The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

34 APRIL 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL with the American Foreign Service Association every three years. The core precepts are—for me—the most important document I consult when writing EERs. For each one I write, I look at how the employee’s accomplishments demonstrate their potential to succeed at the next higher level for each individual precept. The performance conversations I’ve had with employees through the year already give me a good sense of where the employee is truly shining and where they could use some mentoring, which makes the writing that much easier. A Careful and Inclusive Process The core precepts are key to everything I do as a Foreign Service officer, and so it was an honor to work with AFSA on renegotiating the precepts in 2021. They have not undergone a significant overhaul since 2015, when we ushered in the three effectiveness areas: informational, operational and relational. This time, Director General Perez asked our team to really scrub the core precepts and ask, are these appropriate to a 21st- century diplomatic service? What we found was that while there certainly was a lot of good to work with, there was also a lot that we could do to make themmore effective. From the beginning, it was clear that we needed to make greater substantive changes to the precepts than in previous years. We took the steps and the time we needed to get the new precepts right. The process for arriving at the new core precepts was just as important to us as the precepts themselves. The State Depart- ment is a large organization, and change does not come easily. Any change you make, you need to be able to explain the reason- ing and benefits to justify how you got there. We first assembled a working group, with representatives from a cross-section of skill codes and grades, which was reflective of the department’s diverse workforce. Our process needed to be as inclusive as we wanted our new precepts to be. We reviewed all existing precept-like elements, including the performance pay precepts used by the senior levels, leader- ship and management principles that apply departmentwide, the 13 dimensions used in selection to join the Service, etc. We looked at feedback from hundreds of those who have served on selection boards to determine what skills and qualities they viewed as most important—and which ones they thought were important but were missing from the existing precepts. We consulted with stakeholders internally and held multiple discussions with AFSA. The finished product is reflective of the effort the working group and our partners both in and outside the building put into creating a document that will work for the entire Foreign Service. The Changes and Their Rationale Our team quickly zeroed in on several critical components and changes that would have a significant, positive impact. First, we needed a version of the core precepts that was easier to use. We started with a version that was 15 pages long From the beginning, it was clear that we needed tomake greater substantive changes to the precepts than in previous years. Director General Carol Perez addresses a large group of employees on modernization steps at the State Department in February 2020. ISAACD.PACHECO