Project Athena in Action
Coaching and the IDP (Part 2)
By Sgt. Maj. Craig A. Collins
NCO Leadership Center of Excellence
November 18, 2022
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In this final article in the Project Athena series, we will examine in detail the Common Individual Development Plan (IDP). This is the backbone of Project Athena. The IDP gives Soldiers a guide and timeline to achieve their goals and a way to track career progression. This article will cover how to fill out the Goals, Insight, and Immediate Action areas, as well as give tips for a smooth coaching session.
Common Individual Development Plan
The Common Individual Development Plan (IDP) (“Personal Assessment Coaching Guide,” 2020) is a powerful tool for any Soldier as they seek to manage the personal and professional challenges of the contemporary operating environment. The IDP is the actionable document produced by an effective coaching session and serves as a guide for a Soldier to accomplish their personal and professional goals. The form itself is self-explanatory but there are some key variables to remember.
How to Complete the IDP
When approaching the IDP and the coaching session, the Soldier and coach should focus on the acronym: SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based. When approaching goals and plans, this acronym gives Soldiers a concrete direction to go in with actionable steps to take in an attainable time period.
Short- and Long-Term Goals
The goals and insight areas can be filled out in any order, but it is recommended that a Soldier start with the short- or long-term goals. Much like the Army Design Methodology process (2015) it is best to start with the desired end state (goals). After the Soldier determines what they want to accomplish, it is important to understand where they currently are in the process. This is where the assessment feedback is used with the coach’s knowledge and direct Soldier observations. Once the Soldier and coach have determined the desired end state, they can see where the Soldier is and where they want to be. Then an actionable plan can be created.
Blocks 4, 5, and 6 are the Project Athena insight areas and are informed by the assessment results; however, these blocks can be completed without the Project Athena feedback if a Soldier declines to share their results. Without the Project Athena results, it will require more detailed questions from the coach or using prior knowledge an operational leader might already know about their Soldier.
The immediate actions or 90-day action plan is vital to inspire action to accomplish the created objectives. By using objectives to reinforce strengths and address developmental needs, goals can be accomplished incrementally. This creates a small victories approach to the larger overall leader development. It also prevents Soldiers from being overwhelmed by a large long-term goal by having smaller subset goals/actions to complete.
Tips to Complete the IDP
One effective technique to complete an IDP is to use a blank copy to take notes during the discussion phase. However, it is important to not let notetaking take away from the discussion. Maximum attention must be given to the Soldier to ensure active listening and effective questioning take place.
Another effective technique is to have the Soldier take their own notes on a blank IDP during the session. This ensures the coach is not distracted during the session and the Soldier can focus on self-reflection and critical thinking.
Regardless of the technique for notetaking, the important thing is the IDP is completed and reviewed periodically to provide continuous motivation and support to the Soldier. When a coaching session is conducted effectively, the IDP will almost write itself. It is then the coach’s responsibility to ensure strengths, developmental needs, and a plan of action is agreed upon with the Soldier before the session is concluded. Leader development is a primary responsibility for every NCO and coaching Soldiers is an excellent way to ensure leader development is happening throughout the Army.
Project Athena is a modern assessment tool that promotes self-reflection, critical thinking, and forward growth in Soldiers. It should absolutely be used at every level and often. It ensures Soldiers are constantly checking in with their developmental progress and lets them know they are supported by their units and chain of command. The Army needs leaders. And Project Athena makes it possible for today’s Soldiers to become the leaders of tomorrow.
Department of the Army. (2017). Training circular 6-22.6: Employee engagement. https://rdl.train.army.mil/catalog-ws/view/100.ATSC/2F93CCE0-36FF-4DF9-9827-E6CDE6048749-1495120877275/tc6-22x6.pdf
Personal Assessment Coaching Guide. (2020). CAPL. https://caplalacaplpfwstorprod01.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/web/repository/pdf-files/Personal-Assessment-Coaching-Guide.pdf
The ABCs of Facilitation. (n.d.). CAPL. https://caplalacaplpfwstorprod01.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/web/repository/facilitator-tools/ABCs%20of%20Facilitation%20HO.pdf
Sgt. Maj. Craig A. Collins serves as the sergeant major for the Department of Curriculum Development at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence. Collins previously served as the command sergeant major for the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. He is a Class 67 graduate of the Sergeants Major Course, holds a Bachelor of Science from Excelsior College and a Master of Science from Syracuse University.
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