Photo courtesy of Army Cpl. Alisha Grezlik, U.S. Army
Woman soldier sitting in tank
Woman soldier sitting in tank

Leveraging Department of Defense Data To Optimize Individual and Team Performance


The U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences

The Army possesses vast amounts of administrative data on Soldiers’ aptitude tests, demographics, family composition, training, fitness, promotions, and deployment history. We are embracing new ways to repurpose these existing Army data to measure the social characteristics of individual Soldiers and units. Through modern data science techniques, we are uncovering the social characteristics of individual and unit performance that drives Soldiers to successfully meet the challenges of rapid technological change they may need to address in future wars. We are recategorizing these data in a social context to capture Army values and Warrior Ethos, such as courage, honor, loyalty, and empathy. Additional data, such as that available from U.S. federal statistical agencies are used to understand the influences of the economy and world conflict on predictors and outcomes of performance. Taken together, these repurposed data are integrated into statistical models to describe Soldier and unit performance.

Project Overview

Our challenge is to measure the social characteristics of Soldier performance by computing constructs that capture performance such as adaptability, motivational traits, empathy, and commitment to Army Values and the Warrior Ethos. A construct is a composite indicator that measures multi-dimensional concepts (e.g. Warrior Ethos). Constructs are created by developing a conceptual framework useful for identifying and combining data that reflect the dimensions or structure of the characteristics being measured. To create these constructs, we are leveraging existing Department of Defense and external data sources to identify attributes associated with key social behaviors useful for describing Soldier and unit performance.

Our Approach

Developing a Conceptual Performance Framework

Through the distillation of a vast amount of literature on military and non-military performance we developed a hierarchal performance framework (see Figure 1). It starts with defining a Soldier’s social characteristics by their trait and state factors and direct determinants. Trait factors include attributes, cognitive skills, personality type, and their physical condition. State factors are knowledge, skills, attitudes, perceptions, job satisfaction, and motivation. Direct determinants are mediators and moderators that balance positive and negative behaviors. Next, Soldiers are members of Army units. A unit’s characteristics are influenced by the culture, climate, leadership, and reward structure (i.e., behaviors that are recognized, and valued) within a unit. Units are nested within the overall Army. Army’s characteristics are defined in the same way as a unit but on a larger scale. Finally, external environmental factors that can impact performance outcomes represent shock events, changes in the economy, and other exogenous changes that the Soldier, unit, and Army cannot control.

The conceptual framework maps the different behavioral components of performance as described below.

  • Task performance is proficiency or competency on central job tasks.
  • Contextual performance supports the organization’s social and psychological environment.
  • Counterproductive performance harms the well-being of the organization.
  • Adaptive performance is the degree to which an individual adapts to changing work roles.

The intersection of these performance behaviors determines the overall performance along a spectrum of outcomes.


Performance Framework Graphic
Figure 1. Hierarchical performance conceptual framework. Soldier characteristics are defined as trait, state, or direct determinants. Unit and Army characteristics are defined by culture, climate, leadership, and reward structure. Environmental factors are things beyond the control of the Soldier, unit, and Army but can influence behavior and performance. Performance is defined as task, contextual, counterproductive, and adaptive and the intersection leads to the overall performance outcomes.

Acting Division Director

Research Professor

Research Associate Professor