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A Note from the AF MLR Staff

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1 A Note from the AF MLR Staff
3 Dec 01 Greetings! This note is to anyone who plans to use this briefing. It was designed by the AF MLR staff in concert with Officer Promotions, the Board Secretariat, and Officer Evaluations. We also thank HQ PACAF/DP for their great input to this brief! Please feel free to use this brief as needed. Note that we were EXTREMELY CAREFUL throughout the brief to qualify all examples as ONLY EXAMPLES. It is important to remind raters and others that all examples in this brief are designed to stimulate their creativity and help see what can work. This briefing will be regularly updated on the web at in the Evaluation/MLR page. Please make sure you have downloaded your copy from there to ensure you have the latest word on effective OPR and PRF writing. We welcome any input you might have in improving this product. Please your comments to Thanks!

2 Writing Effective OPRs and PRFs
Ice breaker: Good morning, I’m Capt Joel Elsbury, Chief of Air Force Management Level Review. And when it comes to writing effective OPRs and PRFs, we can never explain ourselves too many times! So I thank you for this opportunity you’ve given me to come and discuss with you what I consider one of the most important subjects for officers today. While I have slides designed to keep me on track, I hope this next hour will be less “briefing” and more “discussing.” As you have questions, and comments, please don’t save them for the end! Any questions I can’t answer today, I promise, I will do my best to research and get back to you as quickly as possible. Capt Joel J. Elsbury Chief, AF Management Level Review HQ Air Force Personnel Center DSN

3 Overview What makes a record competitive?
Promotions environment Whole person assessment (what board sees) Link between OPRs and PRFs Mechanics of writing effective OPRs Examples Board Member Feedback “Survival Guide” In order to discuss effective OPRs and PRFs, we first need to consider what is it that makes a record stand out in today's highly competitive promotions environment. We'll look at those aspects of records that promotion boards consider when evaluating “promotion potential.” We'll then talk about the mechanics of writing effective OPRs and PRFs and throughout the discussion, we will look at a few examples of bullets. Then we’ll look at some specific board feedback from recent boards. After that, I’ve prepared a short “survival guide” for those officers who will meet a board any time in the future.

4 Disclaimer A word of caution!!
Today’s “GREAT EXAMPLE” could be tomorrow’s worn out phrase No single phrase or bullet has ever gotten an officer promoted All examples are designed to stimulate your creative writing But first a word of caution on all the examples you will see today! It’s very difficult to give “perfect examples” of effective OPR and PRF bullets. Today’s “awesome bullet” stands the very likely odds of catching on, getting over used, and becoming tomorrow’s worn out phrase. The examples I will show today are intended to get your creative juices flowing.

5 Promotion Environment
The simple fact is: promotion quota runs out before the quality of officers runs out Competition in today’s promotion environment is very intense So let’s start with the Promotion Environment. The Air Force has an officer corps of very talented, dedicated individuals. Not all officers qualified for promotion can be promoted--there simply are not enough quotas. The promotions environment today is intensely competitive.

6 What Boards See Performance Leadership Stratification Support
POTENTIAL Having said that, let’s take a look at officer records through the eyes of the board. What do the boards see when they review records? Here’s the short list: Performance Leadership Stratification Support POTENTIAL Now let’s take a look at these perspectives one at a time

7 What Boards See: Performance
Performance as documented on PRF/OPR Fact: extraordinarily difficult to discern much difference Exceptions: combat, significant contingencies Functional/unit awards recognition; DG Bullets are important to extent they influence AND support stratification/recommendations! They see performance. But they can only see it if it’s documented in the PRF or OPR. Of course at the board, they also have a duty SURF and decorations available, but they will be concentrating on the OPR and PRF. It is extraordinarily difficult to discern much difference here. With 1,000s of bullets to look at, board members focus in on those bullets that influence and support your stratification and recommendations. So what do these magic bullets look like? Hold that thought! We’ll get into that in just a minute.

