Assessments as a learning tool for the administration
By Peter Jonasson, University Director, CBS
We can become even better at what we do! That is a fundamental fact and should be a fundamental drive in any organisation. A good starting point for becoming better is to know where you are. Therefore it is important that we review our organisation’s performance, assess our strengths and weaknesses, and evaluate if we are following our strategy in a systematic manner.
At CBS, we have, what I would call, a strong evaluation culture. Our teachers are assessed every semester by the students. Our researchers are assessed when submitting articles to peer-reviewed journals. Our programmes are assessed in the recurring programme evaluation, and our departments are assessed in the recurring department evaluation. And all of CBS is evaluated for accreditation by both national and international accreditation bodies. So assessment, assessment, assessment!
But wait – what about the administration at CBS? Is that assessed? Yes, some of the administration is assessed in some of the above mentioned evaluations. And yes, the administration is micro-assessed over lunch and in the offices: “they are so good at xxx”, “I had the worst service at yyy”, “why can’t they be more flexible at zzz” and so forth. But actually we are not making an overall assessment of all of our administration. That is surprisingly in an institution with such a strong evaluation culture.
Some would probably argue that my point is not correct. Many bodies assess CBS’ administration. The state auditors, our own auditors, the EU audit, the ministry and so forth are names that spring to mind. But, those are mainly assessments of legality and control. Necessary? Yes of course, because those assessments are a prerequisite for the public’s trust in CBS’ ability to handle taxpayer’s hard earned money correctly. Learning oriented? Not so much!
So, my argument would be that we have to strengthen the evaluation culture in CBS’ administration and make it more systematic. Not to control. Not to measure legality. We are already doing that and we are doing well. No, motivated by the fundamental drive that I think people have to become better at what they do, the wish to excel and to do both together with good colleagues.
We have a good starting point. We have already evaluated a big part of CBS’ administration back in 2013 in a learning-oriented way. We should develop that concept. It would be obvious to draw inspiration from both the evaluation of departments and programmes.
It could be an idea to learn from the academic peer-review tradition. Let us open our administrative units to comments from managers running the same kind of units but in other settings (and not just other universities). Another idea is to look at what data we have that says something relevant about the unit. Not a lot of data, not necessarily the same data, and not a new large project about creating data, but just finding those overall indicators for each unit that we think show something central about the development of the unit’s performance. There are probably many more good ideas to be included.
Senior management has decided that the administration should be evaluated again in 2015. The administrative units evaluated in 2013 will give a status on their action plans this autumn. On the basis of those reports senior management will have discussions with stakeholders across campus on how to organise the next evaluation best.
To my mind, the starting point for the next evaluation must be an assessment of where we are. That includes following up on the evaluation from 2013 and taking stock of where the administrative units are in the implementation of their strategies but it should add some of the elements from the above mentioned evaluation methods and keep the focus: we evaluate to become better – not to judge.