we know, not as a developmental tool. See update below.

So think Yelp, Trip Advisor, Amazon and other online rating sites out there, except that the employee is now the rated brand/product.  Or perhaps the closest ones would be the student rating sites for teachers/professors performance.  Online reviews are popular and have grown prevalent in recent years.  There are even online reviews written by ex-convicts!  These online reviews have also grown controversial, of course, with some allegations of manipulation (and some real) orchestrated by companies to trick potential customers. The Harvard Business review last year, however notes that “voracious information-seeking has become deeply ingrained in many consumers, and we can envision no scenario in which they will see traditional marketing as a better provider of product information.”

In some ways, corridorrep.com is probably more like glassdoor.com, a career community that depends on everyone being able to share an inside look at a company they know.  Corridorrep.com depends on everyone being able to share an inside look about each other; it’s success certainly depends on the participation of enough individuals rating each other. Its stated goal is to have 5,000 reviews. Since we posted about the site, the online reviews have gone from 26 to 83, averaging about six reviews a day in the last 9 days.  That’s not a significant number at this time but if the number of posts continue at this rate, we estimate that the site will reach its goal in slightly over a couple of years.  The question now is how many of the Foreign Service’s 13,908 employees are willing to participate? Will Civil Service employees and Foreign Service Nationals, who all have state.gov emails also participate?

We understand that the site has become fairly controversial within the FS community. We are sure there are many more questions out there for corridorrep.com. We have offered to host a Q&A at our forum and Mr. Perry has accepted the invitation.  He will answer your questions on Saturday, July 18, 7pm EST. This forum is set as “open” so non-registered members of the forum and readers of the blog will be able to post questions of interest. You may post your questions ahead of time here: http://forums.diplopundit.net/?forum=457155.

See you at the forum!

Update:  We received the following nugget from an FSO with clarification on current use of 360 at State; our correspondent is not sure if there is a similar process for the Civil Service:

“State’s mandatory leadership and management training that everyone in the Foreign Service has to take each time they are promoted to the next level (at least for promotions to 02, 01 and into the SFS, not sure about below that) has a 360 component. You have to submit 10-15 names to review you anonymously, inlcuding subordinates, peers and bosses (the bosses are not anonymous). The results and comments are shared with you and the FSI instructors and I’ve found it quite useful. You also do one for yourself and seeing the similarities or differences between your self-image of your strengths and weaknesses and how others view you is very instructive.”

A Consular Officer also sent us the following details on the use of 360s at State/CA:

The Bureau of Consular Affairs also uses 360s as a development tool. Its CBAT program collects 360s for bidders and shares the report of the assessors’ input with the bidder. There are fewer questions than on the leadership training 360s mentioned above, but the CBAT does ask “would you work with this employee again?” and offers free text fields for assessors to say whatever they want. In general, the new (2 years old) CBAT process has been received pretty well, although I think some officers have been surprised by frank feedback.  And on the leadership training you mentioned, that is also open to Civil Service employees. I think it is mandatory at GS-13/14/15.

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State Department Seeks Contractor For Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions

— Domani Spero

 

Last month, the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute issued Solicitation #SFSIAQ14Q3002 for a contractor to provide professional training on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills.  The requirement solicitation also includes a requirement for Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions.

Related post: US Embassy Oslo: Clueless on Norway, Murder Boards Next?

 

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Below is an excerpt from the solicitation posted on fedbiz:

The purpose of this project is to obtain the services of a contractor to deliver interactive, professional training seminars for senior-level officials on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills. There will be one primary product, a two-day course entitled “PT-302 – Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying.” This course targets government professionals at the GS-14/FS-02 level or higher, who will be testifying before Congress or briefing members or staffers. We will offer this course between three to four times per year. There is a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 15 participants per class.

Secondly, LMS [Leadership Management School] will seek the services of a contractor to deliver training on strategies for building effective relationships with members of Congress and their staffers to participants of the Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120) and other senior-level courses. The Ambassadorial Seminar is offered to Ambassadors-designate (including both career Foreign Service Officers and political appointees) and their spouses. This seminar normally runs two weeks and includes up to, but not limited to, 14 participants.