8 What Boards See: Leadership
Job titles/duty descriptions are very important Convey progression in career field Convey scope/level of responsibility Show evidence of successful leadership test Next the board is looking to find examples of LEADERSHIP. This is especially critical in the Lt Col and Col ranks, when the board is searching for officers who will become our next squadron and group commanders. Here is where duty titles and descriptions become VERY important. They MUST show progression, scope/level of responsibility, and evidence of leadership tests already past. INSIGHT: absent distinctive achievement, job title/duty description can be impact discriminator

9 What Boards See: Stratification
Stratification: Relative rating of officers’ levels of stratification emerging Top: My #1 of 12…Finest officer I’ve ever known... 2d Level: Top 10% (…in the wing) 3d Level: One of my best... Lowest level: Outstanding, Superior, etc. Here’s my first slide that shows that all important “EXAMPLE.” And I can’t over emphasize the importance of this. Stratification is the quickest way to tell the board where an officer stands. We now recognize four “tiers” or levels of stratification: Top, 2nd, 3rd, Lowest. The first level gives an exact picture of where the officer stands amongst his/her peers and helps the board “see” the size of the pool of comparison. The second level stratification makes it hard to see how big the pool is, and puts the officer a bit further down the “food chain” then the 1st level example. Remember, stratification, like the promotion recommendation itself, MUST be supported by the rest of the record! Also, it’s important for you to use the full spectrum of stratification. Not everyone can be your Number 1. Also, remember that you must always be careful to “qualify” any stratification into your scope of experience, or back the claim with proof. Unless an officer has won an AF level award, it’s difficult for a wing commander to say he’s the “best in the AF.” INSIGHT: stratification, used full spectrum; very useful message to promotion boards

10 What Boards See: Support
PME/Job Recommendations convey potential (on OPRs AND PRF ) Reinforce stratification: CC vice Ops Officer Ownership/enthusiasm convey conviction “My #1 pick for command!” vice “Ready for Command” Less push/less conviction And what do I mean by “support?” This is leading into the “Potential.” These are the “recommendations” or “pushes” for future jobs and PME. They are critical. If you aren’t excited about the officer’s future, why should the board be? Recommendations also reinforce stratification. If you’re saying the officer is your number one, you should be pushing him or her for the most responsibility available. Ownership and enthusiasm are key to conveying your conviction. INSIGHT: while Ownership/Enthusiasm can enhance, PME and job pushes add differentiation!

11 What Boards See: Potential
Remember, a promotion isn’t a reward for past hard work, but a bet on future potential Examples: Major BPZ to Lt Col, nothing but school Officer who’d shown amazing pilot ability What are officers doing now to show they are ready to take on more responsibility? All of these things together add up to one thing: POTENTIAL. Remember, a promotion isn’t a reward for past hard work, but a bet on future potential Here are some examples of what I mean. While the whole record is important, what the officer is doing now, must show he/she is ready for the next step.

12 Link between OPRs and PRFs
PRFs are Senior Rater’s direct communication to Central Board PRFs are largely based on contents of OPRs (strong OPRs = strong PRF) “DP” cannot overcome weak record Message conveyed needs to show officer’s track record relative to “Order of Merit” Now, let’s look at the link between OPRs and PRFs OPRs portray the professional track record of officers. They are the basis of what senior raters use to write PRFs. Board members use the OPRs and PRF to assess records, and thus come up with an order of merit listing. The track record that is formed over the officer's years of service should show how raters have assessed that officer in terms of order of merit. In other words, if the officer has won significant competitive awards, has consistently been described as "my #1," or other distinguishing comments, then the promotion board's job becomes easier. INSIGHT: the PRF…SR’s 30-second briefing to the board on your officer’s promotion potential!

13 Writing Effective OPRs/PRFs
Need to consider: CONTENT is paramount Style sells the message Both contribute to the picture you’re painting of the officer being evaluated So now the $64 question, the one most of you have come today in hopes of finding an answer. How do we write OPRs and PRFs that effectively communicate all this information to the board. In writing effective OPRs, both content, or the facts that are included in the OPR, and style, or how the facts are presented, need to be discussed. Content absolutely cannot be overemphasized. Content and style work together to portray the picture of the officer being evaluated. INSIGHT: limited board time places premium on making the important points easy to see!

