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Administrative Communications and Culture Working Group

Organizational Structure and Decision-Making

Dartmouth’s increasing complexity over the past couple of decades has had a noticeable impact on the administrative and organizational structures of the institution. The McKinsey Report and our own series of open forums highlighted a series of issues regarding organizational structure and decision-making. Specifically, many employees do not understand who makes decisions, what the decision-making structure is, or how decisions are communicated. Nor is it always clear how programmatic planning at the divisional, departmental, and individual office level ties into the priorities identified by the President and Trustees.

Some employees expressed frustration and confusion about the committee structure. Others suggested that senior management did not always recognize the talents, expertise, and ideas of employees. Finally, we noted that the Dartmouth culture is more often than not an “oral” culture because policies and procedures are not always written down or collected together in a single repository or publication.

The College’s current organizational structure consists of a series of standing committees, working groups, and ad-hoc committees. To make progress on two of the priorities articulated by President Wright, specifically enhancing communication across the institution, and encouraging innovation within a culture of interdependence, transparency, responsibility, and accountability, we have outlined a series of recommendations to enhance the current administrative committee structure so as to work towards the President’s priorities.


  • Transparency: Implement greater transparency with respect to the organizational chart, the composition of committees, and the reporting relationships between committees and individual offices and departments.
  • Communication: Facilitate and improve communication among committees, administrative offices, and the senior planning group. The College should explore ways to strengthen the use of groups such as the President’s Administrative Forum, as vehicles to bring diverse groups of managers together with senior leadership. In particular, the organizational structure should be one of the key ways in which the College’s mission, priorities, and values are discussed and disseminated to all staff.
  • Realignment: We should look to realign current administrative committees along key areas and functions such as personnel, facilities and technology, financial planning and development, and programs.
  • Purpose: Better articulate the charge for each committee so that each has a clearer understanding of its purpose (decision-making body, implementing group, informing or advisory group).
  • Representation: Adjust memberships of committees to ensure representation from key areas, particularly with respect to the given charge of each committee. Look for skills, talents, and expertise across all levels of the institution.
  • Accountability: Increase the accountability of committee chairs to ensure that appropriate inputs for decision-making have been solicited and that all decisions are communicated clearly and efficiently to those areas most impacted by the decisions and more generally throughout the organization.

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Last updated: 01/31/07