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Reviewed by:
  • Assessing Organizational Performance in Higher Education
  • Narbeth R. Emmanuel
Assessing Organizational Performance in Higher Education Barbara A. Miller San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006, 180 pages, $40.00 (softcover)

The release of Assessing Organizational Performance in Higher Education by Barbara A. Miller could not be better timed in light of the need for greater accountability from public entities; greater expectations from accrediting associations; and the increased demand from prospective students, parents, and other supporters of the institution to demonstrate quality based upon data driven information. The ability of institutions of higher education to respond to all of these constituents is dependent upon the degree to which the institution has engaged in assessing organizational performance. While this publication does not speak to, nor specifically address, unique challenges within student services, it does, nevertheless, prove to be a useful tool to be used in assessing the work that is done for students.

Dr. Miller brings a wealth of experience, a depth of research, consultation at both private and public universities, and extensive knowledge of systems to each chapter of this publication. Both her teaching and higher education administrative experience provide her with an insightful perspective on the culture of institutions of higher learning. The author's rich background is clearly reflected in Assessing Organizational Performance in Higher Education. Further, Miller's work complements and advances a plethora of publications on this subject. And, while this particular publication might be more useful for seasoned administrators, it could very well be a teaching tool for students of higher education in both [End Page 610] academic and administrative units, including student services.

The book is well organized into incremental chapters that take the reader on a journey of discovery concerning the very nature of assessment and evaluation of organizational performance. The author emphasizes the importance of understanding the many constituencies that higher learning serves, both internally and externally, and the utility of such understanding in framing an assessment plan. The author then promotes the notion of "systems thinking" and challenges the reader to view organizations as dynamic, engaging, unique and purposeful systems. With this perspective, the reader is introduced to the "how" of assessing organizational performance with tools including useful worksheets. With the how established, Miller moves to a consideration of the "what" that links performance measures with constituents' needs and expectations. She concludes with a chapter that challenges the academician, the practitioner, the student/scholar of administration, and others to build campus-wide assessment programs. Evident in this chapter is the daunting task for assessment leaders to cultivate and foster a culture of measuring organizational performance.

The author develops, with thoughtful discussion, a case for institutions to engage in meaningful and constructive understanding of the organization within the context of both internal and external perspectives. The external world includes community and federal government, political-interest entities, governing boards, accrediting agencies, professional associations, as well as for-profit entities that rank institutions for consumer information and interest. Miller reminds the reader that simultaneously institutions of higher learning are also expected to be responsive to the institutional culture defined by administrators, faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the institution. The author clearly identifies these constituencies as critical in shaping, defining, and determining the future of the organization. It is within this context that Miller makes the case for performance assessment, data collection, evaluative methodologies, and strategic planning.

Using the Sink and Tuttle (1989) model of organizational systems, as described in the publication Planning and Measurement in Your Organization of the Future, the author modified Sink and Tuttle's seven dimensions of organization to better suit higher education and to address the need for assessing both internal and external elements of the organization. The dynamics of the interplay among systems, environment, culture, and behavior that are interwoven between and among the competing elements of higher learning emerge as the reader begins to comprehend the nature of the systems model.

Any worthwhile assessment program begins with a clear, concise, and comprehensible definition of terminologies and assessment methodologies. With an exploration of methods and clarification of terminologies, Miller prepares the reader for the subsequent chapter that amplifies the seven areas of organizational performance: effectiveness, productivity, quality, efficiency, customer...


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