14 OPR/PRF Content Be especially careful of those in critical jobs, e.g., Sq/Flt commanders Repeat performances diminish in value Review previous year’s report Leadership vs. supervision Technician vs. whole person Recommendations -- school, future assignments Let's first consider content of the OPR. Raters need to be especially careful to adequately describe the success of officers in key billets. Opportunities that are considered real leadership tests--like serving as flight or squadron commanders--are key points in a person's career and if an officer serves with distinction, that needs to be clearly stated. If an officer serves in a position long enough to receive more than one OPR in that job, then the rater should review the previous year's report to ensure the OPRs don't sound identical. Additionally, officers who are not supervisors, but who serve as either informal leaders in the unit or have served as project leaders, need to have their leadership abilities documented in their OPRs. While technical skills need to be documented, the board is evaluating whole person characteristics. Thus, officership and leadership need to be documented as well. Finally, recommendations for school and next assignment can convey powerful messages to the board and need to be used appropriately.

15 OPR/PRF Content Everything is measurable in terms of:
Quality - best, most successful, top % Quantity - scope of effort and effect Time - hours saved, ahead of schedule Cost - man-hours, $$, resources Raters need to remember that every achievement is measurable in terms of quality, quantity, time or cost. The central selection board is charged with scoring records and coming up with an order of merit. They can best discharge their duties when a track record establishing the officers ranking among their peers is reflected in the record. How does the officer’s performance compare to that of his/her peers? To that of previous incumbents in his/her position?

16 Writing Style Don’t write in functional language
Write the bottom line(s) first Structure must be easy to understand what-how-impact Active voice--who did what to whom Don’t fall victim to “pride of authorship” Avoid wide open spaces, watch punctuation Credibility Now let's turn to writing style. First, don't write in a language only a few understand. Not many recognize the significance of the Gerrit D. Foster Award, but everyone can understand earning the AF's top MPF award. Second, write the last indorsement first. Identify the biggest achievements there. Write in a structure that's easy to follow and understand, and write in the active voice. Let others who would have access to the OPR read your draft--and then use their feedback. Leaving blank areas on an OPR can send an unintentional message. Conversely, proper punctuation helps ensure the message you want to convey gets across. A rater at base level can't say that an officer is best in the AF unless the officer has been so designated through an award or by an AF level official. Also, not every officer at base X can be #1.

17 Writing Style Clearly say what was notable about an officer’s achievements “Outstanding member of a tiger team” could be said about any member of any rank or level of expertise Need to point out what the member did that was outstanding After each bullet, ask yourself, “so what?” If seemingly anyone could have done it, then it’s not a notable achievement Make sure you clearly state what was significant about an achievement. Here's an example of a statement that could appear on an OPR. Even though the individual was outstanding on the tiger team, that is not a significant statement. What the individual did to contribute to the tiger team's success needs to be included.

18 Writing Style Need to clearly state recommendation for next Job
“Challenge him with the toughest jobs” “Make him a squadron commander” “My #1 pick for squadron command” Finally, when writing a recommendation for the officer's next job, here are three examples of recommendations. Each recommendation is progressively stronger, with the final statement being the best. Again, remember that not every officer can be your #1 pick. Those statements are powerful only if used judiciously.

19 OPR “Red Zone” You’ve probably heard that there are four “critical” lines on an OPR. If that is true, here they are! These for lines represent the “red zone.” They are the first four lines most board members are going to go, in search of your overall assessment of your officers. Here is where you want to put your strongest impressions and recommendations.

20 OPR “Red Zone” Last lines 1st lines
Opinions: “Capt Jones nails jello to the wall” Stratification: “My number 2 of 40” Last lines Final thoughts Job recommendations PME push One successful pattern is to use the top lines as your opinion lines: “Capt Jones can nail jello to the wall without making it wiggle.” This is also a great place to add stratification: “My number two of 40 awesome company grade officers!” Likewise, the bottom lines, are where you should include “final thoughts, Job recommendations, and PME push.” Putting this critical information into the “red zone” ensures board members won’t have to “go in search of” in their effort to rack and stack your officers. Remember, this information is your opinion. If the rest of the bullets don’t qualify your impressions, all the “style” in the world won’t help.

21 Examples Good: Inspired FSC to new heights of achievement--oversaw doubling of families enrolled in Respite Care Program Better: Built AF’s largest Respite Care Program for families with severe medical problems, featured in AF Aid magazine as the AF model! Now let's look at some specific examples of items that could appear in OPRs. The first is written in the active voice and quantifies the achievement. The second, however, also compares that achievement with what similar organizations in the AF were doing and thus is stronger. It also more fully describes the respite care program, so that those unfamiliar with it can better understand the message. Finally, it shows ENTHUSIASM!

