The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2022

12 JULY-AUGUST 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL More important, such an approach helps employees focus on what matters most: collaborating, mentoring, coaching and empowering each other in ways that enhance personal, team and corporate development and goal achievement. More than changes in precepts, a true perfor- mance management revolution requires both the department and employees to change their mindset and outlook—a behavioral paradigm shift, not just an organizational exercise. The State Department has taken good steps with this reform; more is needed to join the ranks of cutting-edge enterprises. Having senior leaders champion reforms and model behavior can make a huge difference. A key field where more progress is needed is in diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility (DEIA). The new precepts put DEIA at the center. AFSA VP Tom Yazdgerdi’s April column on data for DEIA provides a very good wrap-up and suggests more forward movement is in store. More and better data will help, but additional studies treading the same ground on barriers will not by themselves provide breakthroughs. The Government Accountability Office, Deloitte and the department all examined the issue; none came up with actionable plans, and all called for more LETTERS-PLUS DEIA and the New Precepts BY ALEX KARAGIANNIS RESPONSE TO APRIL FOCUS ON NEW CORE PRECEPTS T he April FSJ has wonderful articles. Thank you. Kudos to the Bureau of Global Talent Management and the Office of Performance Evaluation for updating and streamlining the core precepts, making them clearer and easier to understand and implement. The 2015 performance evaluation reforms were planned for more consequential future changes by 2022, and it is heartening to see this progress. Bravo, the new precepts are a signifi- cant achievement. Naturally, this cannot be the end of the story. Regrettably, many employees still struggle to fully under- stand and apply the precepts, too often thinking of the competencies as silos and using linear thinking rather than integrat- ing them. Too often employees focus on tasks, activities and outputs rather than goals, results and outcomes. It is not pro- ficiency in knowledge, skills or competen- cies but effectiveness in achieving results in people, policy and programs that makes an employee competitive for promotion. studies. Perhaps the newest GAO and internal study will be better. Identifying and rooting out both systemic issues and microaggressions is a long-haul propo- sition that needs sustained 7th-floor commitment, energy and hands-on application. There are no easy fixes. Numerous academic and consultancy studies have determined that most DEIA programs fail to meet their stated objectives. Poor design and execution are part of the problem. More specifically, too many pay insufficient attention to cultural transformation; they focus on changing individuals rather than the organization as a whole. And they too often pigeon-hole employees into groups, obscuring the considerable differences within and among groups and even individuals’ own sense of identity within different groups in the context of the multiple environments and group dynamics in which they oper- ate at any time. Having DEIA as a stand-alone competency rightly accentuates its importance and charges all employees to advance those goals. But it could inadvertently create a problematic twist, given the considerable overlap between the DEIA and leadership competen- cies regarding core functions in the real world. In employee evaluation reports (EERs), employees, raters and reviewers will naturally seek to highlight DEIA. But selection boards—not raters and Alex Karagiannis is a retired Foreign Service officer. His last assignments were in the Bureau of Human Resources, since rebranded as the Bureau of Global Talent Management. The State Department has taken good steps with this reform; more is needed to join the ranks of cutting-edge enterprises.