Wednesday, June 20, 2012

360 Degree Hiring

I like learning about new ideas, thoroughly enjoy formulating good ideas, and absolutely love executing great ideas.  In a previous post (link here) summarizing a short visit at the Google complex, I mentioned five key attributes that were commonplace there that I wanted to weave into the largely traditional military culture at our command.  Because stating an intention is of little value without a commitment to following through, I am pleased that with two months to spare we were able to incorporate the last remaining experiment:  360 Degree Hiring.

We decided that it was time for us to make a civilian addition to our team in the form of what we call a "Senior Reporter".  Though the job title is not relevant, the approach to filling the position is.  Rather than convene a traditional selection panel where senior leadership decides who "they" would like to welcome to the team, we not only involved potential peers and juniors, but we made them influential in the process.  In an effort to make it absolutely clear to whomever we hired, as well as the team with whom the new hire would be working, that we are truly committed to teamwork, collective ownership, and cooperative leadership, we made two Petty Officers (PO1 and PO2) part of the interviewing team.  Imagine if you will being a relatively senior civilian or a retired Chief or Officer and you show up for your interview and you find not only your potential supervisor, but also your potential "right hand man", as well as a junior you will potentially be asked to lead.  Comparing notes with a knowledgeable third party who knew a couple of the candidates, there was an element of surprise.  We had these Petty Officers ask questions of each candidate, evaluate their resumes, and assess their overall potential to contribute as a member of our team.  We did so with the understanding that we were less concerned about hiring the person with the right experience to do the job than we were about ensuring the right person joined our team.  Who best to make the decision than the team with whom the selectee would be working directly?  We are pleased with the selection and I am pleased that the team selected the person they were committed to help succeed.

The other Google-inspired experiments that we enjoyed incorporating into our culture over the last couple of years were:

- Expression of Individual Creativity - We are not Zappos, but we currently have life-size cutouts of Hulk Hogan, Rocky Balboa and "The Most Interesting Man in the World" in various work centers, individual "flare" adorns many desks, and most walk the building with a lanyard of their choice around their neck.

- Accessibility to Seniors - We all have an open door policy, but that's commonplace.  In an effort to flatten the organization, create a deliberate intersection, and synchronize the team, we host a "Command Weekly Update" each Tuesday morning where all are invited to participate, ask questions, share awareness, or merely listen.

- 360 Degree Feedback - We have made 360 degree mid-term counseling standard for all PO1s and above, as well as our most senior civilians.  One of our civilians is currently championing a tiger team focused on  refining the process.  360 v2.0 will include open ended questions as a way to focus the feedback and ensure it is as constructive as possible.

- Personal Empowerment and Accountability - Commencing with command indoctrination, all command members are asked to take permission, refrain from telling yourself no, and not be surprised when your Chain of Command finds ways to say yes.  Deckplate ideas are abundant, but not as plentiful as we continue to hope.  Evidently, it's more difficult to unlearn the lessons taught through years experiencing traditional top-down military culture (or a few months in accession level training).  That said, I must admit the accountability piece is less than optimal and we are working on that.

I am pleased with our experiments on all of the above, though I would like to see a little more individual creativity and personal accountability.  I'll leave the former alone, but we'll continue to make our commitment to personal accountability more evident across the team.  I will freely admit that not all ideas are good ideas and not all good ideas produce the results we envisioned, but unless we act, nothing happens.  I thoroughly enjoy being part of a team that has difficulty "admiring the problems" and is committed to MAKING things happen as we continually question the status quo...missteps and all, we are committed to gaining clarity through action.

What opportunities are you creating?  What experiments are you conducting?  What initiatives are you championing?


  1. I absolutely support this kind of thinking and hiring (action). This is exactly how we hired our first senior civilian contracts director (GS-14/15) at NSG HQ (Christine Beach)in 1993. She was "VERY SURPRISED" to find that two members of her subordinate staff were on the interview panel and participated in hiring their new boss. The relationship between all parties was well understood from the beginning and provided a real good bond from the start. BZ to your new 'Senior Reporter' and welcome aboard a truly great command.

  2. Bravo Zulu... Great initiatives! Coming from a tiny detachment to my current position, I'm curious how some of these ideas scale to larger environments. Perhaps that's the next experiment!

  3. Great stuff. Still regret not applying.

  4. Are you sharing the artifacts of your experiment anywhere (i.e., the forms that you used for your various 360-experiments)? I'd love to see them. If any individuals are willing to share (suitably anonymized) examples of what sort of comments/content made their way onto the 360 evals, that would be even better. But I understand if that's not possible.

  5. Hexsaw - When we are finished with V2.0, I will push your way. Had a great meeting on the way ahead just this afternoon. The team is definitely taking this program to the next level. I'd be proud to share with you and anyone else who sees value in 360 degree feedback. Who knows, maybe we can make it commonplace across the Navy (or at least our community)?!?