22 Examples Good: Spearheaded outstanding customer service initiatives which were briefed to the 3-star (What was the 3-star’s reaction?) Better: We briefed her outstanding customer service initiatives to the 3-star--his reaction, “Right On!” Here's another example. The fact that the customer service initiatives were so significant that they were briefed to the three star is good. However, what isn't mentioned is the 3 stars reaction. The second bullet is better since it gives that information.

23 Examples Good: Saw the need and developed computer program which saved 25 hours of manual effort and greatly increased unit efficiency Better: Computer program he designed saved 25 hrs monthly, decreased errors to 1%--MAJCOM made it the cmd standard Here is another example. When a rater can quantify levels of efficiency, that needs to be done. Also, when AF or a MAJCOM takes an initiative and in some way shares it with like units throughout either the AF or the command, that needs to be included in the OPR

24 Examples Good: Integrated 211 KC-10/KC-135 air refueling events off-loading 11.8 million pounds of fuel to 567 receivers Better: Integrated record number of refueling events--211 missions, 11.8M lbs of fuel to 567 receivers--huge success! Here is another example which also quantifies level of efficiency. The second version shows what was notable about the achievement--not only was it a record number of events, but it was a huge success. The rater mentioned the achievement because it was distinctive and the second version tells why it was distinctive. And that’s what board members need to know.

25 Board Member Feedback PRFs capture entire career...not just current job “DP” won’t overcome weak record Stratification most powerful tool Highlight individual awards (CGO/yr, PMOYA) PRF sets tone of whole record—Enthusiasm! Use “my next DP,” but be judicious Use of “challenge” and “greater responsibility” not impressive Help civilians/sister service with writing! To wrap up this section of the workshop, I’d like to offer you some feedback from some members of our recent promotion boards.

26 A Few Examples SQ/CC was spot on! GP/CC Next!
I want XXX to command a sq in my wing! Equation is simple: problem + XXX = solution! Read carefully: 9 OPRs say she’s #1! #1 promote! Ready for Lt Col now…I’d stake my reputation on him! DP now and SSS! Broke the code on making things happen--… I depend on XXX so much, when he sneezes, I get a cold And now the slide you’ve all come here to see! What were SOME of the bullets that caught the eyes of the board? REMEMBER now that these bullets are “advertised,” they stand a HIGH LIKELYHOOD of becoming quickly overused. These are intended stimulate your creative juices, and give you an idea of where you can go with your PRFs and OPRs Also, without the facts to back these up, these bullets won’t take an officer very far!

27 OPR Writing Tips Mechanics…bullets, emphasis on results/impact
Put strongest on back--make it stand out! Assess and stratify…be judicious, consistent Support with appropriate job/PME push Review job title/descriptions Progression, scope/level of responsibility

28 PRF Writing Tips Same as OPR, emphasis on results/ impact
One line, hard-hitting bullets are best Balance…2-3 bullets should be in current job Chronological PRFs easiest to follow Ensure PRF word picture is accurate Assess, stratify, support judiciously and consistently! INSIGHT: the PRF…SR’s 30-second briefing to the board on your officer’s promotion potential!

29 Final Thoughts for Writers
BE JUDICIOUS, HONEST! Assess your officers independent of board schedules Know the top, 2nd, 3rd level rankings Review entire record when doing OPRs, PRFs At least, know what you said last year! Know Professional Development needs And now some final thoughts for you writers out there. These are all things that we’ve discussed today, but I wanted you to see them one last time. The foot stomper here is, please, don’t become one of the hundreds of appeals we see each year where a rater has to admit, “I didn’t know I could do that.” INSIGHT: don’t be among the hundreds of “I didn’t know/realize” appeals we review every year!

