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Administrative Communications and Culture Working Group

Mission and Priorities

Many employees are either unaware of Dartmouth’s mission or are unclear how it relates to their work. We heard from many employees a desire for a shorter, crisper mission statement and a more clearly defined set of core values. Well-articulated statements of mission and core values can help foster the kind of culture that enables an institution to fulfill its goals. For many administrators, such statements are also critical in underlining the important support function that employees play at an academic institution. Quite simply, employees are more likely to work effectively if they understand the mission of the institution, the core values that support that mission, and the ways in which their work fits into that mission.

Many departments on campus have their own mission statements, and managers in some of these areas work to encourage their employees to understand how their department fits into the overall mission of the College. Other departments and areas pay little overt attention to the mission or to helping their employees understand the value of their work to the institution. This is especially prevalent the further a department or area is from the direct work of supporting the students and faculty.

In addition, many employees did not know what the annual priorities or even longer- term strategic goals of the institution are. Obvious priorities like the current construction of new buildings are readily apparent, but other critical priorities like financial aid, providing more accessible services to students, and supporting cross-institutional cooperation are little known or understood. Many employees do not understand the organization of the institution, the decision-making process, or the strategic planning process.

Recommendations:

  • Mission: The President and Trustees should develop a shorter, crisper mission statement that can be more readily embraced by the whole community.
  • Core Values: The President should, in addition to a set of institutional core values, also articulate a set of values for the administration that includes a commitment to better communication; that allows room for individual and divisional differences; and that respects individual employees.
  • Communication: The President and Provost should remind the community regularly of institutional priorities and strategic goals, and each administrative division or department should review its own mission and core values to ensure that they relate to and are in concert with the institutional statements.
  • Priorities: The senior leadership should provide greater clarity and communication around annual institutional priorities within a predictable annual process for dissemination, which includes a description of the process whereby priorities are determined. There should be a clear link between the annual priority setting and budget processes.

Although these recommendations are aimed more at the senior leadership of the institution, they would enable managers, and indeed employees across the institution, to do their own work more effectively. Once accomplished, managers would have the responsibility to communicate the mission and priorities within their own areas and to ensure that employees understand how they are related to their own work.

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Last updated: 01/31/07