Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Iraq War: A Lesson in Poor Performance Management?

In watching General Petraeus’s recent testimony on Capital Hill I was struck once again by how varied the assessments were of the United States’ progress in the Iraq War. Partisan politics was again on display as most Democrats asserted the troop surge a failure while most Republicans viewed the surge as a success. Clearly different standards exist in terms of the conditions of satisfaction for assessing the surge as a failure or success. And so the debate rages on…

What I found most interesting is how the 18 Iraq Benchmarks were not a major topic in the discussion on our progress in Iraq. These 18 Benchmarks, as defined in the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill (H.R. 2206) and signed into law on May 25, 2007 indicated that the “…United States strategy in Iraq, hereafter, shall be conditioned on the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks, as told to members of Congress by the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

It would stand to reason that any assessment on success or failure would have to be predicated on a review of the progress in meeting those 18 Benchmarks. But when was the last time you recall hearing about these benchmarks? How many of these benchmarks do you recall?

It would not be a bad idea for representative of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to visit Capitol Hill and the Defense Department. The
U.S. Office of Personnel Management definition of Performance Management includes:
  1. planning work and setting expectations,
  2. continually monitoring performance,
  3. developing the capacity to perform,
  4. periodically rating performance in a summary fashion, and
  5. rewarding good performance.
It is hard to imagine taking the time to establish these critical Benchmarks for performance and then not continually monitoring and rating the Iraqi government’s performance in fulfilling these benchmarks. Continuous monitoring and assessment are required to keep these types of standards for performance relevant. Without this consistency these performance measures fade into the woodwork and lose all relevance.

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