30 Eligible Officer Survival Guide
It’s our program, but it’s your career! Know the rules of engagement Know your promotion zone Review your OPB and AF records Stay involved until it’s right Give inputs to OPR/PRF Don’t wait until the promotion cycle to act Know the milestones Now let’s take a few minutes to discuss how you as an individual meeting a board can assure your own success. Always remember, it’s our program, but it’s your career. If you don’t care enough to get actively engaged before it’s too late, then there won’t be much the system can do to ensure your success. Here’s a list of things you can do to ensure all your ducks are in a row when it’s time for your promotion board:

31 Know Rules of Engagement
Learn how MLRs and promotion boards work Web sites AFI Sr Rater Guide Know your career path Don’t be caught by surprise An understanding of the rules of engagement is your key to ensuring you’ve done all you can to prepare for promotion. Information on how the MLR and Promotion Boards work is available at the evaluation and officer promotion pages of the AFPC web site. Paragraph 8 of AFI covers the MLR process in detail. Each career field has a optimal career path pyramid. Get with your functional community and know that information. Don’t be one of the officers who comes to us after a promotion cycle saying, “I didn’t know I should have….”

32 Know Your Promotion Zone
DOR Chart on the Web OPBs PRFs Records reviews Less than 100 days from OPB to Central Board The best way not to be caught by surprise is to know your promotion zone. This will help you to be watching for things like OPBs and PRFs. If you wait for a RIP to tell you your in a promotion cycle, you might find yourself running out of time

33 Review OPB and Records OPB: Don’t ignore this important document
Don’t remain confused Get help! AF Records (they aren’t at your base!) Two ways to review Request fax DSN Permissive TDY to AFPC When your Officer Performance Report comes, make sure you review it. If something is confusing, don’t remain confused. Find out what it means. One of the things you’re asked to do when you get your notification is review your records. THIS IS NOT YOUR UPRG! Never assume that because your base level ROP is current that the AF level record is too. You have two options to review your AF records. You can request a faxed copy of your records by calling DSN / Or, you can come to AFPC on Permissive TDY.

34 Stay Involved Until It’s Right
Don’t assume pointing it out, means it’s fixed Follow-up Many resources MPF MAJCOM AFPC Think of it as a leadership exercise If you find errors in your records, stay involved until you KNOW they’re fixed. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. You might have to track your errors with many agencies. Consider this a leadership exercise. Think about it, if you can’t get your own records corrected, why would you want to be in charge of a whole flight or squadron’s worth of potential records problems??

35 Give Inputs to OPR/PRF Don’t sell yourself short
Nobody knows your hard work better than you Give “final draft” input PRF Review (don’t blow it off) When you’re asked to give input to your OPR or PRF, DON’T sell yourself short. If you aren’t asked, ask! You’re inputs should be written in the way you want to see your Final Draft OPR or PRF to look. Remember. You’ve seen this brief, many of your supervisors might not have! By regulation, you must receive a copy of your PRF around 30 days prior to the Central Board. This gives you time to catch and fix errors. Don’t blow that off. It’s MUCH easier to get it fixed before the board than to appeal it after the board.

36 Don’t wait for Promotion Cycle
Regular records reviews Every time you move At very least, keep UPRG ROP up-to-date Prevent “avalanche” Remember: less than 100 days (60 for MLRs) Why put off till your promotion cycle what you can fix right now? Is your record accurate today? When was the last time you checked? Regular records reviews help ensure you are ALWAYS ready for a promotion cycle. In today’s AF, that’s important. Frequently the “Promotion Plan” changes, sometimes with less than 6 months warning. A good idea is to check your records after every move or job change. Make sure your duty titles are right in the system. Check to see your OPRs were added to your ROP. Make sure degrees, PME, and certifications are updated within days of graduation. This will ultimately prevent you from having to dig out from an “avalanche” of errors in the “final hour.”

37 Letters to the Board Can be VERY useful Can be VERY detrimental
Be short and to the point Just the facts Know the ROEs Don’t get emotional Finally, a quick word on letters to the board or MLR. You have the right to write! But use it with care. Letters to the board or MLR should be short and to the point. They should be used to point out FACTS without emotional narratives. A good example would be to inform the board of a certification that is not in your records.

38 “Take Aways” POTENTIAL Officers don’t meet promotion boards Records do
It doesn’t matter how good an officer is if the records don’t convey the message accurately and enthusiastically! In closing, I’d like to offer a few “take aways.” That is, if you remember nothing else from today’s discussion, remember these final thoughts: Officers don’t meet promotion boards. Records do. It doesn’t matter how good Maj X is if her records don’t convey that message accurately and enthusiastically. And finally, can the board see the officer’s potential? If not, they will not be likely to award a promotion. Why? Because we will always run out of promotions before we run out of great officers.

39 Questions?? Questions?

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