IN A first, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is experimenting with a well-known management tool — the 360-degree feedback mechanism — for empanelment of secretaries from the 1983 batch.
To be added to the usual procedure for empanelment, the commonly used management tool will see officers rated on all-round aptitude, attitude, etc., based on feedback from peers, and those they worked with, inside and outside the government.
The 360-degree mechanism is widely used by international organisations and some foreign governments to fill top slots. It involves an assessment of work experience, management style and interest areas beyond what is obvious in the annual confidential reports (ACRs), which have so far been the cornerstone of the empanelment process in India.
Whether ACRs are truly an objective assessment of an officer’s potential is a point that has been debated often. Officers say that among other things, the feedback on ACRs depend on the relationship that assessees have with their immediate political and bureaucratic bosses.
Besides, said officers, different states have different trends of rating officials in ACRs with some of them routinely ranking officials very high on a scale of 10 and some doing just the opposite.
Internationally, professional agencies are hired for a thorough assessment under the 360-degree system in a process that sometimes takes months as it requires interpretation of vast volumes of information.
Tweaking that model, the PMO has formed a committee of five former bureaucrats, each required to talk to at least five others who have worked with the officers who are up for empanelment, including their seniors, juniors and those from outside the system they have worked with. The ratings will be from one to five, said sources.
This is in addition to the earlier practice of sending ACRs to a committee of retired secretaries for moderation followed by the preparation of a shortlist by the empowered group of secretaries headed by the additional principal secretary to the PM.
Sources said that following the 360-degree assessment and subsequent vetting by the empowered group of secretaries, around 25-30 of the 1983 batch of 70-odd officers were set to make the cut for empanelment as secretaries. Last year, 35 people had made the cut.
Sources said the multi-layered empanelment mechanism has led to a severely curtailed shortlist while the Prime Minister is in favour of a longer “shortlist” to choose officers from. The list is now set for a relook, making the current process one of the longest in recent years. Empanelment is usually completed within June — it was done on June 23 last year.