By Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing, RallyPoint Founders
Imagine if your favorite book of all time was somehow translated to the movie screen so faithfully, it was like the director had reached into your head and pulled out the characters and settings just as you had pictured them.
That’s how we felt after reading Tim Kane’s new book, Bleeding Talent: How the US Military Mismanages Great Leaders and Why It’s Time for a Revolution. It’s as though Kane was listening in on our many late night discussions around why the military’s personnel assignment system needs to change, and fast. We couldn’t have written a better manifesto about why a service like RallyPoint needs to exist, even if we had tried.
Kane is not the first to argue that the military’s command and control model of personnel management needs to catch up with the private sector’s best practices. From Robert Gates to General Stanley McChrystal, there is no shortage of high-ranking leaders now commenting both publicly and privately that the military needs to refocus on career fulfillment or risk losing more of the best and brightest to civilian life.
In fact, listen in at bases or barracks the day after PCS assignments arrive, and you’ll hear this common refrain: It’s almost like the Army (Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard) doesn’t want me to stay.
The “dream sheet,” – a ranking of each service member’s desired assignments and locations, as submitted to the branch’s personnel command – is so called because that’s typically all it is: a dream. Conventional wisdom even suggests that one should rank his or her favorite job at #4 or #5, since no one ever seems to get their top three. Once this form has been submitted, officers and enlisted alike rescind all power over their careers to a shrouded entity tasked with matching the projected number of needed “nuts” with the available “bolts”.
Choosing where to live, what jobs to apply to, and which professional skills to develop are decisions that civilians take for granted. Anyone who joins the military is willing to make these sacrifices. But chances are, more service members would extend their military careers if they could insert just a modicum of control over their career progression.
Everyone, from top brass down to the rank and file, would like to see our service members fulfilled and taken care of. But turning a massive bureaucracy like the Department of Defense is no easy feat. RallyPoint’s thesis is that the military need not wait for change to come down on high. It’s the responsibility of everyone in the military to take greater personal initiative and control over their own careers, and it is possible to do so within the confines of the existing system.
But this change requires modeling the military’s individual career development process more closely after the civilian job market; giving commanding officers and senior enlisted the ability to recruit their own teams made up of specific types of individuals, not nuts and bolts; and aligning personal skills and interests with job opportunities – all byproducts of more transparent, liberalized assignment environment.
How can you, as one person, make a difference? By seizing responsibility for your own military career. Taking the time to craft your career “story” and highlight your own unique training and accomplishments. And most importantly, by building a personal network of military peers, superiors and subordinates so we can all help each other build more satisfying careers and a better, more fulfilled military service member population.
RallyPoint provides the tools and technology to make this happen. Despite our continued growth, we fully recognize that it will take more than tools – it will take cultural change, both for the military and those of us who serve in it. We need to get comfortable touting our own preferences and specific talents, networking to pursue the opportunities we want, and building enduring relationships – while still respecting the chains of command that make the military work. RallyPoint is making this possible right now, by helping military members connect in ways never before possible, strengthen their relationships, and leverage those relationships across the DoD to find the best military opportunities. With a stronger network comes more mentorship – and even better outcomes.
What’s missing from comments by Robert Gates and others is an action arm to solve their frustrations. You just met that action arm. When have we ever backed down from a challenge?