Lastly, contractor shall submit additional proposals to deliver hour-long, one-on-one simulated congressional hearing sessions with feedback for individuals as preparation for anticipated congressional testimony. These individuals may or may not be graduates of the Ambassadorial seminar, or they may be or may not be other, senior-ranking government officials.

C.4.1. Communicating With Congress: Briefing and Testifying (PT-302)

  • Provide professional services to design and deliver PT-302, Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying, for senior ranking officers drawn from the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and military. It is expected that the first year will include significant course design work, but that option years will not involve major course design.
  • It shall include the following topics presented by individuals with current or recent Capitol Hill experience. Experience within the past two years is highly desirable.
  • Training and skill-building in briefing techniques;
  • Presentations/discussions on congressional committees and the hearing process
  • Presentations/discussions on tips for leveraging State’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs
  • Presentations/discussions on building effective relationships with Congress members and staffers.
  • It shall also include simulated congressional hearings, at which:
    • Each class member will deliver written and oral briefs/testimony before a panel of experts capable of appropriate questioning and criticism;
    • All briefings/testimony and responses to questions are video recorded;
    • Experts critique the individual briefing/testimony and responses to questions.

C.4.2. Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120)

  • Provide professional services to design and deliver a three-hour training segment on strategies for building effective relationships with members of Congress and their staffers to participants of the Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120) and other senior-level courses.
  • This shall be delivered via 1-2 presenters with ample time for questions and answers. If contractor provides two presenters, one presenter shall have current or recent experience on Capitol Hill as a member or staffer (experience within the past two years highly desirable), and the second presenter shall have recent senior-level executive branch service with personal experience in developing successful relationships on Capitol Hill, to include effective congressional testimony and briefing experience (experience within the past three years highly desirable). If contractor provides only one presenter, this presenter shall have both current or recent experience on Capitol Hill as a member or staff, and recent senior-level executive branch service with personal experience in developing successful relationships with Capitol Hill.

C.4.3. Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions

  • Provide professional services to deliver hour-long, one-on-one simulated congressional hearing sessions with feedback for individuals as preparation for anticipated congressional testimony. These individuals may or may not be graduates of the Ambassadorial seminar, or they may be or may not be other, senior-ranking government officials.

 

The solicitation requires that the contractor/s’ professional qualifications include experience delivering training in a federal government context with senior executive participants; professional experience in working with Congressional staffers and members; current or recent Capitol Hill professional experience. Experience within the past two years is also highly desirable.  For presenters in the three-hour and one-hour sessions, qualifications also include prior service as a senior executive in a federal agency with personal experience briefing and testifying to Congress.  But the government also wants contractors with “knowledge of and experience using adult learning principles in the facilitation and delivery of a course” as well as “expertise in experiential learning methodologies and techniques.”

This should help avoid future incidents of trampling through the salad bowl during a confirmation hearing and save us from covering our eyes.

 

 

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State Dept’s Leadership and Mgt School Needs Some Leadership, And It’s Not Alone

State/OIG recently released its inspection of the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. It is a chunky report with over 80 pages.  It reviewed the school’s executive direction but also FSI’s various schools. On of the schools reviewed is its Leadership and Management School (FSI/LMS) which is headed by Carol A. Rodley, the dean since November 2011 and a former US Ambassador to Cambodia.  The associate dean is Gail E. Neelon, a civil service official who assumed office in July 2008.

Here is the irony of the day:  the LMS dean’s “tenure has taken a toll on morale.” Excerpt from the IG report’s pretty sparse discussion about the management and leadership issues at the school:

Led by a Foreign Service dean and a Civil Service associate dean, LMS has 4 divisions and 48 staff members, of which 44 are direct-hire employees and 4 are full-time equivalent contractors. The school had an FY 2012 base budget of $2.4 million and a total budget of $3.6 million, which includes $473,000 in reimbursements. LMS is a small but important component of FSI, responsible for teaching leadership skills to senior and mid-level officers. When OIG inspected FSI in 1999, leadership training consisted of a few courses in SPAS. LMS was created in 2000 as part of the Department’s increased emphasis on leadership. It delivers well-received leadership training mandatory for Department employees at various stages in their careers.

