Breaking the Bathsheba Syndrome: Building a Performance Evaluation System that Promotes Mission Command

Breaking the Bathsheba Syndrome: Building a Performance Evaluation System that Promotes Mission Command
Breaking the Bathsheba Syndrome: Building a Performance Evaluation System that Promotes Mission Command
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In 2014, the National Defense Authorization Act directed the Department of Defense to reconsider the way the Army evaluates and selects leaders. This call for reform came after repeated surveys from the Center for Army Leadership suggested a widespread dissatisfaction with the current approach.  The Army today is seeking to inculcate a philosophy of mission command across the force based on a culture of mutual trust, clear intent, and decentralized initiative.  It is therefore, reasonable to ask if our current performance evaluation system contributes or detracts from such a culture. This paper seeks to answer this question by considering the essential leader attributes required for the exercise of mission command and then considering practical methods for evaluating this behavior. It then reviews the history of the existing Army performance evaluation system and analyzes how well this existing system conforms to the attributes of mission command. Finally, the paper examines other methods of performance evaluation outside of the Army to determine if those methods could provide a better model. This examination includes a variety of best practice models in private business and the public sector and identified alternative approaches to underformance evaluation.

This study examines the Army’s “top-down” performance evaluation system.  Many claim the present design drives behavior in organizations that not only inhibits the exercise of Mission Command, but also rewards image management over organizational leadership. Colonel Curtis Taylor takes a hard look at this practice, its benefits, and cultural incentives. Importantly he questions whether the current system promotes or impedes the exercise of mission command. He concludes that a more holistic approach combining top-down evaluations, peer and subordinate evaluations and objective testing might not be a more productive approach. The author’s findings suggest the current system is not wrong, but rather incomplete. Alternative proposals are then presented for reader consideration.



Army leaders, workforce practitioners, employment analysts, human resources professionals, and career planners may be interested in this work about the performance of U.S. Army officers. Students pursuing coursework in human resources, organizational behavior, and military science degree programs, especially within the U.S. Army, may also value this perspective.  This publication also applies to personnel management, tactical military leadership, and military instructors.

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Defense Dept., Army, U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute
  • Taylor, Curtis D.
Key Phrases:
  • Bathsheba Syndrome
  • Building a Performance Evaluation System
  • Performance Evaluation
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