Friday, July 9, 2010

PMF Reinvigoration Begins...

...or does it?

Today, OPM directory John Berry released a memorandum to the Chief Human Capital Officers Council (CHCOC) announcing a program to "reinvigorate the PMF Program" by forming what he calls "power packs." These are intended to be small teams of people on what looks like continuous rotation to achieve its five goals, one of which is otherwise newsworthy for those of you who are considering a 2011 bid.

The power packs will work on the following goals:
  1. Increase outreach to deepen and broaden the PMF applicant pool.
  2. Revamp future orientation sessions.
  3. Develop a job-matching process to connect Finalists to jobs.
  4. Reenergize the PMF Alumni Program.
  5. Plan and execute the assessment center interviews that are being restored for the Class of 2011.

OPM plans to post announcements to fill these "power packs" via the PMF web site, so presumably any PMFs who are interested could have some say in how future PMFs are recruited and interviewed, and how current and former PMFs are treated. Tellingly, these are projected to be four month assignments, which means that OPM intends for them to serve as developmental assignments for purposes of the PMF program.

Some of these activities are long overdue, but there is still no mention of one of the most visible signals of change: the horribly outdated PMF web site. Perhaps I am being too picky and should just take what I can get, but it seems to me that if you want to signal change badly enough, you ought to start with your most visible asset. But enough ranting. There are other items of note in this memorandum. Let's go through these goals one by one.

Outreach: The PMF program has long been viewed as fairly homogeneous, in terms of the kinds of schools it draws from (rich, East Coast schools), the fields most commonly represented (Law and Public Policy), and even its racial makeup (mostly white). It has drawn criticism for this lack of diversity in the past, whether it is deserved or not; think, for instance, what percentage of minorities end up ever getting a graduate degree and thus qualifying for PMF, much less if they went to a Midwest school and studied Business Administration. I will be interested to see what the power packs come up with to address this. It is potentially one of the best ideas in the list.

Orientation: While I don't expect to ever see the data that motivated this goal, it strikes me as one of those easy checkmarks. Without rigorous methodology, it's project padding, something to point to as a success in case any/all of the other goals fail to meet expectations. I could be wrong, though. It is quite possible that the PMF Program Office, having developed a survey tool (which I used after the orientation I attended) and having collected quantifiable feedback, will be able to objectively define and measure success.

Job Matching: This one elicits mixed feelings. A good number of PMF appointments never involve the Projected Position System, but I don't know if that can be blamed on the PPS or something else, like regulations. In short, I am neutral on this, but leaning ever so slightly to the positive side. If it means an update to the web site, I'm sold.

Alumni: For current and former PMFs, this is welcome news. At least, if it's what it sounds like. Quite WHY the PMF Program Office has left its alumni to languish on crappy Yahoo! groups is beyond me. If this means we get an officially sanctioned community, count me in. That doesn't mean this blog will go away, of course, because sometimes anonymity is the best option.

Interviews: I have heard that in the history of the program, interviews were part of the PMF application process. They were done away with to save money, but surprisingly led to a decrease in program prestige (I don't know what that means even). It looks like they are bringing back some form of interviews, which in the least should increase the rigor of selection, though I have no idea what impact they will have on program diversity. This is actually the most newsworthy item for future PMFs, because it changes the playing field somewhat compared to the intervening non-interview years. I'll play psychologist for a moment and ask you: how does this make you feel?

Just as interesting as what's in the memorandum is what's NOT there. I already mentioned the web site (twice, now three times), so I won't go there again. There is no mention of what, if anything, happens to key parts of the application process, and how or whether the timeline will change as a result of this new interview. My guess is that we won't hear anything about these effects until September or October, when the PMF program for 2011 opens up. What else is missing that you would like to see in the memorandum? More importantly, what do you really hope these power packs accomplish with the program?

Link to the OPM director's memorandum to the CHCOC.

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  1. This sounds really interesting, but I think by making into a rotation, it may limit who will be interested in participating in these "Power Packs." It would be better if they created something that may require a few more people, but is done in the style of an Action Learning Team. This would allow PMFs to participate who don't feel they can afford to use one of their rotations on something so specific to HR issues.

  2. I could not be happier about impending interviews. I am a prospective applicant this year and a terrible test taker. While I've always known PMF was a long shot, I've thought about it all through grad school. At least I feel a little more in control and not as thought my fate depends on a test--that did not turn out well for the SAT and GRE! I also wonder how it will be weighted, or if it is just a superficial measure?