Participants praised LMS courses highly. However, the dean’s directive leadership style was criticized by school staff. Although the dean met the FSI front office’s request to attend to management issues left unresolved during an extended period between deans, her tenure has taken a toll on morale. (b)(5)(b)(6) she has taken some steps to be more accessible to staff members and acknowledge them and their work.
[…]
Paper Flow in the Dean’s Office: In April 2012, most LMS staff members complained to the OIG team about the lack of timely actions from the dean’s office on paperwork, pointing to delays, missed deadlines, and unanswered mail. To meet a proposed inspection recommendation, LMS implemented a new system for tracking requests for clearances and approvals.

Read the whole report here: Inspection of the Foreign Service Institute (ISP-I-13-22)

Leadership and management have supposedly been elevated in importance since the tenure of Secretary Powell but in the many nook and crannies of the bureaucracy, it is just a shiny object that is talked about, often admired for its qualities but does not really merit serious attention.

In June 2010, the OIG sent a memo on the need to improved post leadership to the Executive Secretariat of the State Department (at that time Stephen Mull was S/ES; he is now the US Ambassador to Warsaw):

Office of Inspector General (OIG) inspections over the past 4 years have shown that while a majority of posts and bureaus are well run, leadership in a small but significant minority needs to be improved. In a recent OIG survey of employees who are serving or have served in high stress/high threat posts, 45 percent of the respondents cited post leadership as a cause of stress for them or their colleagues. An inspection of the Bureau of African Affairs identified leadership as a problem in certain posts overseas as well as in the bureau itself under its previous management. OIG has found problems in posts in every region, under both career and political ambassadors. The results of poor leadership include reduced productivity and effectiveness, low morale, stress, and curtailments.
[…]
OIG believes that it is the responsibility of the Department to conduct its own assessments, based in part on input from staff and to do so every year, especially at one­ year-tour posts. In many cases, the knowledge that the leaders would be assessed annually would cause them to be more sensitive to how they lead staff. The annual assessment would allow for the early identification of problems and for remedial action in time to have an effect on the management and operations of a post or bureau under each leadership team. In some cases, leaders and mid-level managers will be unable or unwilling to change. In more cases, OIG believes that leaders would be receptive to counseling and training to help them become more effective. These assessments would also provide better support for annual evaluations and help the chief of mission and deputy chief of mission selection committees make better informed recommendations and decisions.

(Read Implementation of a Process to Assess and Improve Leadership and Management of Department of State Posts and Bureaus, ISP-1-10-68)

The 2010 OIG memo cc’ed P: Mr. Burns, who is now one of the Deputy Secretaries; HR – Ms. Powell (who is currently the US Ambassador to India),  MED – Mr. Yun, DS – Mr. Boswell (who got recently eaten by the Benghazi troll) and FSI – Ms. Whiteside (who we learned recently retired after a long tenure at FSI) .

On September 19, 2012, the OIG once again reminded State Management about this same boring topic on leadership with a memo not to the Executive Secretariat but this time to the Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy:

OIG’s FY 2012 inspections found that while 75 percent of ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers are doing a good to excellent job, 25 percent have weaknesses that, in most cases, have a significant impact on the effectiveness and morale of their posts and certainly warrant intervention by the Department.

One reason for a high percentage of posts requiring leadership attention in the past year is that a number of posts were selected for inspection because OIG received specific indications of weak leadership.
[…]
OIG therefore reiterates the importance it places on adopting an effective assessment and performance improvement system for ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers. OIG continues to believe that a confidential survey of personnel at post is an.essential element of such a system.

The September 2012 memo only cc’ed two individuals:  DGHR-Linda Thomas-Greenfield (currently the top HR person for the Foreign Service and rumored to be the next A/S for the AF BUreau) and S/ES -Stephen Mull (currently the U.S. Ambassador to Poland).

Read: Memorandum Report, Improving Leadership at Posts and Bureaus (ISP-I-12-48)

The September 2012 OIG memo was careful to point out that “the 75 percent 25 percent figures apply to the posts OIG inspected and not necessarily to the Department as a whole.”

Well, thank heavens for that!

Had the State Department actually adopted an effective assessment and performance improvement system for ambassadors, dcms and principal officers, Diplopundit would probably be a pretty booooring blog.  Perhaps we would be writing fake April Fool’s news  or doodling ourselves to death here  …. but so far there’s been a huge throve of materials to cover ….

 

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